Coronavirus advice: Top tips for working from home
We provide some advice on working from home and managing home workers.
The ICAS Audit and Practice Monitoring team works predominantly out of the office and therefore working from home is the norm for us. Working from home requires a different way of working for staff, and different techniques to manage staff. One notable point is that each member of our team can find it difficult on occasion, particularly in making sure there is a distinction between work and personal time, which can be a challenge if work is always within arm’s reach.
Here are some of our top tips, which we hope you will find useful.
1. It will be helpful to keep routines. Try to maintain your existing ways of prioritising your work and tracking your tasks. Keep a structure to your day, including breaks.
2. If possible, create a dedicated workspace. If this isn’t possible, make sure to clear up work at the end of the day – seeing an open laptop in the evening may bring back thoughts of work that you normally leave behind when you walk out of the office.
3. You should adopt your own common-sense practices, but it normally isn’t effective to work with the TV on, or have any other distractions. That being said, one of our team promotes the benefit of using a ‘focus and concentration’ YouTube soundtrack to block out background noise. Each person will have their own preferred method of working and should employ that. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.
4. Make sure anyone you live with understands that whilst you are home, you are working. However, don’t shut people off completely, as they may be the only other people you speak to that day! Therefore, be sensible in your approach.
5. Quickly get into the habit of using a video conferencing facility to keep in touch with colleagues – it can feel a little odd at first, so best to break the barrier early. Once you have started using this way of working you will question why you have not done so more frequently in the past.
6. Maintain contact with colleagues in other departments – even for a sociable blether. This helps maintain your own spirits but also those of others. People do value the personal touch.
7. Make sure to get out of the house each day for some fresh air and exercise but please remember the government advice on social distancing.
8. A final warning: when you are only a few steps away from the cupboard the impulse to snack is great, so perhaps best to keep those unhealthy foods hidden away!
In addition to all of the above, there are some things that line managers may also wish to think about, as managing a team remotely also brings with it some challenges:
- As above, utilise video conferencing – there are significant benefits from talking to someone face to face, rather than over the phone. Schedule regular video calls as a full team, and also one-to-ones. Even when there are no specific matters to discuss, it is important to checking regularly.
- Clearly articulate and define expectations and timescales. It is useful to document team discussions and to note action points, so there is a record of the discussion that the team can refer to.
- Encourage the team to regularly communicate with other team members.
- The Audit and Practice Monitoring team has implemented a basic timesheet for team members to record time and activities – whilst you may not want to implement such a process, it is important to track work being undertaken, and to identify where anyone is struggling to juggle workload.
- Make sure each team member has the right equipment to enable them to conduct their work.
- Be aware of a team member who is home alone or lacks a support structure. Look out for signs that someone is struggling with isolation (tone of emails and conversations; body language on video calls; abruptness of emails; time when emails are sent; etc.).
- Trust the team and avoid micro-managing.
It is important to acknowledge that when out of the office environment you are still working and the same standards of professionalism and commitment apply. We should see the current coronavirus situation, though, as an opportunity for a lot of people to experience a new way or working and there will be new skills and approaches that we can each take forward.
Hopefully you will have found some of this useful and, please everyone, stay safe.