One of the great discoveries of 2020 is that we don’t really need to go to the office after all. We do need to work, but most of us can do that at home: all we need is a computer and a broadband connection. Or is it? While it is certainly true that working from home has had a positive impact on many employees’ lives, there are those who struggle to cope with the “new normal”. Some lack adequate room to work, others live in households that are too noisy to allow for focus and concentration. Those who live alone are at risk of isolation and alienation, or they simply have no idea how to plan their day outside of a traditional working schedule. We have a few tips to turn your and your employees’ home office into the perfect workplace.
1. Set up a reliable tech infrastructure for your home office
Isolation is a real concern among those who are not used to having a home office and making their own schedule. The array of digital tools we have at our disposal today is unlike anything the former generations have ever been able to count on: they allow us to be as productive sitting on our couch as we would be in a cubicle at the office. Possibly more. But only on one condition: that we always ensure they are well set up, efficient and reliable. In Italy, the Ministry for Technological Innovation and Digitization has set up a special plan, providing remote computer assistance and tech consultancy to help companies support their employees working from home.
2. Work on a flexible schedule
Those of us who have been working in their own home office for years know the struggle. We even had time to read a lot of articles about it and learn through trial and error. Those who, on the other hand, have had to adapt quickly to this new way of working are finding time management much harder than they imagine. If you are not used to associating being at home with working, your domestic environment with its comforts and distractions can end up slowing you down. You will find yourself wasting time, reorganising things multiple times, and struggling to make sense of processes and to coordinate your work with that of your colleagues. To counter that, try to make your schedule simple but flexible, prioritise at the beginning of the day, and keep your calendar where you can see it. Schedule regular calls with your team and use a good project management software to keep track of your respective tasks and assignments. And, however tempting it may be to skip lunch or coffee break because you have nobody to talk to and you think it would be better to finish work early, do not do that. Take regular breaks, eat snacks, drink water, and caffeinate as needed. Your brain was not designed to work for twelve hours in a row and it will stop functioning properly at some point, leaving you exhausted and with poor results to show for it.
3. Whatever works: office background noise, white noise, heavy metal. Find your own perfect working environment
Not many employees would be happy to admit it, but some people just work better in an office. They find the office atmosphere and white noise to be conducive to sharper focus and concentration. There are now apps to help them recreate the sound texture of a traditional office. And, if you don’t want to download an app for that specific purpose, there’s Youtube, with a wealth of ambient noise videos designed to help viewers (in this case, listeners, escape the ringing silence of an empty room). Also, since your home office is your kingdom, you can try out other options and see what sticks. Are you the kind of person who can concentrate to Mozart or do you do your best work while listening to the news? Is heavy metal better than whale song? Now you can make your own workplace playlist!
4. Stay connected through virtual team building
Team building was invented to help people who have to work together feel connected and improve their group dynamics. Virtual team building was invented to help team members who have been kept apart due to the recent lockdown (or maybe because they work in different cities, countries, or even continents) re-connect and learn to coordinate their efforts remotely. There are several amazing activities you can engage in, that will help you create harmony in the workplace, even though “the workplace” is a digital one.