There’s been a huge movement towards flexible working in recent times, including an increase of almost 25% in working from home over the last 10 years, but many of us are facing the unprecedented challenge of having the entire office working remotely for the foreseeable future.
When we’re talking about a day here and there, or alternatively as a seasoned remote worker, it’s relatively easy to be focused, engaged and maintain momentum. You also often have the safety net of other people being present in the office for a quick catch up if necessary. But when the market has been hit the way that it has, colleagues and friends have been furloughed and we’re having to adapt to the world around us, it’s tougher than ever to keep going.
A recent job report suggested the decline in recruitment is at its steepest since 2009, which is a pretty scary thought. But before you pack up shop, the general sentiment in the market is that, number one, this is still a short-term battle and number two, we should be gearing for a monumental boom when this is over.
Long story short, knuckle down, and let’s get through this...
There are plenty of people who work from home full time and do so very successfully. Generally this is not a new concept, but taking a bunch of recruiters used to working in a buzzing, vibrant and driven environment and sitting them alone in a room with a phone and laptop is not necessarily conducive to a productive day!
So, here’s some top tips for working from home productively.
Get a routine and stick to it.
There’s plenty of content highlighting the benefits of still getting up at the normal time, filling your commute with learning a new skill, etc. But what I think this period presents us with, is the opportunity to get into YOUR routine. It’s a biological fact that people are programmed differently in terms of being ‘Early Birds’ or ‘Night Owls’, and the reality is that most jobs offer little flexibility around that. If you’re an early bird, take your morning ‘commute’ as an extra session of yoga or get cracking on your day plan. Alternatively, if you're a night owl, use the wee hours of the morning to get all your admin done and take the extra hour in bed to wake up refreshed and ready to go when your day starts. Whatever that routine is, find it, stick to it.
Don’t forget to add your hour of outdoor exercise to that routine. Whether it’s morning yoga, a lunch time run, or evening HIIT in the park, getting outside for fresh air and some vitamin D will greatly lift your mood. If it’s planned into your daily routine, you are much more likely to stick to it! Consider setting up a running club with your team or share your ‘gains’ to keep your competitive nature engaged.
Set up your space.
There are several considerations here. No one has ever worked productively sat snuggled up in bed. Your brain associates your bed with sleep (amongst other things…) and it wants you to be relaxed and shutting down, hardly the right state for nailing that sales pitch to an important client. So, make sure you have a desk and a chair, ideally in a separate space. To throw a little more sales psychology at you, studies show that our physical body position also affects the tone of our voice and the energy that we put into pitches. So slouching or lying on the sofa is also a no-go for salespeople.
The final consideration is for your body. As discussed, plenty of us have been working from home sporadically and actually, having a day spent in an uncomfortable chair or staring at the screen for too long can be forgiven. A genuine concern for me, is that I have no control over the ergonomics of my recruiters set ups. Given we are looking at three months in this position, make sure you are not causing serious damage to your back, neck and eyes. Check out the diagram below for the ideal seating position for working at your desk.
Don’t email, call.
This seems like a broken record most sales leaders are shouting at their teams, but this is more relevant than ever. Beyond the obvious benefits when building client relationships and managing processes, this is really just about human contact. It can be really tough moving from working in loud, energetic sales floors to isolating at home. Taking the time to pick up the phone to your clients, candidates and colleagues can increase your energy and positivity, and be as beneficial to them as it is to you.
Decide on working hours and stick to them.
It’s tempting to try working all hours under the sun, mainly because there isn’t a lot else to be doing. But when you’re stuck inside the house as it is, it’s important to have clearly defined work and personal time. This will help to reduce stress, and improve mental health, and generally give you the chance to switch off. And don’t forget to factor in regular breaks. Cognitive fatigue seriously diminishes the quality of your work, so think, does that email need to be sent to a client at 9pm littered with grammatical errors, or is it best done after a good night's sleep at 9am?
Discover your productivity hour.
As in point one, this gives you an opportunity to work to your strengths around productivity. Lots of sales-based businesses have companywide power hours with great evidence of increased energy, engagement and subsequent success. One of the biggest challenges with having a sales business work from home is how to maintain that energy and motivation. Find out what works for you. Are you sparky first thing, but experience a post-lunch lull? Maybe don’t do 2-3pm for your power hour. Or if you’re a grump until your morning coffee kicks in, 10am isn’t for you! Either way, work your routine around your most productive hours and see how much more you can get done and enjoy that feeling of success!
Get up, stretch, and take your eyes off the screen.
Eye health is an incredibly important consideration when working from home. Under normal circumstances, your office is busy and vibrant, you are constantly stealing seconds away from staring at your screen, as well as the opportunity to get up and walk around. When working at home without the barrage of visual distractions around you, you are more likely to spend extended amounts of time staring at a screen. As outlined in point 2, your body is likely to be under more stress than usual, so make sure you are taking regular breaks, standing up, stretching, walking around and follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, stare at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
So, make sure you are set up to be comfortable and productive. Set yourself activity goals to make sure you don’t melt into the sofa, and remember, even though we are facing seriously challenging times in the market, there are plenty of seriously value-adding tasks you can be doing to make sure we come out of the other side stronger than ever!