Working Efficiently From Home!

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In the long distant past working from home was a definite “No!” and it is easy to understand why:

Most people had their own office with a door. In the worst case you were forced to share the room with another colleague. We as PEP® (Personal Efficiency Program) consultants advised our participants to close the door when they needed to concentrate, not for the whole day, no, just for the hour or so they needed to finish an important task.

And then someone had the great idea that you could lower costs and increase productivity by having an “open-plan work space.” The intention here was to increase collaboration within teams and increase productivity as well as creativity. This became mainstream in companies and organizations.

A Harvard Business School funded study found that in the open-plan work space the interaction between employees dropped by 70%, most preferring email and chat to personal interaction and 1 in 3 felt they were less productive and 1 in 6 felt they were less creative.

We found that interruptions in this new environment was an important factor in the decrease in productivity and that employees could expect to be interrupted every 3.5 to 7 minutes. These interruptions were not limited to someone tapping your shoulder and asking “do you have a couple of minutes?” but also included the general “noise” level in the working environment.

As PEP® consultants our focus was to help the individual employee to increase their efficiency, productivity and the quality of their work while decreasing their stress level.

We found it absolutely essential that employees have the opportunity to concentrate without interruptions while performing an important task or activity. We recommended that they ask their manager to allow them to work from home one day a week. Not all managers agreed. Mark told me “my manager thinks I am being productive when he sees me sitting there in front of the computer but the truth is I’m far more productive when I work from home.”

As the working environment evolved the mind set of managers also needed to evolve. Now management needed to change and appraise their employees based on Performance not on them being present in the office or not.

This became a reality as the working environment became more flexible and better mobile tools were available and Activity Based Working became the norm. People could now work any time and anywhere as long as they Performed. The only restriction was security.

Now with the arrival of the Corona virus on our shores things are again changing and dramatically so.

One of my clients sent their people home 3 days ago and closed the office telling them to work from home.

“Hello Pedro, how is this working out for you?” I asked him.

“Terrible! This is a disaster!”

Pedro lives in the city in a small 2 room apartment with his wife. He works sitting at the dining table with his laptop. He is used to having 2 big computer screens and now he only has his small laptop. In his work he needs to view and compare different software Apps side by side which is now impossible.

His wife, who works for another company, was informed today that from tomorrow she also will be required to work from home. They will need to share the dining table. The problem is that her job entails several online meetings daily.

Luckily they don’t have any children. But Hans does.

Like Pedro he lives in a small city apartment and also uses the dining table as his work station. This is his 4th day working from home and the only day out of the 4 that he has managed to get anything done. His daughter was home sick for the first 3 days.

“Working from home is really difficult. I find it hard to separate work from private. I feel bad because I am so unproductive here. I also really miss my colleagues.”

This is a really different scenario for us PEP® consultants. Advising employees to work from home has always delivered positive results. But now an opportunity has presented itself for us to actually help those who have been forced by the current crisis to work from home.

To work efficiently and to be productive from home the following must be to be in place:

  1. You need to have your own space with a desk or a table. If you live in a tiny apartment with the two of you then brainstorm solutions. One in the living room and one in the bedroom. If the bedroom is too small then order a wall mounted folding table by post order. Be creative.
  2. The environment must be quiet with no interruptions or triggers. Noise cancelling earphones with Baroque music help when you need to concentrate.
  3. The work space should be neat and organized. Papers are filed in suspension files or folders, the important point is that they are labelled and easily retrievable.
  4. Separate work and private by Time Boxing. Block time in your calendar for both work and private and stick to it.
  5. At the end of the working week Plan the following week. At the end of the working day revisit and adjust your Planning for the next day.
  6. Good tools are essential. If laptop is too small then buy a larger screen that can be connected to it. Make sure you can access all the information as you did when you were in the office.
  7. Meetings and communication Apps are essential. Most of our clients use MS Teams, Skype for Business, Mattermost or Zoom. Use what your company uses and make sure you know how it works.

On face value it’s actually quite simple. It involves change but as most of us know this is not always easy. The situation is what it is and you have no other option than to get used to it. And get used to it you will. The needed discipline to change the situation is not endless and will be followed by routine.

Just make sure you follow the above guidelines and build an efficient and rewarding routine. It will make your working life at home so much easier. Click here to find out how the Personal Efficiency Program can by offered remotely to help your team work efficiently from home!

Eric Magnusson, Managing Partner PEP®worldwide – Europe

PEP® is a registered trademark, owned and licensed by IBT Europe BV trading as PEPworldwide Europe.

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