Hopefully as vaccination programmes get underway we’ll see the back of Covid-19 but one thing that is likely to stay around is home working.  The sudden and mass move to home working during 2020 brought in its wake a lot of benefits as businesses and organisations realised that as long as security is in place it’s a viable option that can suit both employee and employers.  With this in mind here are some top tips that will help make remote working effortless and safe.

Create a schedule

Having clear guidelines for when to work and when to call it a day helps maintain a balance between work and life.  However one of the benefits of remote work is flexibility, and sometimes you may need to extend your day or be up super early to accommodate someone else's time zone. If so be sure to make allowances for these extra hours in your schedule. A fixed schedule helps ensure balance so you don’t overdo it and then find yourself reacting adversely if you are putting in more hours than necessary and becoming stressed.

Create a dedicated office space

A dedicated working space is helpful in creating an association with work. Perhaps you don’t have space for an office but there’s often a space that can be carved out such as a desk in a bedroom and so on.  You can also set the scene for work by ensuring your laptop is set at a comfortable height and your webcam is also at the right height. To ensure you come across well in online calls put a light behind the computer that shines in your direction and raise the webcam to a height slightly above your line of sight.  This will ensure your face doesn’t look like a collapsed Yorkshire pudding when on video calls by literally presenting you in the best possible light.  If you are using a laptop when your working hours are done with you can simply use the laptop in other areas of your home to demarcate the line between work and play.  

Take your breaks

There may be a perception among some employers that employees working from home spend half their time with their feet up binging on Netflix programmes. For most people this couldn’t be further from the truth with many employees throwing themselves into work more than necessary, driven by a sense of wanting to show they can be trusted, wanting to do well and the ever present fear factor that few talk about, wanting to avoid becoming a target for dismissal.  However, don’t let this stop you from taking breaks.  If you thunder on without taking a break it will come back on you with higher levels of stress and an association of work with stress. Remember we’re all human beings, built for work but we also need to take a breather.

Use a VPN

The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us a lot of things one of which is to use a VPN whenever you're connected to a network that you don't control. This includes Wi-Fi at co-working spaces, cafes, libraries, and airports. Some businesses have their own VPNs that off-site employees need to use to access certain servers or websites that store information meant only for internal use. It's a good idea to get into the habit of leaving your VPN connected as often as possible because it's always safer to have it on than not. One point to keep in mind though is if you’re using a corporate VPN provided by your employer when you're connected your employer can potentially see what you're doing and the websites you’re visiting.

Ask for what you need

Organisations that are accustomed to remote employees often have a budget for home office equipment. And many of those who previously didn’t factor this into costs are now doing so.  As you get into home working you may discover that you need a printer, a decent sized monitor a new keyboard because the keys on your old one sometimes stick or specific software. Don’t be shy in asking because these are essential workplace tools and you need to have the correct equipment in order to do your job effectively and professionally. It’s good to get these requests in early before budget is gobbled up by others.

Take time to chat with colleagues

For some people working from home can be blissful; there are few interruptions, endless and seemingly pointless meetings are avoided and office politics is left to those who gravitate in this direction naturally. For others it can feel like a harsh banishment to a desert of social isolation. Most of us fall some somewhere between these two poles. If you don’t have a chat channel where remote employees can talk with each other, ask for one. It’s not only a good way for employees to stay in touch with each other but is also useful for quick work queries, clarification on joint projects and questions to managers.

Be seen, be heard

Attending video conferences and conference calls is important but it’s also a good idea to check into optional meetings occasionally. Speak up during the meeting so everyone knows you're on the call even if it’s a simple ‘Hi everyone.’  Your presence will be acknowledged and others will know you’re on board.

Get out

If you’ve got a long shift ahead make sure to get out of the house. Our bodies need to move and we need natural light and fresh air. It’s difficult during lockdowns but we can still go for walks.