How Can Homeworkers Set A Schedule That Works?

The UK isn’t alone in adopting a work from home strategy to combat the spread of COVID-19. Businesses across the globe are now being run from home offices. The good news is that technology is ahead of the game in these unprecedented times, giving people a way of conducting business as usual.  

Collaboration tools are the backbone of effective home working. But some issues come along with it. Those challenges can be overcome with better working practices, but it’s a case of understanding the pitfalls and developing a way to combat them.

The issue

A routine will help you get the most from your day. Working from home provides a lot more flexibility to balance family and working life. But at the same time, employees may feel under scrutiny and keen to show that they’re not taking advantage.

In consequence, workers can easily fall into a trap of overworking. In particular, the context COVID-19 lands us in means that the usual routine parts of the day have been eliminated. That means the school run, commutes. The list, of course, could go on. Factor in the potential for businesses to get quieter in terms of emails and calls, and you can see how it’s all to easy to start early and finish late. All the while, you’ll be getting more done. But that’s not necessarily all positive in the long run. Taking breaks, finishing on time and remaining disciplined with your schedule is even more important.      

Then there are, of course, the meetings. The advantage of homeworking is that time is saved on commutes to meetings. Yet there is a drawback to this.  

Planning your meetings  

Many of us have a list of regular meetings dotted throughout our diaries each week. The current situation has meant that for millions of us, those meetings are moving to virtual catchups. Videoconferencing is an obvious solution to teams looking to carry on as close to normal as possible.

While technology provides an answer, it doesn’t come with any obvious guidelines for getting the most out of a remote way of working. The very nature of videoconferencing is that it’s instantaneous. A huge perk, to be sure, but it also makes it very easy to book in call after call, filling up our diaries fast.

Before you know it, one conference is running on from another. That leaves workers with no time to prepare for the next meeting, reflect on the conversation that’s just happened, or respond to emails or delve into tasks. The natural order of things when commuting and scheduling is in the mix has been thrown out of balance.   

This can be seen to it’s fullest extent in global teams. When working across time zones, virtual meetings are a smart way of getting people together. But this can lead to stress and burnout if people are connecting with others across the world out of hours.

Working smart

The advantage is that when you are aware of the issue, you can put steps in place to combat it. By adjusting your working process, you can plan your day and create a balanced schedule.

It’s important to allow time before any meeting, and that include videoconferences. The CIPD has published useful guidelines on embracing video conferencing. They include:

  • Speaking clearly on the call
  • Agreeing on etiquette with all participants
  • Repeating all questions to ensure everyone has understood
  • Using names and addressing questions clearly
  • Using simple, visual slides
  • Increasing engagement with all participants through comments and questions
  • Explicitly setting out actions

You could say that it’s a combination of allowing time before and after the meeting, thinking about the points you need to make in advance, assessing the tone, and pre-empting any potential issues.

In conclusion …

The fact is, if your day is eaten up by meetings, you won’t have time to action the points raised in them. Balancing these things can be a lot more complicated when you’re sat at a desk at home. As millions of us have been thrown into the deep end with it, defining the rules of engagement is one of the most complicated issues as a result.

We do have the tools to connect from disparate ends of the country or the world. But this can lead to a connected 24/7 culture. And while we deal with the upheaval COVID-19 has presented us with, the reality is that this could pave the way for more flexible working beyond the outbreak. Through making simple adjustments to our schedules, we can get the most from our working from home status, both now and in the future.