Working at the office from home

For some people it’s a real challenge to concentrate, be productive and feel motivated when working from home, while others are stimulated by the freedom and flexibility and can work even better away from the office. With the right working structure, tools and planning, however, virtually anyone can become a remote work addict.

If, when working remotely, you feel lonely and disconnected from your colleagues, perhaps these statistics can make you feel a little better. According to Strategy Analytics, the number of remote workers will grow to 1.88 billion in 2023, equalling 43.3% of the world’s total workforce. In 2017 1.52 billion people worked out of the office. In other words – you’re not alone!

When International Workplace Group, IWG, in 2018 interviewed 18,000 professionals from 96 countries, 83% said remote work helps them improve profitability. Furthermore, 87% believed that flexible and remote working boosted competitiveness, with 80% convinced that it attracts the best talents to an organization. And these findings are supported by many other studies. In a recent study conducted by Sveriges Nomader, for instance, 9 out of 10 Swedes think that it’s important to be able to work from home, with 70% even prepared to swap employers to get a job that offers greater freedom to work where and when it suits them.

In other words, there’s no doubt whatsoever about the direction in which we’re heading. Remote work will very soon be a hygiene factor in most workplaces. It’s of benefit to both the employer and the employee as well as to the environment. But not everyone is yet convinced and many people may need a little help in creating the right conditions for successful remote working days. In this blog post, we give you some tips on how to structure your offsite days in order to make them more productive and inspiring.

Plan for a day at the office

If you’re unaccustomed to working from home, it may be difficult at first. Perhaps other members of your household are at home with you. Maybe you find it difficult to ignore the pile of dirty laundry or unwashed dishes. And when you don’t have a meeting in the office at nine, it can be tempting to snuggle down in bed a bit longer.

Most people with experience of remote work know that it’s essential to stick to routines in order to be productive. You should, for instance, start the offsite days in the same way as your office days. Get up at the same time as if you were going into the office. Create a routine that clearly marks a demarcation line between your personal life and work, so much so that you can actually fool yourself into believing you’re in the office when you start the workday at home. In fact, many remote workers take a walk after breakfast, creating the illusion they’re going into the office when they come back home.

It may also help to write to-do lists with things that you need to get done during the day. Be realistic about it though. Otherwise, you’ll only end up being disappointed with yourself and feeling unproductive. And don’t forget to set a time to clock out at the end of the day. Even if you don’t have to pick up the kids from school or dash off to the gym after work, it’s important to decide when to stop. We all tend to procrastinate and, without deadlines, you risk working late into the night in order to finish off everything on your to-do list.

Create an inspiring workspace at home

Don’t sit in your favorite TV-chair or sofa, draped in a blanket with your laptop, and expect to stay focussed throughout the day. Your home office should be comfortable, but not cozy. Besides, you’ll just ruin your special place for relaxation by working there. That’s how the brain functions – it will find it difficult to separate work from play in a place where you do both. No, it’s far better if you create a space that you can devote solely to work and where you can find privacy.

If there are others in your household around when you need to work, you should lay down some socializing rules too. You could, for instance, let everyone know exactly when you intend to work and when you plan on taking breaks so that you won’t be disturbed all the while. This is especially important when you have online meetings. If you’re privileged to have a separate room dedicated to work, you can even pin notes on the door saying you don’t want to be disturbed.

It’s also important not to forget the ergonomic aspects. Sufficient light, proper back support and a relaxed sitting position will keep you alert and injuries at bay. Far-too-often overlooked when preparing a home office, work-related injuries due to poor ergonomics can just as easily occur in your home as in the office. And the right light conditions can prevent you from getting tired and help you stay concentrated.

Remedy loneliness with virtual coffee

Some people feel lonely and isolated when working away from the office and this can have a negative impact on their productivity and engagement. Fortunately, it’s only a small percentage of the workforce, but the problem needs to be addressed by management. A study conducted by Buffer showed that 21% of the interviewed 1,900 remote workers felt lonely from time to time.

If you’re a manager or a group leader, it’s important to note that loneliness and isolation are not the same thing. An employee can feel lonely in an office packed with people, while isolation is a structural problem. You can feel isolated if it’s difficult to access information and tools or to collaborate with colleagues. A sense of isolation can also creep up on you if you feel invisible to your boss or co-workers.

There are numerous ways around this. By improving employees’ access to information and resources via online-based communications and collaboration tools like Teams and Yammer, for instance, you can help counteract their feelings of isolation. And with a transparent sharing and feedback information structure, you can ensure that the know-how and work input of all employees become visible to everyone on the team or/and in the entire organization.

As an example, you can create intranet forums for projects, discussions and teams and link employees to one or several of these forums. You then appoint a moderator for each forum and set up a well-defined feedback routine they all have to follow. This will ensure that anyone who shares an idea, improvement initiative or other items of information will be heard and encouraged, effectively boosting his or her engagement. In a modern intranet platform like Omnia, there are embedded and preconfigured solutions for this. But you can also build dynamic forums with social media applications for businesses, like Yammer, Facebook Workplace, Salesforce Chatter, and Slack. These applications are easily integrated in Omnia.

Scheduling regular group and private sessions via video and online meeting applications is another way of remedying loneliness and isolation. But it’s important to note that we all have all different social interaction requirements. Some people have to stay in constant contact with their colleagues and bosses in order to feel motivated and engaged. Others just want to have their achievements acknowledged. As a leader, you have to figure out who requires what and then do what you can to accommodate these individual needs.

Regardless of personality, most people feel a closer connection with their organization if they regularly meet with their colleagues and gain inspiration from creating something together. If this can’t be organized through regular or project-related online meetings, you can arrange virtual coffee breaks. So why not start up the workday with morning coffee together with your colleagues in Teams or Yammer? And don’t forget your virtual afternoon tea, to which you can also invite other colleagues. Taking short breaks when working offsite is of course also particularly important. This is after all normal practice in the office, where breaks come quite naturally when you go from meeting to meeting or when you pop out for lunch.