TL;DR – Ashley Lim, Customer Success Manager, LinkedIn, shares tips on how to work from home more effectively!
Do you really want to work from home forever?
Two months in and many are realising that working from home is not as heavenly as it’s made out to be. In fact, many parents are already looking forward to going back to office! Yet, Facebook, Google and Twitter are among some of the major companies now planning a permanent shift to telecommuting even after the threats of COVID-19 fade and lockdown measures are lifted.
In Singapore, the number of telecommuters has shot through the roof in recent months as many workers in Singapore have been asked to telecommute as far as possible to control the spread of the outbreak. It seems like as long as a vaccine is not found, the ‘traditional’ workplace will have to evolve.
Even before the crisis, work life balance has been hard to achieve. With the crisis, it seems even harder to draw a boundary between work, rest and play. In the U.S., data reveals that homebound employees are burning out, clocking three hours more daily on the job than before. How does one ensure that you reserve time for friends, families and your personal interests while still maintaining or even increasing work productivity? It is possible!
We spoke to Ashley Lim, Customer Success Manager from LinkedIn, on how remote working has been for him. Ashley also shared valuable some tips on navigating this new remote working environment!
WhatsApp, Telegram… BlueJeans, Zoom, Microsoft Teams…
This is truly unprecedented times and remote working is an interesting one for me given that my roles have always required me to be in office physically. While we may lack the physical interactions with the team within the office, I have to say that we are fortunate to be in an era where we are equipped with a suite of messaging apps (WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams, Telegram etc) or video conferencing tools (BlueJeans, Zoom, Microsoft Teams etc) to stay connected and productive with work.
Leveraging technology, I did a #InItTogetherChallenge on 15th May and spoke to a total of 7 people on that day to improve their LinkedIn profiles and provide tips to excel in their job interviews! The idea behind this initiative is to volunteer our time to give back to individuals in-need or was impacted by the Covid-19 situation.
An effective daily schedule and personal wellbeing
As much as possible, I try to replicate my daily schedule as close to how I would if I were to follow my normal work routine. Before I start my work, I still factor in 30 minutes of coffee time daily into my schedule and I continue to dress up for work. Depending on my meetings schedule for the day, I also set aside a specific timeslot for my lunch break – these actions help to set the right tone for the day and ensuring that your personal wellbeing is maintained.
Remote working can help individuals to be productive if you have a thorough plan for the day. Personally, I now save almost 1 hour of commute time home daily and I use this time gained for an earlier exercise or preparation of dinner.
When you find yourself having trouble with sticking to a schedule, it is always advisable to have a detailed plan with alarms for the day including mini tasks such as the ‘Call at 11am’, ‘Virtual Meeting at 2pm’ or even something like ‘Grab at Coffee at 3pm’ – this helps to build structure and allows you to focus on the preparation for the next task.
How do you ensure that you still have that demarcation between work and rest?
Establishing a dedicated work area is extremely important, and the last thing you want is to work from the couch or the bed at home. It is recommended to have a proper work zone even if it takes up a corner of the bedroom for full focus and concentration. If you have a partner or roommate also working from home – try to set separate working spaces to avoid distractions.
Even though ‘the office’ is now in the home, it is also important to establish transparent communication with your managers on working hours and setting expectations on your ‘knock-off’ time. If it is going to be at 6pm, try your very best to not respond to non-urgent requests after 6pm and have a well-deserved evening.
The beauty of working from home is having flexibility, and you can definitely add breaks into your schedule. It is perfectly normal to take breaks throughout the day, but I will ideally not want to do so within my established dedicated work area.
Maintaining the connection with co-workers and friends
If you are not used to remote working on a regular basis, you will definitely feel disconnected with your colleagues over time. It is highly recommended to utilise video conferencing tools to bridge this communication gap. These tools are not only applicable for work, but you can consider hosting icebreakers before the start of a meeting or even having a virtual ‘Happy Hour’ on a Friday with everyone bringing their favourite drink to the meeting!
While remote working means we might not be physically as connected with our friends or co-workers, reaching out to someone for a virtual meeting now is a lot easier with one dial. The best thing – everyone now has more time on hand for that clique meeting that was never possible given everyone’s busy schedule previously.
Our work lives under the same roof that we rest
For many of us, the Covid-19 crisis has shoved our work lives under the same roof that we rest.
But hey, who’s to complain when so many out there are struggling with big pay cuts, no pay leave and retrenchments?
A previously unimaginable number of workers now perform their work in an almost exclusively virtual working environment. How will our systems keep up? Can managers trust employees to have the discipline to remain equally or even more productive? These questions have somewhat faded in the past weeks. Yet, is presenteeism still be preferred for most in higher management? With conscious effort, we can emerge from this crisis with both happier and better performing employees and organisations.
Regardless, the workplace is probably forever transformed with the initiation of the biggest telecommuting experiment ever. Even as we look forward to the end of Phase 1, telecommuting might be the default for many in the weeks or even months to come.
There are those who miss the routine of a typical workday, from dressing up for work to building rapport over lunch and coffee breaks with colleagues, the brainstorming, and bouncing of ideas off one another. Arguably, you can do that over the screen, but valuable non-verbal cues are often lost.
Meanwhile, the crisis has proven that many key functions are able to operate effectively remotely. In our increasingly connected world, most “knowledge workers” can continue their work at home. An example is DBS Singapore in providing its key services. How far this track towards telecommuting might pan out beyond the pandemic is still unclear. While you may miss your water cooler talk and in-person discussions, remote working might be the default for most of us for a while more. In the short term at least, it may be right to assume that organisations need to work on developing a successful telecommuting model.
For some, telecommuting may be a boon, for others, a bane. To the proponents of working from office, having a commute home from work allows them to detach mentally from a crazy work day. When we work from home, the line between work and rest blurs. Some also believe that face to face discussions promote deeper conversations and diversity of thought.
The way ahead
Moving ahead, it is key for employees to find the most effective way to perform, even from home, and for organisations to continue to fix the gaps in existing business continuity plans and preempt the impact on their operations.
Businesses with presence in affected geographies must review plans e.g. rethink staff travel policies, relook the office environment and review their protocols if social distancing is required. BAU soon? Highly unlikely…
Consider if this could be the best opportunity to upskill staff, especially to help prevent redundancies. Transparent communication is crucial to ensure that responses are agile and aligned.
Digital capabilities can be improved to ensure that employees are able to carry out their work more efficiently. Cybersecurity issues must be considered as well. This pandemic has definitely accelerated the push for organisations to re-evaluate their digital transformation strategy and identify gaps that need to be plugged!
Urging employers to adjust their mindsets and embrace telecommuting as the “new normal”, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said in a Facebook post on 23 May, “We must now embracing working from home as the new norm.”
What do you think of telecommuting? How have you worked towards being more productive at home? Drop us a comment!