Category Archives: Working From Home

Protecting Business Productivity with Agile Working

Avoid Threats Posed by Further Strikes with Flexible Working

After recent news of the threat of London tube strikes, there are fears that further rows could erupt, with the potential to cause maximum disruption and widespread chaos.

A strike planned for 14th October by London Underground workers in a dispute over austerity led cuts was abandoned after last-ditch talks. The breakthrough was made after ‘substantial progress’ was made by  the Rail, Maritime and Transport union in the ongoing issue of cuts and Tube ticket office closures

But does this mark the end of the dispute? According to some, it is unlikely that this is the end of the matter. Despite negotiations, the threat of disruptive industrial action still looms large.

The possibility of strike action strengthens the case for flexible working. With new technology, employees are more and more able to work remotely, including from their own homes. This, coupled with new statistics on the efficacy of flexible working further questions the relevancy of the traditional office in a digital age.

These recent events (and June’s changes to flexible working) show that it is high time for businesses to reassess, and view flexible working as a means of protecting their business from the chaos that would result from transport strikes, while simultaneously building an infrastructure which promotes growth.

Strikes aside, it was estimated by the CEBR that drivers in London spent more than 250 hours idling in traffic in 2013 and this was likely to increase to 299 hours by 2030, equivalent to 40 working days a year, suggesting that increased agile working would help to improve the productivity of workers affected by transport difficulties.

Homeworking/remote working refers to work done at home, or outwith the primary office environment. However, remote working may also refer to situations where only part of an employee’s workload is completed outside of the office. Therefore, it is reasonable to suggest that a degree of remote working could be introduced into the majority of employees’ schedules.

For businesses wishing to check up on the productivity of their workers, there are monitoring systems in place and this can reassure employers. There is also much to be said about the cost-effective nature of remote working. In a recent study by Deloitte it was found that 30 to 40 percent of physical working environment are vacant at any given moment on an average business day. Decrease reliance on offices and cut overhead costs unnecessary costs. There is even evidence that allow workers greater flexibility will boost productivity. Finally, increased flexible working could also be beneficial for the environment, in that cutting commuter traffic in busy cities would dramatically reduce carbon emissions.

While no-one can say for sure whether or not the threat of London Tube Strikes has subsided, now certainly seems like a good time for employees to take into account the diverse benefits that remote working can bring.

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Flexible Working Thought Leaders

In a new series featuring leaders in the world of flexible working, we speak to Work From Home Wisdom blogger Judy Heminsley.

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Judy is the founder of Work from Home Wisdom, a blog that provides advice and inspiration for home workers, and author of Work from Home (How To Books).She was a pioneer of Jelly coworking events in the Uk, and her How to Start Your Own Jelly guide is available on the blog.

How did you start working from home and what inspired you to begin writing about the subject

I didn’t plan to work from home at all! I just fell into it when I helped to set up a cleaning business in the 80s. As a new business we wanted to keep costs down, and running it from a spare bedroom was the obvious choice. I ran the business for 12 years, employing over 20 part-time staff, and never considered moving out of home into separate premises.

Having sold the business and moved to Cornwall I stumbled on the MA Professional Writing course at Falmouth University. No, there was no big plan to any of this! As a non-fiction writer I had to come up with a book idea for my thesis, research the market, write sample chapters and submit it as a commercial book proposal. It was when I was thinking about this that I realised that almost everything I’d done for the past 20 years had been based at home. I discovered there were no current books about working from home, and so there was my idea.

The great thing about the course was that the thesis not only got me my MA but later led to a book contract with How To Books. I set up the blog as a way to keep the subject fresh, not knowing that such a lot was about to happen – coworking spaces, Jelly, mobile and flexible working etc – and that the blog would grow along with it.

Do you think that employers attitudes to remote/agile ways of working are changing?

Yes and no. Marissa Mayer’s decision to take staff back into the office at Yahoo was disappointing, but I feel there was a lot more behind it than was made public. The vast majority of my readers are freelancers or home business owners, and some are employed by corporates who appreciate the benefits of home and flexible working. So it’s always a shock to hear about employers who don’t want to let staff out of their sight, as the advantages seem so obvious. But the 9-5 ethic is so deeply ingrained in our psyche.

What is your opinion of the UK government’s recent changes to flexible working legislation? Do you see the change as a step in the right direction or are you of the view that more needs to be done to improve access to flexible working?

As a former employer I’m very aware of the effects of employment legislation on business, particularly small businesses, so I’m maybe less militant about this than you might expect! It’s a step in the right direction. It’s much easier for the self-employed as they can change working practices instantly, as long as they still get the work done.

What do you think the future holds for flexible and remote working? Do you think there will be a greater uptake of remote working in the future?

As technology enables more people to do more, wherever they are, inevitably it will become more widespread. I also see the ageing population as a major driver, as more people need to combine work with caring for elderly relatives for an extended period of time. This is already affecting me and all my friends, and it will become a massive factor in many more people’s lives. One home worker I know looks after three elderly relatives, all living in different places across the UK.

 In your opinion, what is the best thing about working from home?

For me, it’s having the freedom to mix work and personal commitments in any way I choose. I’ve always enjoyed taking time off when I wanted, and working early or late because I was in the mood. Now that I’m a distance carer for both my parents, working from home enables me to handle their household affairs during office hours, and contact banks, utility companies and so on if necessary. My sister, who works full-time, simply can’t do this.

Follow Judy via TwitterPinterest and Google +.

For more tips on working remotely click here

Find UK-wide remote flexible working/home working opportunities on  flexiworkforce.com 

 

Easy Ways You Can Supercharge Your Productivity While Working From Home

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Read our guide to successful homeworking!

Anyone who works from home regularly will know that working from home has some definite advantages…. But when your home is your office there can be downsides to working remotely.

Homeworkers might get to spend all day in their pyjamas, while slashing valuable time usually spent commuting. However, those who work from home may also admit to feeling their energy and motivation flagging as the day goes on.

When you work from home it is easy to lose track of your progress. This can lead to feeling more disorganised and out of control than you would in a regular office environment.

However, when done right, home working can be more productive than working in a conventional communal office. Here are are top tips for getting it right!

1. Make sure your kitchen is well stocked the night before! 

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There’s nothing more distracting than having to make an impromptu trip to the shops while trying to get stuck into the day’s tasks! The night before, check to make sure that you have food for the next day, including snacks, biscuits and supplies for making tea and coffee. Sounds simple but this will save you a lot of time, and will give you more time to be productive!

2.Take some time to think after waking up

It’s oh so tempting when working from home to sleep in as late as possible, only rising to grab the laptop before snuggling back into your duvet to start work. However, you’ll find that you are far more productive when you give yourself time to think about the day ahead. Practice mindfulness and do some gentle stretching before commencing your work.

3. Write a threefold list of tasks and rank in order of importance.

This is the best method for us, and you may find it helpful too. Divide a piece of paper into three sections, one section for tasks that are urgent, one for tasks that are important, and a third for tasks that need to be done but that can wait another day. Then fill the columns with your tasks as appropriate.

4. Never have nothing to do!

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This is crucial. The moment you feel as though you aren’t busy, your motivation levels will drop, and instead of spending time being productive you will end up spending time trying to invent things to do. To counter this, create a list of tasks that always need doing, for example, filing, organising, or writing ‘evergreen content that you can use at any point.

5. Keep a log of everything you do 

By keeping a record of all the tasks you have accomplished, you are less likely to feel as though you are losing focus. Choose the hardest tasks first and tackle them early in the morning so your stress levels decrease in the afternoon.

6. Consider relocating to a ‘Coffice’ in the afternoon 

A change of location can do wonders for your productivity, and after a morning of hard work you deserve to treat yourself to a coffee and a cake! Use this time to catch up on admin, update your social media accounts and take stock of what you have achieved, and what you mean to achieve the next day

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The Advantages of Working Independently, Online

A Location-Flexible Life

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Several friends have asked me what it’s like working independently, online. So this post will be about my work life. I thought it might be fun to do it in the form of questions and answers.

What is your work?

I create online courses for librarians and educators about mobile apps. I focus on the creative ways that apps can be used for learning and content creation, since mobile computing and “natural user interfaces” are turning out to be a great way to enable lifelong learning and creativity for people of all ages and abilities.

I offer my courses through the continuing education programs of Simmons Graduate School of Library & Information Science, and the American Library Association. I also offer self-study versions of those same courses on Udemy.com.

In addition, I’m working on two books about apps (one self-published and one traditionally published). Sometimes I speak…

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Working From Home- The Definitive Guide

How can you avoid distractions when telecommuting or working from home? 

It’s a valid question, as more and more of us are choosing to working flexibly from home or work remotely out of necessity. There are many advantages to working from home, but many report that they have difficulty adapting to the arrangement, and find it easy to succumb to distractions around the home

Guardian Professional Matthew Jenkin recently came up with a list of key things which the remote worker should bear in mind in order to kiss procrastination goodbye and boost creativity and productivity!

0 Procrastination We All Suffer Source

Find a designated workspace

Emma Busk moved with her partner to the countryside so they would have more space to run their public relations company Extra Cover Media from home. With horses and dogs vying for her attention, she understands the need to time manage efficiently. Dedicating an area in the house solely for business has removed many of the most common distractions, such as television, and improved their work-life balance. “When you have your own business and you work at home, it can be very hard to switch off at the end of the day,” Busk explains. “Before we had our own office space, we could be working until late at night and on Saturday mornings.” She adds: “It’s very important to say, ‘That corner of the room is work and that’s where we sit. If you’re not working, you don’t sit in that corner’. You need to delineate your time between work and home life.”

Make sure friends and family know your business schedule

While an impromptu visit from your sibling or well-meaning neighbour can be a welcome distraction sometimes, learning when to invite them in and when to wave them goodbye is vital if you want to remain productive. For Busk, living in a small village means she has her fair share of surprise guests to contend with. It’s hard when you’re working at home on your own, she admits, because sometimes you don’t have that interaction with other colleagues. She says: “If you’re on a deadline or have a lot of work to complete, you have to turn around and tell them to come back another time. I think most people will understand.” Rebekah Harriman runs her own social media consultancy, Rebekah-Harriman.com. With dogs, chickens and children to look after, she admits she has become very good at getting distracted. She says you need to be clear with family members that you won’t answer the phone during working hours. She says: “That’s why a lot of people I know have separate business numbers, so when that rings and I am not working, I won’t answer it. I refuse to give my mum my work number, otherwise she’d just call me on that if I didn’t answer the phone.”

Establish a routine

As a busy entrepreneur, Harriman says managing her day carefully around her work and family commitments is essential to remain productive. “It’s about managing my own time, but also my workload,” she says. “I am also quite strict and don’t do domestic chores between 9am and 3pm when the kids are at school. As soon as you start thinking, oh I’ll just empty the dishwasher or put the washing out, then you’re not working.” Jaye Cowie, the founder of Major Marketing, says sticking to a strict routine is the best way to juggle family and business. She says: “Working from home, you never know when to stop. With an office, you have a time that you leave work. Even if it is 11pm, you are leaving a physical building. Whereas at home, I always feel like I could do slightly more.” With the creation of smartphones with emails on them, you also have to be really careful not to overdo it. Cowie adds: “If you are in your non-work time and you get one of those emails which you know needs an immediate response and puts you in a terrible mood, it affects the rest of the family.”

Limit time for chores

Working from home and seeing housework which still needs to be done piling up can leave small business owners with pangs of domestic guilt. Cowie bemoans: “I have found it really hard to move past the fully loaded dishwasher and not do something about it. Another thing is food. You constantly want to eat because it’s a distraction from what you’re doing, especially if it’s a task you want to avoid.” Keeping track of the time you spend doing household chores or non-work activities means you are less likely to waste precious minutes and hours of the day on just one task, Harriman finds. “Everybody has their own way of working, but I like to work in short intensive bursts,” she says. “So, I have a timer which I set for 20 minutes per task. I also do the same for those which are non-work related chores such as doing the washing up. As soon as my time is up, I stop and go back to work.”

Content commissioned by Guardian Professional on behalf of Direct Line for Business.