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How do we make the ‘new normal’ normal?

Nigel Spencer, Solution Team Manager – Connectivity & Security Services at O2, considers the challenges of motivating colleagues and teams as part of the future of work from home.

Lately, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how much the future of work has adapted – through necessity – over the course of the last six months. Like a lot of people I’ve spoken with, the first few weeks went really well. I discovered that without the travel, working from home caused my productivity to shoot up, whilst technology enabled me to meet and collaborate with my team effectively. In fact, when people started to describe this as the ‘new normal’, I felt ready to embrace it.

As the summer progressed, however, something changed. The first sign was when I began to notice all the jobs that needed doing in the garden, when my focus should probably have been on my work. Then I started to feel what others were calling ‘video meeting fatigue’. Don’t get me wrong. I love the technology, and digital workplace applications like Microsoft Teams and other web conferencing apps have saved me a day a week (at least) that I would otherwise have spent travelling to, and sitting in meeting rooms. But that doesn’t make online meetings as effective, or satisfactory, as face to face ones.

For a start, I’m naturally quite a sociable person, and when I used to sit in a room waiting for a meeting to start, I’d strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to me. With an online meeting, there’s a barrier, or distance, between participants. Sure, you can send someone an instant message, but digital communication isn’t the same thing.

Then there’s the video etiquette. Last year, I remember when it felt like no one was brave enough to switch their camera on when they joined a video conference. A couple of weeks into lockdown, and we seemed to find new self-confidence, and the courage, to switch the camera on and wave relentlessly at clients and colleagues alike. Now, as we enter the last quarter of the year, I’ve reached the point where I’d prefer to see people in person, however good the camera technology.

If I’m feeling like this then I dare say my team are too. The wellbeing of my team concerns me. So what’s the solution? What do we need to do to make remote working and the ‘new normal’ feel normal?

Here are seven things I’ve found that I think may help:

1. Set boundaries

Separating work and home and maintaining a work-life balance life has always been challenging. It’s important to make sure other members of your household understand that you’re working, so why not share the schedule for your working day?

2. Establish a routine…

When remote working, plan breaks throughout the day, especially for lunch. Make a decision at the start of the day about the hours you plan to work, and stick to them.

3. …and then break it

The same routine – the same space – can stifle creativity. If that sounds like you, get a different perspective by taking your work somewhere else in the house for an hour or two.

4. Set goals

In order to work from home effectively, set timescales/goals to complete work – even when there is no formal deadline to meet.

5. Create yourself a work from home setup

We’re not all lucky enough to have a spare room that we can turn into a home office. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create a dedicated space to work to improve your home working setup, even if it’s only small. If you can work somewhere which has a door you can close, then so much the better. Symbolically, it will help to separate your work and personal time.

6. Stay connected

The conversations that you used to have whilst grabbing a coffee or lunch are important. So make time for digital collaboration and catching up with colleagues, even when it’s not work related.

7. Exercise

Another piece of work from home advice: take plenty of exercise, and get lots of fresh air. Make and take calls standing up, if you have to, to force yourself out of your chair.

I’ve practised all of these tips for working from home effectively at one time or another over the last few months – and they have really helped me. If I need motivation, I remind myself of something a colleague said to me a while ago:

“You need to be careful that working at home doesn’t become living at work!”

At O2, we are remote working specialists. We’ve been doing it for years, and understand about the mobility and connectivity technology that really works. Can we help you? I’d love to hear from you. You can connect with me via LinkedIn.

Share your opinions using #O2Opinions.


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