How to adapt to remote working

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There are many corporates who have already rolled out working from home programmes and these should have support mechanisms in place. While it is difficult to replicate best practice overnight, the following advice may be useful to individuals and teams going through these difficult times and asking staff to work from home.

Companies should take responsibility for the health and safety of their staff wherever they work, and in normal circumstances this would include a health and safety risk assessment through guidance to staff before working from home.

Given current circumstances, this is not possible and so employees need to take more responsibility. Here are some considerations.

Suggestions for individuals

Try and create a practical and ergonomically good working environment in the home. If you do not have a dedicated place to work, try to create an area for example on the kitchen table. Do not try to work off sofas or soft seating for any long period of time.

Your chair should have a good back support. Make sure that neither artificial nor natural light reflects off your screen.

Be very careful how power cables are laid out. Use battery power and re-charge periodically rather than having cables as trip hazards.

Remember to take regular breaks while you work. Take your eyes off the monitor, stand up and stretch your legs.

We need to keep this in mind especially when working from home, as we often take breaks in the office because of co-workers talking to us or inviting us for coffee. At home without typical office distractions, we easily forget about it.

Do not isolate yourself from others. Take time to stay in touch with your colleagues. A break might be the right time to call one of them for a quick office chat.

To reduce the possibility of excessive blending of work and private life, try to maintain your previous daily routines – work at the designated hours, get ready to ‘go to work’, change clothes after finishing work, etc.

For some people it is difficult to find a divide between working from home and home life. Taking a walk before you start work and when you finish can help. This may also be advisable from a wellbeing perspective.

You may be used to working on a big screen in the office and only have a laptop screen at home. This can cause eye strain after extended periods so it is advisable to take breaks.

Suggestions for managers and teams

This challenging time can be an opportunity to develop new skills and habits that will increase team flexibility and mobility.

Communication is the key. It can become very isolating working from home for more than three-to-four days. To avoid this feeling, it is important to maintain constant communication within the team.

Schedule group calls with colleagues regularly through the week to ensure that this is a social interaction about business and wider issues. This is the time when the full use of collaborative software tools Skype for business, Zoom, Teams, etc can be leveraged to their full potential. Learn how to share and work on documents amongst colleagues in real time and use the video and instant messaging capabilities.

When using videoconferencing tools, use the cameras to keep face-to-face contact. This increases the engagement of the participants, forces us to focus on the content of the conversation and increases our activity.

Maintain transparency to strengthen trust among team members. Schedule your days and share your calendars so that everyone knows each other’s availability. Keep each other informed if a person is unavailable during the day.

For more on Bayleys, see www.bayleys.co.nz/workplace

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