Tips & Opinions
With trust comes freedom
Adam Honeysett Watts – DTCC
Adam Honeysett-Watts is Director of Conservatives in Communications and works in the financial technology sector
In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the government has advised businesses to enable their employees to work from home (WFH). For many, today was the first time they’ve done so. As someone who already benefits from a company policy that allows people to WFH from time-to-time, I wanted to share some thoughts and best practices for making a success of this new-found freedom. More freedom should always be a good thing!
Now is the time for everyone to stop all non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel. We need people to start working from home.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the first daily press conference on the coronavirus pandemic
For most industry sectors, working 9-to-5 is a thing of the past. In fact, for many in public relations and public affairs it hasn’t been a thing for a while. After the initial introductions, most interactions can be done over the phone or email. I don’t expect anybody to eat breakfast at their desk, hit ‘reply all’ to group emails or stay five minutes past 5pm – just to be “visible”. I do encourage folk to attend morning meetings, read (the daily news and books) and attend industry events – such as those hosted by Conservatives in Communications – to improve their knowledge and skills, and build their networks.
The key to making all this work is for managers – i.e. line managers not managers of other functions – to trust their teams. In turn, all colleagues must deliver – at home and in the office. It’s really that simple. Get it right and the benefits can be a-plenty:
- Higher productivity. Don’t take my word for it – try Googling academic studies on this.
- Greater availability. For example, people are more able to join calls with Asia and the US.
- More time, be active. Spend more time with your friends and family. I use some of the time it would take me to get to and from the office to exercise and I’ve lost a stone and a half (10.5kg) since January.
- More money. Instead of spending your hard-earned cash on overpriced coffees, £10 lunches and transport, spend it more wisely.
- Support local. Where possible, spend it in the local community.
The reality is this: people need very little to do their job. In a similar vein to my blog post about 10 PR things to consider in 2020 and beyond, here’s a list (not exhaustive) of 10 tips on how to make a success of WFH and remain productive amidst the chaos:
1. Make space
Ideally, you’d have a home office – a separate and quiet space just for work. Not everyone has that luxury however, including most people who live in city apartments. Instead, it can be the corner of a spare bedroom or dining/living space. Preferably, it won’t be the kitchen table as you should avoid mixing home and work life. It also becomes difficult if there’s more than one occupant WFH or on holiday.
2. Right equipment
At a minimum, you will need a PC/laptop, internet/wi-fi and a mobile phone. If possible, buy a printer, shredder and a lamp.
3. Create routine
Establish one early on – that works for you (and hopefully for others). For example: get up by 7am, check inbox and social media channels, do exercise, get ready, work from 9am-12pm, pop out and grab some lunch, read the daily news, work 1-5pm with a break in between, do some personal chores, cook dinner/ attend event/ see friends and check emails etc. once during the evening. For the record, I don’t cook!
4. Be available
Be online. Be available. You shouldn’t have to prove yourself or over communicate, because you’ll be sat at your desk – albeit in your home.
5. Stay connected
Stay in contact with the outside world – colleagues and further afield. Setup phone/ video meetings, create colleague WhatsApp groups, follow social media channels and have the news or radio on in the background. Don’t hesitate to ask for what you need.
6. Get organised
Unless you rate them (I don’t!), you don’t need Microsoft Teams and other tools like Slack to do your job. Good old Microsoft Outlook, Google Suite and Skype are enough, and do share invites for personal time off.
7. Purposeful meetings
In terms of meetings – the fewer, shorter and more purposeful they are the better. Avoid scheduling meetings for meetings sake. Weekly should be enough – consider making them bi-weekly or even monthly. You don’t need to use the full hour – 45 minutes is ideal but aim for 30. For this to work, test connections, be on time and avoid all the clichés. Every meeting should have an agenda, which you stick to, and everyone is responsible for recording their actions.
8. Face time
WFH does not mean never seeing colleagues again. Face-to-face interactions are vital. Where possible, you should meet in-person at introductory meetings, networking events and yes, team socials.
9. Go outside
As mentioned early on, just because you’re now at home doesn’t mean you can’t go on the balcony/ walk around the garden/ go to the shop. It’s important to get fresh air!
10. Keep reflecting
Continuously reflect on what’s working well and isn’t, and shake-up accordingly.
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