Contracting Life

How to juggle working from home and the office

Hopefully, lockdown is now almost over, however, lockdown brought with it some changes for the better and many are here to stay. We’re…

Author Photo by Kingsbridge

Hopefully, lockdown is now almost over, however, lockdown brought with it some changes for the better and many are here to stay. We’re talking elasticated waistbands, taking up running and, of course, working remotely more regularly.

Many businesses have already said they’ll be taking on a hybrid model of mostly home working with one or two days in the office now that they’ve seen the benefits that come with a more flexible approach (not to mention the savings on overheads that less office space would bring), but what does this mean for contractors?

Well, chances are that, as a contractor, you were probably already doing a mix of working from home (or perhaps even your own office space) and your clients’ workplaces, but the balance probably tipped in favour of the latter.

Going forward, it’s more likely that you’ll be doing more work from home. So how do you balance this new normal? The Kingsbridge team has a few ideas…

Keep in regular contact

If you’re only going to be on-site with your client infrequently from here on in, you need to make sure you have a formal catch-up process in place to ensure that weeks don’t go by without any contact. This enables you to keep the client up to date with what’s happening with the project, and they can keep you up to speed with anything relevant from the business.

This doesn’t have to be anything too complex either. It could be as simple as a regular call or Zoom with your client on a Monday morning to get any queries out of the way before the working week begins.

If you are working on multiple projects at once, try to schedule the calls in a block, so that they don’t interfere with the rest of your schedule for the week.

Screen breaks are your friend

When you’re working in an office, there are lots of distractions to pull you away from your screen: chats with co-workers, meetings, and walks to the nearest coffee shop to name but a few. At home it’s different. Meetings and informal chats are all done via your screen, and why would you walk to the coffee shop when you have a filter coffee machine in your kitchen?

The problem is that this leaves you staring at the screen for the whole day which isn’t good for your eyes or your mental wellbeing. To combat this, take regular breaks throughout the day. Set timers to remind yourself to get up and move, and give yourself something to do so you don’t end up staring at your phone instead.

Take a walk around the block, take the bins out, or put a load of washing on. Who knows? If the weather is good then your next break could even be to put it out on the line.

Get into the routine

Having a routine can help you working between different locations. This might mean:

  • Aiming to start work at the same time regardless of location. . Giving yourself set days to be on-site with your client (it can be a good idea to schedule all your meetings for this day if you opt for it, as it allows you to crack on with other work when you’re at home).
  • Setting a lunchtime and sticking to it.
  • Or it could be any number of little ‘rituals’ that you create to give yourself a sense of routine no matter where you are. Whatever it is, just make sure it works for you and then stick to it.

Video calls are not the enemy

Zoom fatigue has well and truly set in for most of us now (even the chief executive of Zoom has it) but it’s important to remember that Zoom, Teams and their ilk are actually really pretty useful and, like them or not, they’re here to stay.

Yes, they add to the problem of too much screen time and they’re not a proper substitute for face-to-face contact, but remember how annoying it was to have to go all the way to your client’s office just for a short progress meeting?

Now, those meetings can be Zoom calls and you don’t have to leave the house. So, if you need a meeting with your client but there is no other reason why you need to head into the office, do a video call and everyone’s happy.

It’s also worth remembering that your client may not be in their office full-time either, so video calls mean you’re not having to schedule your days in the office around each other.

Some things to remember to make video calls easier to handle:

  • If you don’t like looking at yourself on camera, most services have a feature that allows others to see you without you seeing yourself.
  • Screen share functionality allows you to bring in presentations, videos and other media, making meetings a bit less ‘dry’. . Breakout rooms can help make larger meetings more manageable and can allow for remote co-working sessions where the rooms are used for smaller groups to discuss different aspects of the project.
  • To make a remote meeting more engaging, services such as Flinga, Mentimeter and Miro offer interactive, collaborative spaces that mean everyone involved isn’t just sitting there staring at their screen.

Juggling working from home with working from client offices is going to be a bit of a challenge in the new normal, but it promises exciting results – it just requires a bit of thinking outside the box.

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