Blog: How to work from home effectively

By: Chrissie Clarke

Programme Manager
cclarke@maritimeuk.org

WFH


This blog was first delivered as a presentation at a meeting of the Women in Maritime Taskforce on 30 March. 

With working from home for a long period of time being a new experience for most of us, we are all trying to find the best way to balance our work, our home lives and being in the same space for both. Here, Justine Brown, CEO at JustGlobalHR, shares her tips and tricks on how to work from home effectively. The advice covers those managing colleagues working at home, for individuals, and suggests how to effectively utilise online meetings. 

Advice to managers for employees working at home

  • Suggest they go out for a walk around the block before starting the day so they feel that they are going to work and do the same at the end of the day;
  • Encourage employees to take small breaks as they would at work;
  • Communicate regularly;
  • Arrange 1-1’s and team meetings;
  • Don't be too task focused – talk about other topics;
  • Use camera technology to talk to colleagues, check on each other, ask how they are and ‘see’ how they really are, be interested in the answer!
  • Boost your listening skills – listen closely and read between the lines;  
  • Do not multi-task, be patient and allow everyone to have their say;
  • Inject social conversation to break the work routine and increase rapport, discuss positive news;
  • Speak clearly and steadily;
  • Encourage employees to talk to each other;
  • Encourage employees to switch off properly at the end of the day at normal time;
  • Understand how to monitor your team, do you need to measure hours, outputs or outcomes;
  • Have a healthy respect for errors;
  • Ensure you know who does what and why so the right people are invited to the conference calls;
  • Be aware that employees are going to start feeling anxious and low about the future;  
  • If you have an EAP scheme encourage employees to use the helpline if they need it;  
  • If they want to help others in their neighbourhood allow them to do it during the day.

A question we were asked in the meeting was: 'How often should I hold 1:1s and team meetings'? 

Justine's response: "Arrange them as usual but a daily virtual huddle is a great way to ensure collaboration."

Advice for employees working at home

  • Still work to a defined scheduled as close to your “normal hours” as possible; 
  • Start and end the day with routine to signal when work starts and stops;
  • Dress smartly as if you are still going to the office, be out of pyjamas as soon as you can and wear shoes;
  • Where possible buy a spare computer monitor/decent webcam/ office chair;
  • Use video calls as much as possible as it is key for achieving “human interaction”. There are great apps such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack, Webex, BlueJeans, Google Hangout etc to help facilitate this;
  • Take regular breaks – Every 25 minutes, for 5 minutes, get up from your chair and stretch and move around;
  • Do not turn on the TV –be as professional as you would in the office;
  • Background music may help you focus but turn it off when you have call or video conference;
  • Work at a desk, not on the sofa/bed;
  • Try and keep your desk in a dedicated home “office space.”
  • Set clear ground rules with the people you live regarding not being disturbed;
  • Rearrange furniture and use plants to create a ‘new’ space;
  • Keep work out of your bedroom;
  • Try and get as much fresh air as possible; open a window, go for a walk, a run or a bike ride if possible;
  • Have a routine to end your day, a quick yoga stretch, loud music etc – it’s important to show yourself the “working day” is over;
  • Self-Manage and do not neglect yourself, use your network of colleagues to talk and take heed of advice;
  • Eat right, eat regularly and do not pick;
  • Have healthy food and drinks.

Top tips for effective online meetings

  • Embrace Video Calling - seeing each other is important to keeping connected;  
  • Use Headsets/Earphones - to give a better sound quality, remember to mute it when not speaking to limit background noise;
  • Speak Clearly and Steadily - ensure everyone can understand you, try to modulate your voice to keep people interested and engaged;
  • Establish Etiquette Guidelines - arrange a 'hands up' signal, allowing everyone to contribute;
  • Repeat the Question - as chair repeat the question before answering so all participants are aware of the original question;
  • Use Names and give Context - when responding to chat comments, repeat the relevant remarks, make it clear who you are responding to;
  • Keep slides simple - focus on what is being discussed. It is better to have more slides with fewer things on them;
  • Keep Slides Visual - anchor your presentation on relevant, image-based slides;  
  • Engage Participants Regularly - it is hard to listen online for a long time. Invite participants to give comments or ask questions, use tools like chat or polls;
  • Be Explicit about Actions and Summarise - spell out any actions that need to be taken and by whom; and
  • Remember summarise meeting and circulate notes promptly.

If you have similar advice or tips for those working across the sector, please contact Chrissie Clarke