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Flexible Working:
Making it Work for You

By Head of Vitality At Work Amanda Swann
Remote, flexible working is becoming increasingly common in today’s workplace: in 2017, 43 per cent of all UK employees had some form of agile arrangement, compared with 30 per cent in 20141. Global expansion across markets has grown rapidly since the 1980s and in turn, remote working has risen and is fast becoming a valued benefit with almost half of UK workers saying they would take a 20 percent pay cut if it meant they could spend more time at home with their families2.

As a business leader and former sales manager with 30 years’ experience working across different industry sectors, I’ve had my fair share of personal and professional challenges when managing teams of remote workers all of which have provided great insight around what works and doesn’t for agile workers.

Firstly, if we accept our environment plays a massive role in our personal success and happiness and home is the space we choose to start and end our day, it’s safe to assume for most of us, a few adjustments are reasonably required if home working is to succeed. So a few tips for those of you considering remote working, or a refresher for those who are already remote workers:
  • Own your space. Remote working offers the opportunity to create a comfortable work space which inspires and stimulates the production of great work. Unlike office space, its look, feel and comfort are defined by you so whether it’s a small space in the kitchen that’s set up/taken down daily, or a permanent fixture - own it. If co-habiting, clear signals when working are helpful, close the door and take scheduled breaks. Even grab coffee with a partner or spouse.
  • Recruit a support network.  Establish a network of co-workers who support and understand your working style and consider recruiting beyond immediate colleagues to include friends and family.   
  • Ask for help. Always plan for your optimal working day and recognise the signs if you begin to derail.  Dig deep and reach out to your support network for a quick chat to reset (similar to the office catch up or coffee).
  • Be accountable. Introduce a home workers audit to understand what’s working for you, identify and make any changes immediately.  Be strict with yourself, it’s necessary for you to succeed, invest and commit the time.
  • Celebrate success. Plan a working lunch or coffee with a colleague, take time to discuss your achievements and pool ideas.
  • Stay connected. Remain in contact with colleagues and if possible, visit the office periodically to remain visible and connected. Reflect on the differences between both home and office working and make necessary adjustments.
  • Manage interruptions. Be disciplined, recognise we don’t control what happens but we can control how we respond. Get a strategy for how to deal with interruptions, phone calls, parcels, children, partners’ are distractions for doing great work. So if co-habiting, be sure to communicate your strategy, deploy and adhere to it. Be mindful, don’t deviate unless it suits and never when doing great work. It’s a perk controlled, but a curse if unmanaged, so stay disciplined.
  • Master motivation. If exercise, eating healthy and staying motivated is a concern, here’s a few tips to stay healthy, focused and motivated while working at home.
  1. Set a daily alarm for the same time each day (routine). Don’t get into the habit of snoozing, recognise it and set alarm same time next day. Repeat.
  2. Get dressed for your day. Don’t sit around in PJs or lounge wear! Dress for work to in-still the most productive mind set and ensure you don’t get caught out if asked to ‘attend’ a video conference call.
  3. Make sure you get the right technology/tools to do your job properly. For example, if you need to catch up with your colleagues at work, is the best way to do so via email or phone/video and are you set up to do this properly. Or do you need to familiarise yourself with the technology beforehand as you may be unfamiliar or simply trialling some of the new or free technology/software available?
  4. Plan your work, food, hydration and exercise daily. Manage interruptions and recognise when your mind begins to stray, take a break and revert back to your plan to keep on track.
  5. Adopt a mind-set of celebrating your home working gains, eating healthily, being hydrated and moving knowing as the mind becomes stimulated and body nourished, peak performance follows. 
For remote workers, I hope the above was a handy refresher and if you are new to remote working, I wish you a successful transition and liberating experience.

References:
1 Flexible working: here’s what employees want, 28 June 2018, https://www.ft.com/content/1c3e8d8a-6a70-11e8-aee1-39f3459514fd
2 People would take a pay cut in exchange for flexible working, 8 May 2019, https://workplaceinsight.net/people-would-take-a-pay-cut-in-exchange-for-flexible-working/