As professional marketing and PR practitioners, we are trained to tackle change head on but during the current climate, the notion of ‘downing-tools’ in our office and setting up at home, with immediate effect, can be a little tough.
How do we get our heads around how our careers will work for the foreseeable future on top of everything else that’s going on around us?
We can help ease the worry of your new working environment, with some top tips from our Brand Ambassador in Bristol, Neil Wilkins, who has worked away from a traditional office himself for the last 20 years.
During discussions with clients, Neil asked what was considered to be the biggest challenge for those new to remote working and found that time management and keeping to a schedule was the top concern.
Neil allays the fears of those new to remote working in his 30-minute webinar. You can also find a summary of key points below.
Keep to your normal morning routine
Although it can be all too easy to slip into a new, more relaxed routine because you’re at home, it is really important that on your usual working days that you stick to what you would normally do. Set your alarm and be disciplined with yourself. Don’t get me wrong, of course there will be added distractions, but as long as you are doing everything you possibly can to keep to your routine, then you will do just fine.
Maintain regular team meetings
Working from home is completely alien for many of us, especially if your role involves a lot of time on the road attending different events. It’s important to keep you and your colleagues spirits high. At the College, we have opted for daily morning meetings using Zoom to check-in on how we’re all doing and our targets for the week / day. Maybe introduce a ‘Social Secretary’ or give each person in the team the opportunity to come up with an activity (i.e. online pub quiz) on set days of the week so colleagues can still engage with each other in a no-work format.
Create your home workspace
Some of you may be able to set-up your own home office, a separate room away from the distractions of home life. However, for those of you who don’t, set-up a ‘desk’ somewhere you can sit. Refrain from lounging on your sofa or staying in bed. It’s important to create a routine, which syncs with that of your usual working day.
Plan your day into bite size chunks
Do you use a ‘To-Do’ list? If you’re finding it hard to get into the work rhythm, write yourself an hourly task list to tighten your focus on your daily goals. Set aside planned times in the day for online conference or phone calls so that your colleagues and clients know when you will be available for them. It is perfectly normal for your focus to drift while at home so ensure you take short, regular breaks (around 5-10 minutes).
Agree ‘work-free’ time with your household
If you’re able, ensure you take a lunch hour and agree a time with the rest of your household so you can ‘down tools’ and take a break together.
Working at home with children
It may be that your working environment now includes your children and it is hard to separate that work / play balance. Whilst extra time with your little ones is great, it also provides extra distractions from your work agenda. Try to agree times and responsibilities with your partner so that each of you has time to work and time with your children. If you are a single parent, know that clients are now more accepting to interruptions than ever before. Some may even be in the same boat as you.
Set yourself 3 clear goals a day
Going back to the ‘To-Do’ list, a great way to get things done is to prioritise the most important. Set yourself 3 top goals to achieve by the end of the day and separate the other tasks that can wait until tomorrow, if they don’t get done today. The devices that surround us (i.e. our phones) can provide a tempting distraction so try to save social media time and non-work tasks for breaks only.
Video call etiquette
Now that all of our meetings will be held online, it is important to establish some video call ‘ground rules’. Firstly, check the lighting and ensure your recipients can see you clearly. Agree a start and end time, so you can agree an agenda and keep to the schedule. There are a variety of video call options available now so try out a variety and find the best fit for you. Treat the ‘meeting’ like you would a normal meeting at work but encourage non-work related chat at the beginning and the end of the meeting.
Teamwork is key, but appreciate everyone is different
It is important to appreciate that some team members are extroverts and some are introverts. The latter are more likely to sit back and listen, rather than lead the conversation. During team interactions, take note of those who interact and those who take in the conversation. Closely monitoring wellbeing of colleagues, as well as that of your own, is important and if you feel someone may not be themselves, check-in with them or arrange a one-to-one meeting. If you yourself feel you may need some help, don’t be afraid to reach out to a colleague or your manager for guidance. Just because you are working from home, does not mean you are on your own.
Share your best practice tips with others
If you have come across some better ways to manage your new work dynamic, share these with your team as it might help them too. One tip is to consider turning off wifi if you’re not using it. For example, it might seem obvious but I stopped email and messaging distractions whilst writing this blog.
Finish your working day as you would normally
Make sure you start and end your day at the usual time and note down the tasks, outside of your top 3 goals, which you will look at tomorrow. Creating a to-do list for the next day will set you up in the morning and help you get back into ‘work mode’ more easily. If you have spent the whole day using a screen, spend the evenings without and allow your mind to completely switch off from your daily work tasks.
If you have any questions...
Here at Cambridge Marketing College, we have been working closely with professionals to provide online learning, which fits easily alongside their full-time roles. We have been teaching distance and online learning since 1998, and have plenty of experience in helping people balance work and study. If you have any questions about how to best to work or study from home, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.