Having worked from home as an International Sales Rep for a number of years I became used to working in 'strange' locations, often using airport lounges, coffee shops and hotel lobbies as my office....
Rarely did I work from the company HQ or an office, on days when I wasn't travelling I would 'work from home'. Here's my top five tips to working successfully from home.
Create a designated 'work space'
When I first started working from home, at the time living in someone else's house, I created a designated 'workspace', which in this case was a small computer desk in the conservatory overlooking the garden.
Not only for your mental wellbeing is it essential to have somewhere you can 'walk away from' when you need to, it is also essential to have somewhere you can leave your notepad, laptop and phone, without this being in one of the main congregation points i.e don't set up in the lounge, dining room or kitchen, where you know you will be disturbed.
As I recall, in later years, when I set up my own business I progressed from Bedroom 3 to Bedroom 2 when I needed additional desk space, storage etc and finally to a purpose built office in the garden.
It is essential that visiting friends, family, housemates etc know that when you are in your designated workspace you are 'at work' and they should not disturb you, just like they wouldn't disturb you at an official place of work.
© Photo by Nathan Riley
Adopt Professional Working Hours
To be productive working from home you must be professional about your working hours, just like you would if you were attending an official place of work.
This means getting up and out of bed normally and being at your desk / designated workspace at expected working hours. Of course for everybody this will be different but don't go to work in your pyjamas - ever.
Of course working from home is about flexibility but I've learned to be diligent about working hours and again for the purposes of mental wellbeing this means I can walk away and lock the door at the time I choose each day with a clear conscious, knowing I have been productive for a designated number of hours, which some days is a larger number than others.
It also means you are available and ready to engage at times your clients, suppliers, colleagues etc expect you to be available.
Break for Lunch
Book it in your diary (we'll come on to diary management in a moment) but taking a break for lunch is essential for mental wellbeing. It also allows you to reset, ready for next period of the day.
Nowadays, we regularly cook our main meal of the day during our lunch break together (I am lucky my wife also works from our garden office). We also use our break for lunch to go for bike rides in the summer, walk the dog or step out to the local coffee shops or cafes, to really break up the day.
This is really important as it allows us non-work related social interaction and we always return to our office energised for the afternoon.
© Photo by Youjeen Cho
Widen your channels of Business Communication
Okay, so we are all pretty fantastic at being present on social media channels but how many of us are regularly using wider channels for business communication. As an example here are our top 5 channels for business communication;
Zoom has been a game-changer for us. Zoom is a videoconferencing app that works fantastically for 1-2-1 or 1-2-100 participants on Zoom's Free/Pro plans and 1-2-300 participants on their Business plans. You can have up to 500 and 1,000 participants onZoom's larger plans but we've found the Pro plan works famously for us.
We find the screen sharing, whiteboard and breakout rooms (where participants can break off into smaller groups and come back into the main meeting) are brilliant.
You can record meetings and have chat groups within meetings, all really cool.
I've noticed businesses in the USA and Europe are a lot more switched on to using video conferencing apps than UK businesses/individuals, but recent global issues may change that, or should change that going forwards.
Vidyard has also been game-changing for us for a number of reasons. When you are working from home you can become isolated from colleagues, customers or suppliers and it is important to stay connected.
Vidyard is a really cool screen recording app that allows you to update colleagues very quickly what you're working on and the great thing is they all get the same message at the same time. Of course they can also update you in reverse.
So for sharing information consistently, quickly and easily, Vidyard is brilliant.
Vidyard can also be used to show customers, clients and suppliers how to operate a piece of software or how to navigate a website, with you on screen too, all very cool.
(Click thumbnail to watch)>>>
Slack is an instant messaging app that integrates with lots of your other chat channels, platforms and apps, including Hubspot. We're using Slack everyday to receive Hubspot notifications, as well as stay in touch with colleagues on given topics in chat rooms and receive our Google, calendar etc notifications.
Slack is really cool as you can tag your colleagues in a conversation and share instantly without opening other apps, email clients etc to do so.
We've installed a number of LiveChat channels on our website.
LiveChat allows visitors to our website to communicate instantaneously with us, at a time of their choosing, without the hassle of email, email addresses, email clients etc etc etc.
LiveChat channels are great for customers to feel instantly connected to sales teams too, wherever they may be located, and chatbots can take over out of office hours.
With the ever growing presence of AI it is becoming harder for people to know when they are talking to a human or a chatbot, extending your hours of 'being connected'.
Although often seen as personal communication tools, Skype will hate us for saying that, particularly in the case of Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, chat channels are growing in importance in commercial workspace.
Although I am not such a fan of Skype, it's poor video performance across timezones and updates (that are too regular) are factors in me saying this, we still use it a lot for quick, instant video calls 'oh by the way I forgot to mention this', when updating colleagues,
although as soon as ScreenSharing is required, we find Zoom to perform much better than Skype.
WhatsApp now has 1.5 billion users, yes that's right 1.5 billion, which means the chances are your customers, colleagues or clients are already using it.
Facebook Messenger also has 1.3 billion users and e-commerce platforms like Shopify integrate directly allowing B2B and B2C businesses to promote products and services to Messenger audiences on these platforms.
So if you're not using them already, chances are, as we all become more digitally focussed when working from home, you will be.
Diary Management Tools
Okay, I have saved the best for last.
If you are working from home, how easy is it for you to get your head down and really do focussed, high quality work?
Do you respond to emails, as they arrive? Do you take calls as they dial in? Does this reactive approach lead to hours of the day passing without you realising it and without you getting achieved the work you had planned?
Our advice is to coach your colleagues, customers, clients, even your bosses to 'schedule a call with you'.
Yes that's right.
Share your diary, so anyone wishing to talk with you can schedule a slot at a time that is convenient to both of you.
This approach allows you to book in chunks of time to carry out any work you need to get completed but also allows colleagues, clients (and bosses) to see when is a good time to talk.
Here's a link to our diary here.
Sharing your diary will save lots of time and avoid lots of non-urgent interruptions, adding to your efficiency.
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