Flexible working is on the rise. In the 2018 Human Capital Trends study, Deloitte reported that there are approximately 77 million ‘formerly identified freelancers in Europe, India and the United States’ – with over 40% of workers adopting flexible working arrangements ‘such as contingent, part-time, or gig work’ in the US alone.
I’ve worked from home (on and off) for the last few years. In 2014, I made the transition from working in a busy office five days a week, to working from a cottage in rural Worcestershire. It was a pretty significant change – and one that took a while to get used to. Over the last few years, I’ve learnt a lot about what motivates me and the things I need from my working day to feel positive, happy and engaged. I’ve listed a few of the lessons I’ve learnt below, which might be useful if you’re considering a flexible working arrangement:
- Make communication a priority
If you’re planning to start working from home, it’s important to make sure you don’t feel cut-off. Luckily, that’s never been an issue for me – all of my employers and colleagues have been fantastic at keeping in touch. When I first switched to remote working, my manager and I agreed that I would work from home four days per week, with one day in the office. Although I learnt over time that I didn’t have to be physically present every day to feel engaged and happy, I also realised that regular office visits were important. Working in the same location as my colleagues on a regular basis stopped me feeling isolated, and I always felt recharged and motivated when I returned home.
I also changed some of my habits, in relatively simple ways. I often made phone calls in place of emails, and regularly updated my colleagues on the progress of projects by email. If you’re working in an office, these conversations happen naturally every day – so it was important for me to keep them going while working from home.
- Make sure you’re heard
If you’re considering working from home, you might be concerned that your voice won’t be heard outside of the office. As one of the five enablers, we know that employee voice is essential in developing effective employee engagement – and the voices of remote workers are just as important as any others.
Before I started working from home, I sat down with my manager and colleagues for an informal chat about how the arrangement might work. We agreed to catch up on a regular basis to discuss our various projects, and we set specific times for team calls. We also agreed that I would be dialled into any last-minute or spontaneous meetings, so I’d be kept in the loop and wouldn’t miss out on any updates. This regular communication ensured that I was contributing ideas and opinions in the same way as when I worked in the office, and I always felt my voice was heard.
- Find a routine that works for you
When I first moved to working from home, I knew that my employers trusted me to self-manage – and they knew that I would always keep them updated on my plans. Trust and autonomy have always been central to my productivity (and a hugely important part of my own engagement).
One of the things I’ve always enjoyed most about working from home is the freedom that comes with it. I can schedule my time to work on certain projects when I know I’ll feel most productive, and I can structure my day in a way that works for me – knowing that I’ll have few distractions to worry about. If you’re thinking about working from home, it might be useful to consider altering your schedule. If you work best on certain projects first-thing, could you start earlier (and finish earlier)? Make sure you explore all of your options to find a routine that works best for you and your team.
- Achieve the right balance
Work-life balance is harder to achieve when you’re working from home. It’s tempting to work longer hours to finish a project sooner, or keep one eye on your emails during the evenings. When I first started working from home, I worked in different places all over the house – but I quickly learnt that this wasn’t going to work in the long-term if I was going to keep my work-life and home-life separate. I created an office space in the spare room, and didn’t ever use this space outside of my working hours. When the working day was finished, I left my laptop and phone in my home-office and didn’t check on anything during evenings or weekends.
I also learnt to play a psychological trick on myself. Leaving the house before the working day began – to go for a walk, to pick up a few things from the supermarket, or to go to the gym – became an essential part of my routine. When I left in the morning, I was leaving home – and when I returned, I was going to work. I understood early on that to do my best work, I needed to feel that I was physically going to work. This helped me to set clear boundaries between my work-life and home-life, whilst also ensuring I didn’t feel shut in.
- Enjoy the extra time
One of the best things about working from home is the extra time it gives you. This doesn’t just include the day-to-day stuff – I learnt that no commute = more time for me! My working arrangements meant that I could spend more time seeing friends and doing the things I enjoyed most. While working from home might not always be as easy as it seems, I learnt that using this extra time to do the things I loved helped me to come back to work feeling reenergised. If you’re considering working from home, think about how you can bring some of your favourite things into your new routine – and enjoy the extra time you’ve got!
For more information on the right to request flexible working, visit the ACAS website here.
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