For a few weeks now, many workers have stayed at home and kept their contacts to a minimum. For social interaction - including among colleagues - the current contact block and the closure of various facilities and shops sometimes mean enormous restrictions. Numerous companies are already noticing negative economic consequences, which will certainly be felt for a while. One measure that could cushion the effects is home office. The current blog post explains the prerequisites for setting up a home office and gives valuable and field-tested tips.
What can be seen despite the negative consequences: Many companies are turning the crisis into an opportunity. Restaurants are starting to renovate for the time after the lockdown - others are doing everything possible to enable employees to work from home. Some measures are implemented that have been postponed in the past.
Many companies benefit from the digitization that has been implemented so far and the measures taken as of yet! But not everyone can adjust so so easy - some have never come into contact with the topic of home office, although the potential was there. This article is for exactly for those companies! - Because you now have to catch up at an incredible speed! We would like to offer you a map for this route.
And even if you only read this post after the crisis in spring 2020, we hope that from our words you can take something for yourself and your company and maybe take a step further towards digitization.
Home office work has many advantages - not only for the employer, but also on the employee side - for example the time and cost savings due to the unnecessary way to work and thus more flexibility in everyday life for the employee. With the opportunity for home office, a boss shows their employees trust and this could also - contrary to all fears - lead to more loyalty to the company. Cost advantages for the company could also arise, for example, because cleaning costs are lower.
Anyone who succeeds in combining the advantages of the home office with the effective work style known from the office not only makes a valuable contribution to society in the times of Corona, but is already laying a foundation for the working world of the future and can therefore benefit long-term from the advantages mentioned.
There are European countries in which the home office model has been actively and successfully lived for a long time. So far, the Germans have been less brave. This is due to various doubts, like that the employee from home could do their job less effectively, be less accessible, or even lose touch with colleagues.
But home office does not have to mean that these "dangers" occur. In our digital age, there are numerous options and tools that ensure that work in the home office hardly has to differ from that in the office. We would like to address those and let your doubts fade away with this article.
Obviously! The technology has to be right. It is the most important building block for productive, comfortable and, above all, well-connected work from home. Or to put it in the words of one of our colleagues: "Anyone who works at a 50% finished workstation can only do 50%."
For security reasons, no private hardware should be connected to the company devices in the home office either. In no case should data backups be made using private hardware. If only a private computer can be used, the business data should at least be in an encrypted area.
Of course, all industries and professions have different tasks to master. In this respect, the necessary technical conditions also differ. But there are a few important aspects that are particularly relevant for any productive and effective tele and home office work in a team:
You can easily tackle this point with a cloud solution, which also includes an online file system. However, make sure that this is safe according to the applicable data protection law! We always recommend using a solution that is hosted in Germany.
There are also numerous tools for this now. Some are ideal for online conferences with your colleagues - others also offer the option of using your entire telephone system with the usual extension of your colleagues via the browser. In order not to have to make calls to customers via the private telephone, this type of telephone system is useful, provided there is no business cell phone. Here, for example, "3CX" should be mentioned.
What we would like to advise you against at this point: Simply use any video telephony tool just because “everyone” does it and you cannot or do not want to take the time to deal with the security aspects. We would like to take a closer look at this point in another article. If you need immediate help, please call us :)
Anyone working on several projects in parallel with several colleagues must have good coordination skills. In the home office, however, this is often not enough. Because in this case you would have to send and discuss a lot by email and store it in the file system in parallel. Here you quickly lose track of several projects. A project management tool such as Open Project can help here. Tasks can be created and scheduled, documents for the corresponding tasks can be filed and comments can be made by colleagues. A great alternative for the direct discussion of tasks and documents in a team!
Furthermore, appointments and deadlines can also be coordinated and communicated via a common calendar in a cloud. For example, you avoid overlaps in scheduling.
Of course, data protection and data security must also be guaranteed at home - just like in the workplace of the company - and the corresponding agreements must therefore be observed. Computers, data carriers and documents must be protected against access by third parties so that the business information and personal data in particular, such as customer or employee information, is not released. For this, of course, password protection of the technology is of course necessary, but also a lockable cupboard and suitable file shredding - if necessary. If both employer and employee have the appropriate awareness and implement it accordingly, this is not an issue in the home office either.
Ideally, the employer creates agreements for the home office workplaces that regulate the conditions as they should prevail at the workstation. At best, this also specifies how the home office work should run.
You have to remember that even if you are now "at home", all contracts and legal conditions apply as they apply in the office. This applies, for example, to the Working Hours Act, occupational health and safety and also occupational accident insurance. For more information on this topic, you should definitely contact an appropriate specialist!
We do not want to give you simple-sounding tips that are not practical. Keyweb AG has also been in the home office for three weeks. Therefore, we simply asked our colleagues how they can work productively and in a focused manner in the home office, while also maintaining a good mood.
At this point you will now learn which tips REALLY work and which other methods have proven useful for our colleagues. Have fun testing!
The positive thing about the home office: You can design the workplace completely according to your own preferences and thus ensure the corresponding feeling of well-being when working. And you should do that too! Your home office workplace should allow you to work comfortably. There are basically no limits to creativity and individuality. However, there are a few points to consider:
If possible, create a clear separation of work and living areas. For example, the laptop should not be at the breakfast table - on one hand for your concentration and on the other hand for the sake of your family!
An actual work room is of course optimal - but unfortunately not always possible for everyone! However, an alternative is simply a work corner, which is equipped with a desk or table and meets the personal needs for a suitable workplace. Of course, aspects such as sufficient storage space, suitable light, a few plants and of course your favorite KeyAdmin cup at work are advantageous. According to our colleague from IT, an LED stripe around the desk provides pleasant indirect lighting ;)
Only work-related devices should be in the work area - everything private is a potential source of distraction.
Even if it is tempting to sit on the couch or in the armchair with the laptop - unfortunately, these variants are not suitable for longer work. Back pain pre-programmed! Better work at the desk on an ergonomic desk chair - because if you have to work in pain after a few hours, the motivation will certainly disappear.
What works well in the office cannot be bad in the home office either! That is why you keep your previous habits and behavior as much as possible! What does that mean in particular?
As in the office, fixed working hours are important in the home office! Ideally, you orientate yourself exactly to the usual times - on the one hand, you ensure that you fulfill your duties as an employee and, on the other hand, that your colleagues reach you at the usual times!
Just as you shouldn't be distracted by private things such as "hanging up laundry" or your pets during working hours, you shouldn't ignore your break times and end of the work day. We all need relaxation. If we don't treat ourselves to these, we will probably be less productive in the following period. This does nothing for the employee or the employer.
It makes perfect sense to get up at the usual time, have breakfast and do what you otherwise do before work. If you otherwise had breakfast before work, you should not move your breakfast to the "work place" now. For example, if you are used to having a pot of tea at your desk in the morning, you can do so in the home office as well.
Keep in regular contact with your colleagues via phone call, chat or video conference - even if there is no large online meeting on a specific topic. It is also less likely that information that appears to be “unimportant” goes by the board and you also reduce the likelihood of the ceiling falling on your head!
Not only a remedy for the impending lack of exercise in the home office, but also a measure tried and tested by our colleagues to start the day motivated: Instead of running to work as usual, just take a 15-20 minute walk before you start working through your to-do list. This not only gets the circulation going, but also sets the starting signal for your working day. And for everyone who has previously traveled to work by car or train: this is a great opportunity to bring more movement into everyday life!
Also, get up regularly - whether on the phone, making tea, or even putting the laptop on a raise. Because of the lower social contact - for example, if we brought the colleague a document that we now send, we also have less movement. It is important to compensate for this!
So that the breaks are particularly relaxing, treat yourself to a round of yoga or other fitness exercises! In the home office it doesn't matter if the "looking down dog" looks more like the "dying swan" - nobody sees ;)
Dress up like in the office! Yes you've read correctly! Also in the home office you shouldn't be in your pajamas. "Nobody sees me anyway", you could say now - that's probably true of course - unless you are doing a video conference with your colleagues ;) But especially if you have customer contact on the phone and are always in a business look in other everyday work, it makes sense to also wear clothes in the home office that do not feel too much like leisure time.
You probably know the tip to smile on the phone, because the smile is heard by others. It is similar with your sitting position. Sit upright in the home office if you don't want your counterpart to get a "sleepy" impression of you.
“Home office in social distancing times is full of distractions. This makes short planning sections all the more important and that you don't get bogged down - otherwise things fall behind. Set goals should be worked through as quickly as possible and disregarding distractions.” Our colleague's tip hits the nail on the head!
Don't do anything during your working hours that you wouldn't do in the office - like doing laundry, the dishwasher, making transfers, or having a coffee with your significant other (unless you both have a break ;) ).
For example, tell your partner, roommates or friends that you are at home but are not available for private activities and discussions. You can signal this, for example, with a door sign.
In order to stay focused, you can also use the following three techniques, which our colleagues (not only in the home office) like to use!
Create to-do lists - preferably the day before for the next day. So you can start full of energy in the morning! Also important: Prioritize the tasks on your piece of paper - otherwise you can quickly get bogged down. Also important for a good feeling: Check off the tasks regularly! Because if the boss doesn't praise you for the distance, you have to do it yourself! ;) Treat yourself regularly to a small reward for your tasks.
You don't have to change your eating habits here to start the day more productively! It is enough if you put the "unsavory" tasks at the beginning of your day! You will then have more energy for the more pleasant tasks without the “frog” coming back to your mind. Once you've got the to-do list on hand, it's best to find the frog and get it over with as soon as possible!
At home, the risk of being distracted and jumping from one topic to the next is greater than in the office - for example, when looking at the dishes or the cat. One technique that is particularly effective in this case is the Pomodoro technique. Here you set a certain time window in which you don't let anything or anyone distract you from your current task. Ideally, this is 25 minutes - followed by a 5 minute break. The positive side effect of striving for this technique: once you are really in the flow, you want to continue working in a focused manner even after the 25 minutes.
In so-called timeboxing, you set yourself a time goal for completing a certain task. The deadline you set yourself also ensures that you do not lose focus and concentrate on a specific task.
Sometimes a task seems so "big" that you need more energy to start. There is also a tip for this - simply divide the big task into small packages, note them on the to-do list and tick them off individually. This way you become aware of progress at the same time.
The two methods are also great if you want to limit the working time for a certain job to a maximum of 25 minutes, for example. This way, if this is not exactly a main task, you do not devote too much time to the email mailbox that is still to be sorted.
Just forget everything you've read so far! - well, not quite ;) Nevertheless, the parents among you are probably now thinking: if only! Routine is often hardly possible with children - especially if they are supposed to learn at home and may not really feel like it. Even the little ones do not understand at first that mom and dad are physically present, but are not really available. Therefore, much has to be done differently in this case than described above.
For some of our colleagues it is helpful, for example, to plan the day completely and taking into account the usual processes. Children also need a daily schedule - some of them can be well occupied with homework - others less.
The same applies here as with our tips above: try it out. Children, like everyone else, are individual - and just as individual are the “strategies” with which you can manage your day with your children productively and, above all, peacefully.
We wish you lots of fun, productivity and success for your work in the home office! Don't let the good mood spoil even in times of crisis.
We would be happy if you let us know your home office tips in the comments on Facebook for this post!
Your Keyweb AG
P.S. Thank you, dear Keyweb colleagues, for your valuable tips!