Making remote working work

content remote working

Working from home can be full of distractions, so how can you ensure you stay focused?

Wearing pyjamas until noon and munching on cereal while you work seems like a dream come true and implies a lifestyle that is not possible when you are chained to an office desk.

‘Indeed, remote workers are the envy of many office dwellers – those who are stuck in the morning traffic each day, or stand hunched and bleary-eyed in the aisles of trains; those whose shirts stick to the backs of their swivel chairs in the summer and who long for a woolly jumper instead of their suit in the winter,’ says Jonathan Firth, managing director at Michael Page Finance & Consultancy.

Thanks to the ever-spreading mobile and cloud computing practices, this dream can now be your reality. Many finance employers offer remote working (or telecommuting) as standard nowadays.

‘Companies are adopting an agile approach to how their workforce operates,’ confirms Phil Sheridan, senior managing director at Robert Half UK. According to a global survey by PGI, 79% of knowledge workers are able to telecommute at least one day a week.

Nevertheless, the comforts of home can prove too cosy, and the quality of your work and your productivity could suffer as a result.

‘It’s not all about “work done by lunch, time now for fun with family and friends”. There could be distractions, loneliness and lack of routine, not to mention the invasion of personal space with papers, memos and reports,’ says Firth.

So how do you stay focused and motivated? We have gathered some expert advice below.

Consider your setting

‘Think carefully about your surroundings when planning your home working space. For example, if you have a conference call scheduled for a day when you are working remotely, choose somewhere particularly quiet. Even though you may be working from home, you should still present a professional image to your clients and colleagues.’
Phil Sheridan, senior managing director at Robert Half UK

‘If you have a spare room or study to use as a home office, keep anything work-related in there. Setting yourself up on the couch tends to blur the line between home and work.’
Jonathan Firth, managing director at Michael Page Finance & Consultancy

‘Find a space to work that you can call your own. Sharing the kitchen table or balancing documents on the sofa makes your efforts feel semi-permanent and can hamper productivity. Environments can have a dramatic impact on our output. Gather everything you need so it’s to hand and you don’t waste time setting up at the start of the day.’
Jez Rose, behaviour expert and author of Flip the Switch, which encourages readers to change their behaviour to improve personal effectiveness

‘If you are finding it hard to concentrate on a particular task, it may be helpful to change your scenery sometimes. By taking your laptop to a local library or café with Wi-Fi for an hour or two, you can remove distractions that may have been preventing you from completing a task at home.’
Jonathan Firth, Michael Page Finance & Consultancy

Maintain a routine

‘Get out of bed, shower and eat your breakfast as you usually would prior to your commute, and be ready to start work by 9am. There should be no difference in your working day, other than your location. Your manager will be looking for the same commitment and even improved productivity when you work from home.’
Phil Sheridan, Robert Half UK

‘Act as though you are going to the office – staying in your pyjamas won’t get you geared up for work.’
Jonathan Firth, Michael Page Finance & Consultancy

‘Your working schedule should be determined the evening before, so you don’t waste any of the working day.’
Jez Rose, behaviour expert

‘Make a specific list of everything that needs doing. If you know your day hour-by-hour, you are more likely to stay focused and achieve your self-recommended deadlines. Tick jobs off when you’ve completed them.’
Jonathan Firth, Michael Page Finance & Consultancy

Self-manage, but stay accountable

‘You must be quite clear about what is expected of you and how your home-working performance will be assessed. Has your manager laid down monitoring arrangements for the output of your work?’
Alan Price, chief executive officer at HR consultancy Croner

‘If you have clear parameters to work within, you’ll find it easier to be accountable for your own time management. And if you can prove you are easy to manage when working from home on an ad-hoc basis, further flexible working opportunities may arise.’
Phil Sheridan, Robert Half UK

‘Clear goals are one thing, but reminding yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing is also important. Be aware of not only your actions but of the consequences of your actions too. That’s especially important when you find yourself cleaning the house, emptying the dishwasher and watching Netflix, when you should be working.’
Jez Rose, behaviour expert

‘The fastest way for your employer to know that you aren’t taking the opportunity to work from home seriously is if you start missing deadlines and the quality of your work suffers.’
Phil Sheridan, Robert Half UK

‘One of the hidden challenges with working remotely is that you relax more than you would do if you were at work. When you find yourself justifying why a piece of work can’t get done, summon up the drive to carry on working by changing your language. Replace “no, because…” with “yes, if…” and challenge yourself to make it happen.’
Jez Rose, behaviour expert

Keep lines of communication open

‘Working remotely means more autonomy, but you are still part of a team and should communicate with your manager and colleagues in the usual manner. If you go quiet and ‘disappear’ for the day, you will place pressure on your co-workers. Your business contacts should also be able to contact you when and how they usually would, as if you were physically in the office.’
Phil Sheridan, Robert Half UK

‘But do turn off any unnecessary notification tones. When your workflow is disturbed, it can take upwards of four minutes for you to return to an optimum productivity level.’
Jez Rose, behaviour expert

‘Check in with colleagues – remind yourself that you are at work, even if you are not at the office. Phoning to update your boss or colleagues will also make you feel more connected with what’s going on in the business.’
Jonathan Firth, Michael Page Finance & Consultancy

Remember your work-life balance

‘Professionals often request to work remotely to improve their work-life balance. If this is you, keep the issue front of mind and stick to your scheduled hours of work.’
Phil Sheridan, Robert Half UK

‘Give yourself time for lunch, for the benefit of your health and your work. Try and stay away from your computer at this time as well – go for a walk or run an errand.’
Jonathan Firth, Michael Page Finance & Consultancy

‘Define morning and afternoon breaks too. Make sure you have start and finish times for breaks and for projects you are working on.’
Jez Rose, behaviour expert

‘Working from home requires discipline, dedication and self-motivation. For some, it can be the key to finding a happy work-life balance and excelling at their job.’
Jonathan Firth, Michael Page Finance & Consultancy

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