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Working From Home: increasing productivity while reducing travel

Published 31 March 2020 by Matt McDonald

The Coronavirus pandemic has forced many of us to work from home and avoid all but essential travel. While working from home has become essential for many, if done effectively, it could lead to significant emission reductions from the transport sector in the longer-term future. As in waste, we are encouraged to reduce, reuse, recycle – in transport we should be seeking to ‘avoid, shift, improve’ our means of travelling around.

With that in mind, here is some advice on working from home effectively from our experience, reading, some of our staff, and associates.

Equipment and tools

Firstly, you will need a space to work and the equipment to use that space effectively. Start by choosing the most sensible place in your home to work and partition this off to avoid distractions. To set up this space you need to be sure you have the right equipment:

  • A desk (standing or sitting)
  • A proper office chair
  • A monitor, keyboard, and mouse
  • Stationery

There is an element of personal preference with your setup, but there is also some useful guidance to help out. Set your monitor at eye-level or slightly below,  set your keyboard so your arms are in close to your body and your elbows are at 90 degrees and position your chair so your feet are flat on the ground.

Your computer set up will likely be guided by your work and what software you use. However, some things you do have control over include:

  • Using a good microphone and headphones for conference calls. You can also run tests on your laptop/computers audio or video quality, to be sure that others can hear/see you clearly.
  • Check your laptop is up to date.
  • Make sure you are using the right software where you can. There are a lot of options here including videoconferencing, task managers, photoshop software, social media managers, VPNs.

Working from home in practice

Transform’s director Colin Howden is a big fan of standing desks:

“There’s a myth that standing desks need to cost hundreds of pounds, but I’m a big fan of the original Standesk 2200, so named as it could be built for $22. I find that using a pile of David Spaven’s rail histories is excellent at propping up my Mac to the correct height.”

The challenges and how to deal with them

Firstly, if you are working at home with kids off school you may be faced with managing homeschooling as well as your day job. You will have to expect interruptions and lose productivity, but remember that this is to be expected and it is not going to be possible to do everything at once.

Secondly, staying focussed is a challenge for anyone working from home but a few tips you should consider are:

  • Having a soundtrack to your work, whether your own music or playlists you can find on streaming sites.
  • Turning off any distractions while you are working. It can be helpful to use full-screen modes on your laptop/computer to make sure you are focussing on one task at a time and to mute personal social media accounts during work hours (apps are available to help with this).
  • Staying healthy, by choosing healthy food and doing regular exercise.

Working from home in practice

Emma Margrett, Transform’s fundraising manager, who has been working remotely since moving to Norway, says:

“I timetable my day by work task. I tend to start off with the tasks that take the least amount of time and clear them off my ‘desk’ and out of my inbox. I then start to work on the heftier pieces of work so I am not distracted by the clutter. Plan your day but give realistic timeframes on longer pieces of work. Nothing worse than ending a day feeling like you haven’t accomplished anything because your ‘to-do list’ was not humanly possible! But I also use coffee, copious amounts of coffee!”

Managing your time

The first thing to do in managing your time is to set your working hours with your boss and colleagues. The challenges above might get in the way of your routine but this makes it easier for you and your colleagues.

Secondly, it is important to remember to take breaks. Currently, the Government guidelines on protecting yourself and others during Coronavirus advises that we can go outside for exercise once a day while remaining 2 metres (6 feet) away from other people. We wrote advice on staying healthy here. Taking regular indoor breaks throughout the day is also advised, and you should schedule these into your day.

Communication

Keeping in touch with your colleagues is also vital to working from home. There are a number of different platforms to help with this and your organisation will likely have their preferred software. The main point is that staying in touch with your team is important to make sure you are all still pulling in the same direction. Transform has used Asana for a number of years to manage its work programme, and the effort spent in building this online system is now showing its worth more than ever.

Working from home in practice

Transform Creative art director Andy Smith summed up the challenges he finds in working from home:

“I’m juggling working from home with childcare, fielding a thousand questions a day from my 3 year old, and taking the allowance for daily exercise to escape the cabin fever by running into the wilderness behind my house. I am long overdue a haircut as it is, so will look extremely strange at the end of lock down.”