Working from home: Another ‘new normal’
Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash

Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash

Universal provides tips on how to do it successfully

By Dr Johan Pretorius, Chief Executive Officer, Universal Healthcare

As we head into our fourth week of the novel coronavirus pandemic lockdown, most of us would have noted that this period has thrown up a number of completely unexpected and unprecedented challenges to our ability to keep the vital cogs of our businesses and the broader economy functioning effectively.

The workplace has had to change quite radically to accommodate the new measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, which has not only radically impacted businesses and the broader economy as a whole but also the lives of millions of workers. One important development has been that South African companies have joined the millions of businesses across the world that have rapidly moved to the “new normal” of working from home.

Unfortunately, working from home is not possible for every business and working person. This is also true for certain teams working at companies that provide essential services, such as Universal, where we are constantly reviewing how we can make the working environment as safe and productive as possible.

To achieve this we have used technologies to enable staff to work from home wherever possible. For those core teams that have to work at the office, we have had to restructure the workplace to create space at the office for social distancing and take other measures to ensure their safety. The latter measures will be the subject of a further article but suffice it to say here, the social distancing, spreading of teams and partial working from home means that we have all had to learn fast how to work with our colleagues when they are not in the office with us.

Many of us who can work from home are still settling into our new work-from-home environment and find that trying to stay focused with all that is going on in our lives today is not easy. In fact, some Universal employees who were suddenly experiencing what it was like to work from home for the first time expressed some anxiety about this new situation and requested that they are allowed to continue to work from the office.

This situation was likely as a result of them having had little time to adjust to this new way of working without direct supervision and direction, along with the challenges of managing technology, keeping productive, staying connected and juggling family and work responsibilities. However, due to the critical need for social distancing, we were not able to allow them to come to work. Fortunately, most of these staff members have adapted quickly and are now finding that if they follow a few guidelines they are able to be productive while working from home.

So how can one work productively from the home environment? We at Universal have learned a number of lessons from this ‘new normal’ and have compiled some tips to assist staff members to adapt to working from home. We hope that you find them useful.

Tips for working from home productively

Establishing your workspace

Selecting your workspace within your home is critical. Try to find a comfortable, quiet space that you can dedicate entirely to work, away from potential distractions such as television or your children’s playrooms. If possible avoid setting up your workstation in your bedroom.

Ensure that the ergonomics of your workstation is sound and that you use a good quality office chair, as this will help to prevent you from tiring. Also, make sure you have sound connectivity so that you can access the Internet with no interruptions.

The importance of a disciplined work routine

Establish a disciplined work routine in which you start and finish working at the same times every day. Incorporate sufficient breaks, exercise, as well as time with your family and meal times into your routine.

You can start your daily routine by taking a shower and getting dressed, even if it’s not what you would usually wear to work, and then get started on the day’s activities. If you are an extrovert and accustomed to a lot of contact and collaboration with others, find ways to ensure that you stay in touch with your colleagues.

Prioritise your work

Try and figure out your productivity style and the areas of your life that may be distracting you so that you can address it. Remember that being productive is not necessarily about putting in more hours — it’s about prioritizing, planning, and attending to the most important and impactful work first. Therefore, organise your tasks, create checklists and keep a daily diary.

Dealing with distractions

There can be many distractions at home, such as your partner and children. If you are staying with your family or others, consider discussing your work routine with them so everyone is aware of what’s expected. Create a set of family rules that will help you to be able to focus during your working hours.

Stay connected

People working from home are missing out on the unplanned coffee conversations with colleagues that happen in the office. These are important parts of the working day that can have a direct impact on performance. It is therefore important to re-create these connections virtually as far as possible. Some individuals and teams prefer to use instant messaging for this while others prefer to live telephone conversations or video calls. No matter your preference, these are important means to help you stay connected to your colleagues and maintain sight of your work goals.