Consulting Partner Donal Laverty looks at the new reality for many employers. 

As measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) escalate, urgent focus is being placed on organisations to enable their staff to work from home or otherwise work more flexibly.

Even if they’ve done it before, working from home because of coronavirus might feel like a whole new world to your staff: It’s probably sudden. It might be for an extended period of time rather than a day here and there (and we’re not at all sure how long it’ll last). Your whole company is involved. And you can’t necessarily socialise in person outside of work.

The most important thing that your team will need to develop  and adopt is a “work first” mindset. Practically speaking, a “work first” mindset means that employees plan their day around their work. Work literally comes first. And that looks different for every single person.

The second attitude we can all develop is a more productive mindset. Again there are many different productivity strategies, but what matters is that people create their own systems for working from home. What works for one person might not work for another. Ultimately, we must find a balance between focusing on what we control (ourselves) and what we don’t (everything else). That’s not an easy process. But look at it as a challenge.

However, to get your staff started with working from home there are some practical things that you can advise them to do:

  1. If you have the space carve out a specific workspace. Separate space for yourself to work in, somewhere you can focus on tasks without being distracted and set up with everything you need for a normal working day
  2. It’s important that you have all the tech you need. This includes a reliable and secure internet connection, any necessary files, hardware and software, remote access to your company network and, importantly, knowledge of how to get IT support. This needs to be established before any order to work from home starts – or at least as soon as possible.
  3. A small but often overlooked factor is getting dressed. Parading around in PJs all day doesn’t allow your mind to switch into a ‘work mode’. However, changing into clothes will help you mentally switch to productive work mode.
  4. Try to stick to a daily to-do list. Set out a list of realistic, achievable tasks to keep you focused. Try and achieve these on a daily basis
  5. It’s really important to take breaks. You have to create markers in your day and be clear about when your working day begins and ends and take breaks to refresh. Don’t try to be ‘always on’. When the work is done for the day – switch off. Try if possible to stick to your core work hours (routine is always good)
  6. If you don’t usually work from home, chances are there will be some bumps in the road if you have to suddenly go fully remote. The key to steering through these bumps is communication—especially with your manager and direct reports. Don’t restrict it to email – talk to someone.
  7. Don’t forget to socialise. Work is social and human beings are social. Even though we are living through surreal times and practising social distancing, its important to build in time for non-work related chats and banter as you would in the workplace and use video calling to maintain face-to-face contact.
  8. Managers should remember that not every employee actually wants to work from home, a shift that can be stressful for some. As companies increasingly ask that many employees must work from home during the coronavirus outbreak, it’s key they communicate as much as possible and help employees struggling with the change.

Ultimately working from home isn’t for everyone and many of us find ourselves in this situation due to the unprecedented challenge we face.

Make remote working work for the individual. We can change where we sit, put on music, whatever helps us to work. And while you’re at home, don’t forget to enjoy it too. You’re in control. You decide what to do next. Doesn’t that feel good?

This article first appeared in the News Letter on 28th March 2020. 

To get in touch with Donal email