Man working at a laptop

In the last few weeks, you may have asked your employees to change their usual routine from commuting to the office to working from home. This change is through necessity rather than choice and it can be quite a culture shock to work from home. Lack of contact with colleagues face-to-face can make people feel quite isolated and for anyone with children, it is a case of juggling work with childcare.
Here is some advice to help your employees to make the adjustments:

1. Set boundaries

  • Set some ground rules from the beginning to make working from home successful.
  • Get yourself into a routine so that you are psychologically ready for work.
  • Set your alarm, follow your normal routine and get dressed and be ready to start work at a designated time.
  • It is not ideal to set up in the kitchen or on your dining table as you are likely to experience interruptions.
  • It is better to set up in a spare room or in an attic room where you can shut the door, and everyone knows the rule – ‘do not disturb’.

2. Set up your office space

  • How you set up your workspace is important as you will be spending many hours at your new workstation.
  • In your office your company will have set up your office workstation with health and safety in mind and probably given you a desk top assessment.
  • So, you need to check that you are sitting in a position that is good for your posture and eyesight. You need to be comfortable so here are a few basics:
    • Chair – you are unlikely to be able to bring your office chair home, so carefully choose one of your own chairs. Ideally you need to find one that supports your lower back. Arm rests are a bonus and if you are able to adjust the height of your chair then all the better so that you can place your feet flat on the floor.
    • Table – you should be able to sit at the table or desk so that your elbows are close to your body and you don’t overstretch. You need to be able to rest your arms on the table surface and use the keyboard or mouse without having to bend your arms at the wrist.
    • Computer or laptop screen – ideally place your screen so you are not facing a window or have a window behind you to avoid eye strain from glare on the screen. If you still have light reflection on the screen, ensure you can adjust a blind or curtain or get an anti-glare screen filter fitted.

3. Plan your work

  • Plan your day and your priorities just as you would do if you were working from the office.
  • Maintain set hours even if you are a bit more flexible working around family commitments than you would be in the office.
  • So long as you plan, you could stop working for a couple of hours and resume later in the evening for an hour or so if that fits in with the requirements of your job.
  • Make sure clients and colleagues are aware of your schedule as there is nothing more frustrating than when you can’t get hold of someone when you expect they are working.
  • Do pick up the phone and speak to colleagues to avoid feeling isolated – remember a lot of people are working from home for the first time and everyone needs to still feel connected to the team.
  • If you manage a team, this can be difficult as you cannot see what everyone is doing – so engage with them through video links, which is a good way to connect all the team for a meeting.

4. Be mindful of your health

  • Make sure you take regular breaks from working at a computer screen so your eyes can focus better, and you change your position and have a stretch.
  • You need to get up from your chair and move around during the day. You no longer have your routine of walking to the station, bus or underground for your commute to work. Going for a short walk, unless that is not practical, walking round your garden or at least opening the window will mean that you get some fresh air.
  • If you find it a bit quiet working alone, just find some inspiring music to play in the background.
  • It is so easy to get absorbed in work during the day and then find that you have worked past your normal hours as you do not have the prompt of other people packing up in the office and leaving to go home. So be aware of the time towards the end of the day.

5. A few final notes

  • Ensure your computer is set up securely and that any data is being backed up.
  • Set yourself realistic goals. You may well find that you are more productive without the usual interactions with office colleagues, but it is all too easy to feel isolated.
  • Pick up the phone and have a real conversation if you need to as colleagues may be quite grateful to hear from you as well.

This document has been prepared by Annie Summun, one of the FMB’s Board Directors and Director of member business Kisiel Group, for the benefit of FMB members and their staff.  This constitutes guidance only and members should always consult official sources of advice for further information, such as ACAS.

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Annie Summun

Director of member business , Kisiel Group