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Thoughts on remote working

Published on: 31/03/2020

By Georgina Taylor, Milton Park's marketing and communications manager

 

When I joined the Milton Park team in January, I didn’t imagine that I’d be working from home a couple of months later.

Remote working has become the new norm for many of us that are usually permanently based at Milton Park but some people are more suited to it than others.

I’ve been discussing with my colleagues what we miss about going to work. Being able to go to classes at Park Club, have a run around the Park at lunchtimes and the weekly street food event from the Wandering Feast were absences that are commonly shared.

There are also the smaller things that we take for granted, from having a swivel desk chair and the smell of freshly made coffee to the convenience of a boiling water tap and general office banter.

We also miss the community; the daily face to face interaction we have with our occupiers, suppliers and stakeholders, whether it’s a formal meeting, a catch up over a cup of coffee or just simply bumping into someone on Park Drive.

Here we share our experiences from the last two weeks and share some tips which I hope you find useful.

Prepare your working environment

Not everyone has the luxury of a home office or spare bedroom but try to create a dedicated workspace that separates your job from your home life, even if it’s in the corner of a room.

Try to avoid working at your dining room or kitchen table and keep these areas for mealtimes.

Ensure you are sitting comfortably with a desk and chair and resist the temptation to slump over your laptop on the sofa as your back won’t thank you for it.

Just like when you’re working in the office, it’s a good idea to carry out your own a display screen equipment (DSE) workstation assessment.

If possible, a separate monitor is better than working from a laptop, as are an external keyboard and mouse.

Other checks include ensuring adequate lighting, your eye level is at the top of the screen, the screen is free from glare/ reflection and is an arm’s distance away to reduce eye strain, your keyboard is tilted, your mouse has a trackball and wrist support and your chair is supportive.

In addition to your physical workspace and ergonomic assessment, you’ll want to make sure you have your virtual private network (VPN) set up to allow you to connect to your business network from your home and may want to consider getting your desk phone diverted to your mobile or computer.

ITGL, based in the Innovation Centre at 99 Park Drive, has offered Milton Park businesses with free assistance to set up secure remote working. Read more here.

Clare Fleet, commercial surveyor at Milton Park says, “I’ve set up my dad’s old desk in the corner of my living room but have changed my virtual background on my video calls so I don’t feel the need to have a quick tidy up when the phone rings. It currently looks like I’m sat on the beach with the waves cascading behind me and makes me smile every time the screen pops up.”

Create work mindset

Establish your own routine which works for you and stick to it. Aim to wake up and be ready to start work at the same time every day.

As tempting as it is to stay in your PJ’s, having a shower and getting dressed will help put you in the work mindset before you get too involved in workload and avoids embarrassment if you get an unexpected video call.

Avoid distractions where possible. Some things are easier to control than others but turning off WhatsApp notifications is an obvious one or becoming engrossed in social media.

We all remember laughing at a TV news interviewee a few years ago that was interrupted when his children burst into the room live on air. This is now the reality for many of us that have children at home that would usually be at school or nursery.

Nicola Derek, PA to the commercial team at Milton Park says, “My biggest challenge has been juggling my normal day job with my new role of home schooling. We’re striking a balance in my household and find keeping to our new routine helps the whole family.”

Stay in touch with your team

Whether you’re using Skype, Microsoft Teams, Zoom or Slack, there’s some great programmes that help teams work collaboratively so embrace the technology. There are good free plans available but even the paid ones that allow unlimited calls are relatively cheap when you consider the expense of commuting, in terms of both time and money.

When you’re working from home, we miss those snippets of information we hear in the office, the photocopier chats or being able to wander over to a colleague’s desk to ask a quick question so don’t be surprised if it feels like you’re communicating more than usual.

An instant messaging service will help you stay in contact with colleagues but don’t just rely on emails.

Regular communication via calls and video conferencing are also important for mental health and are more effective to bounce ideas, discuss solutions to potential problems and provide project updates.

BBC News has recently suggested some useful tips on how to speed up your internet. The MEPC team has also found that turning the VPN off while on conference calls improves video quality.

Philip Campbell, commercial director at Milton Park says, “I’m now using programmes that I hadn’t even heard of two weeks ago. We are really lucky to have all this technology at our fingertips so I’m making the most of it to communicate with others.”

Healthy habits

If you no longer have to commute, you may find yourself with more time in the morning to lie in. Equally, you may find yourself in the evening still beavering away. Make sure you achieve a work-life balance and take regular breaks throughout the day.

At the time that this article went online, the Government rules on social distancing allow you to go outside for one form of exercise a day, provided you are not displaying any coronavirus symptoms. Take the opportunity to escape from your desk for a short time by going on a walk, run or cycle, or if you’re lucky enough to have a garden, do a spot of gardening to top up your vitamin D levels.

Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water which will also improve your concentration

Eat well too and avoid the temptation to raid the fridge. Some colleagues have said they decide in the morning what they are going to eat for lunch as if they were going to work so they can keep to their regular balanced diet.

Tom Booker, senior commercial surveyor at Milton Park says, “We all have different coping strategies but I make sure I get out every day for my daily exercise, which is even more important now my wife has found the time to bake yummy cakes”.

Be mindful of mental health

Whether you’re self-isolating because you or a family member has experienced symptoms of coronavirus or considered a vulnerable person or just adhering to the social distancing guidelines, it is a challenging time and the uncertainty around the future can cause anxiety.

Listen and support others and if you are living with a mental ill-health condition, don’t be afraid to ask for support from your employer.

Mind UK has also set us a service where you can get further information, support and advice in help to cope in these difficult times. You can go direct to this advice by clicking here.

Veronica Reynolds, sustainable travel advisor at Milton Park says, “Despite everything that’s going on, I find it comforting that nature carries on around us. The weather has improved, the flowers are blooming and the birds carry on singing.”

 

Even though we’re not in the office all the time, you can still get hold of any of us in the Milton Park team. Our contact details are here.

Until we’re all back at Milton Park, keep safe, stay well and take care.

 

 

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