What it’s really like to work from home

Funny night owl working on a personal computer

© The Shortlisted

As recently reported in The Telegraph, commute times have hit an all-time high of 48 minutes on average for the regular knowledge worker in the UK. This means 48 minutes of driving, stopping, refuelling petrol, and so on. Or for those in major metropolitan areas, 48 minutes spent in a coughing crowd within buses, trains and the tube.

For an average employee working 200 days a year, 48 minutes equates to over 186 hours in a year! That is four and a half 40-hour weeks! What else would you do with that time?!
On the other hand, a 2017 Gallup survey of 15,000 working adults showed that 43% of respondents said they spent time in 2016 working remotely; 31% even said that they work from home four or five days a week.

And the figure is growing.
The ability to save time and money are perhaps two of our greatest needs today and are often mentioned as the primary reasons so many knowledge workers choose to work remotely.
And for employers, the reasons are even more critical: instead of looking for employees in one area only, you’d be able to expand your search nearly anywhere.

In an office setting, the distractions can be numerous: from last-minute meetings to pointless hallway conversations – there is seemingly no clear way of working without the potential for significant delays. By working remotely, not only will you potentially save on the 186 hours per year, but you will also limit your distractions.

Contrary to popular belief, not many remote employees work in their pyjamas.
Instead, remote workers can develop their independence and rituals. This allows for a tremendous amount of flexibility in how and when a remote worker wishes to accomplish tasks. But at the same time, remote workers must be able to find their ways to stay motivated and disciplined throughout the day.

But as alluring as working from the comfort of home is, this can also bring challenges.
Some remote workers find it challenging to truly unplug from the rigours of the day. Emotionally, the stress of the day is still present, whereas, with those working full-time out of an office, you might feel a bit more detached when home.

4 Tips and tools to work at home more efficiently

1: Staying connected is critical to your success

  • Just because everyone is spread far and wide, that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way: there are loads of virtual meeting tools available to get your team together online or organise location-specific meetups in person.
  • There’s no way you’ll be able to relocate everyone, but having a staff meet-up once a year is not out of the question. It doesn’t have to be work- or project-related, either: there are plenty of team-building exercises and fun events you can plan.
  • You might be wondering how something like this would help productivity; actually, it allows your team to get to know one another better and bond. That will strengthen teamwork and collaboration boasting soft skills, which will result in a better working environment for everyone — even when that team is spread apart. There are also a variety of tools, including collaboration platforms and strategies, to help your team become more productive and stay connected.

2: Bring everyone together through one system

  • Think of this as the oldie-but-goodie tip. At the most basic level, teams need to be able to stay in touch reliably. A team separated by distance will need multiple ways to communicate, including a traditional phone system.
  • There are many kinds of cloud-based platforms, VoIP providers (voice over IP) and traditional landline solutions. The best system for your business and team will depend on your individual needs. You should have a phone system installed at your main location, and set it up so remote workers can tap in.
  • It’s possible to have your phone system integrate with desktop apps or employees’ mobile phones, which is something you may want for additional flexibility and team efficiency. Not only will your teams be able to communicate with one another from wherever they are, but integrations with tools like Salesforce can even allow you to keep records of calls and call times automatically.

3: Modern chat & collaboration tools add extra support

  • Chat tools and collaboration platforms are also necessary when used alongside a more traditional communication system. Get your team on board as soon as possible!
  • That means choosing a platform and deploying it immediately. They allow you to keep track of your entire team and set deadlines for specific tasks.
  • You can see who’s working on what, and when they will be finished. Team members can also get support and chat with anyone on the team when they need advice or guidance. Think of them as social networks for work.

4: Cloud storage simplifies document sharing

  • Normally, if you want to take your work with you, you have to transfer documents and files to a portable drive or physical media. Then, you must carry that media with you at all times. Cloud storage simplifies this by allowing you to store important documents on a remote server, which you can tap into from anywhere, with any device.
  • It’s also an excellent medium for collaboration because multiple parties can access a single document or group of files. So, ultimately, multiple team members can be working on a single project or task together. By storing documents in the cloud, you can do things like finish a business proposal during your long commute, or late at night when you’re relaxing on the couch.
  • This system is excellent for remote teams that divide their time between working from an office and at home. This includes services like Microsoft Office 365, Google Drive for Business, Dropbox, Box, and many others. As you can see, with just a few changes, additions or well-chosen technology services, your remote workers can be brought into the fold like never before.
    Has your company embraced remote working yet?

★ For more advice about homeworking, also check out our freelancer’s survival guide, and how to survive as a freelance translator

About The Author

Stephanie Liais
Product marketing manager

Stephanie Liais is an EMEA product marketing manager at RingCentral and works in cloud software and communication industries, helping businesses in their transitions to cloud-based office systems. She is based in London, has a European background and is a keen traveller.