Boris Johnson has now urged people across the UK to work from home where possible to help control the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
In light of these recent developments, we've put together some essential tips to help you and your employees work effectively from home.
1. Create a comfortable space to work in
If you’re not used to working from home you may have an idealised picture in your mind of sitting in bed working in your pyjamas. But having a dedicated space to work in is vital both for putting you in a working mindset and allowing you to switch off when the working day is done.
The essential things you need are likely to be things you already have - a desk, a laptop or a computer, and a mobile phone. If you don’t have a desk, you can just as easily transform your dining room or kitchen table into a workstation. The key thing is that you need a dedicated workspace where you can sit comfortably and have access to everything you need.
2. Stick to the same schedule
If you can, try to maintain the same work schedule you have in the office. If your day typically starts at 9 am and ends at 5.30 pm, then maintain that schedule. Not only will it make connecting with your employees easier if everyone is following the same routine, but it will help you to maintain a firm line between work mode and home mode.
Obviously this won’t necessarily work for everyone. If you find yourself with children at home too it may not be as easy to maintain the same schedule. You may need to juggle your working hours around your partner so you can share the responsibilities of caring for your children. But if you can, try and set chunks of time where you can focus on work with minimal distractions - even if it’s after your kids have gone to bed!
3. Make time for breaks
A typical day in the office is broken up by chats with colleagues, getting up to get a drink, or even taking a quick phone call. It's not healthy to sit at your desk for long, unbroken periods - so make sure you build breaks into your day. Get up to make that coffee, have a conversation with anyone else at home, or get up just for a walk around. Even unloading the dishwasher or putting some washing on can give you a short break that will allow you to stay productive when back at your ‘desk’.
4. Ensure your technology is reliable
One of the biggest challenges concerning small business owners will be how they enable people to access the files and systems they need to carry on their work at home. If your company uses a cloud-based service, such as Google Drive, then people should have no problem accessing the files they need from home as long as they have a decent internet connection.
But if you have an internal network or intranet system, you will need to ensure staff can securely access it from home. If you haven't already prepared for this eventuality, there may be some challenges as you get everyone set up. So try to be patient.
5. Maintain communication
Working from home for more than just a couple of days can sometimes lead to people feeling disconnected from their colleagues or managers. But there are things you can do to ensure you don’t feel alone.
Keeping clear lines of communication open to managers, colleagues and direct reports is really important. This means keeping a close eye on your emails and any messaging systems your company uses to communicate and share work.
If you’re working with a colleague on a project or problem where it would be easier to speak face-to-face, try video calling. Tools like Zoom and Gotomeeting have free versions that are perfectly workable and easy to use.
The British Chambers of Commerce are continuing to monitor the effects of COVID-19 and ensuring that firms are aware of official advice and guidance.
To access the latest UK Government guidance, click here.