For some, working remotely or working from home seemed like a dream too good to ever come true. No more early starts to miss the rush hour, no more hitting the snooze button 2 or 3 times too many and then actually being caught in the rush hour. No more sitting next to the unwashed new guy who still after 2 months hadn’t worked out where your personal space started and ended.
Then the pandemic struck and a huge swathe of the population suddenly found themselves battling with Zoom calls and dodgy internet connections whilst their kids demolished the broadband playing Fortnite instead of home-schooling.
The dream of remote working was suddenly real but with it came the realisation that sometimes, being around people in an office, having a routine, having somewhere away from the house is actually quite nice even when dealing with difficult callers!
Could our telephone answering service help whilst you’re working remotely?
Here at Connect we have a team of virtual receptionists currently working remotely from home where they can and a smaller team that are based in the office. The few staff that we do still have in the office are mainly operational to help ensure that our telephone answering service remains operating at the professional levels our clients expect and rely on, especially our medical and other key worker clients.
We recognise that many businesses may be struggling with their inbound telephone calls whilst working away from the office and so we continue to offer a free trial of up to 30 days of our service.
5 top tips to follow when working from home or remotely
I’ve worked remotely for Connect Call Answering for the last 10 years or so and, I’ll be honest, I’ve never really given much thought until recent events about the guide and tips I’m about to bestow on you below. Having scoured the internet to compile the tips that follow I can safely say I seriously need to take a spoonful or 2 of my own advice!
Don’t work from the kitchen table or worse
OK, first and foremost this is one area where I did learn early on that you really do need a good, tidy workspace to get things done, for the sake of your own sanity and also wellbeing. Just as it is in the office, it’s important that you are not only comfortable but also sitting correctly. Find a desk and chair that allow you to keep your posture straight, don’t be sat on your sofa or bed slouched over a laptop.
Get a room
It really is far easier to stay focussed on work if you have a dedicated desk and or room for you to work from. This, however, may simply not be available for many, we don’t all have an extra room in the house just waiting to be commandeered.
I’m lucky, we had a small dining room that was never used (does anyone actually eat in a dining room these days?) and so that has become my office but my wife had to make space as there was no question of us sharing a room! She took my son’s room, much to his dismay, during the day which meant he had to be up and out by 8:30am. Not ideal but it means she has somewhere where she can shut the door and know that she won’t be disturbed when she’s on an important telephone call- OK, that’s a lie: Somewhere where she won’t be disturbed most of the time.
Think about what’s behind you
This doesn’t really concern me as I don’t do a lot of video conferencing but my wife does and so it’s important to keep the background acceptable. It doesn’t need to be spotless, everyone knows the situation we are all in, but there shouldn’t be piles of dirty clothes or a poster of your son’s favourite WWE wrestler in the background (it’s Roman Reigns by the way).
Have a wash
Get up, get showered, get dressed and have some breakfast. I’m bad for this, mainly as I start at 5am and move around the house like a stealth Ninja trying to avoid waking anyone up, but rolling out of bed and straight onto your computer is not advisable. It’s important to have a routine in the morning as similar as you would do if you were going into the office.
Try to wake up at the same time as you would normally, does that mean you have a spare hour or so to kill as you’re not needing to commute? Great, prepare your lunch now, do some exercise or take some extra time with the kids but don’t waste the gift of that extra time by lazing about in bed!
Schedule your work day
What sort of a morning person are you: productive, lethargic, happy or grumpy? Try and schedule your tasks to suit the times of your day when it suits you best. Save more demanding or thoughtful tasks for when your brain works best, if that’s first thing in the morning for you then great for others it might be later in the day once they’ve managed to settle all the mundane tasks in their inbox. If your main job is answering telephone calls, as our virtual receptionists do, then make sure you have got out of bed early enough to wake up properly and make that extra cup of coffee!
Take a break
This is a common theme and I’ll repeat it later but don’t sacrifice your breaks and lunches just because you are working from home. Stick to your scheduled lunch and get away from your desk, let co-workers know you’re away for lunch if they are likely to try and contact you. If restrictions allow, get out for a walk or go down to the shops. Would you sit at your desk for lunch in the office? Hopefully not but if you did remember this for when you do go back into the office- don’t!
Know you place
Or rather make sure everyone knows you place, time and space. Make a point of telling the kids (if they’ll listen) when you’re working and that you really can’t be disturbed unless of course it’s an emergency. Don’t just close the door, actually get a “Do Not Disturb” sign and stick it to your door.
Give me peace
Personally I work best when I have complete peace and quiet but others find having some background music can help them to concentrate. I did try playing music to try and drown out any noise the kids were making but that failed as the kids hear my music and think that it’s fair game to come and disturb me. “But you were playing music, must be playtime”, no – I’m playing music to remove you from my thoughts! Genuinely I invested in earmuffs so that, along with the closed door and “Do Not Disturb” sign, I have some hope of silence.
Out of sight, out of mind
It’s easy to feel forgotten when working remotely and so it’s important to keep up the communication with co-workers and your managers. From both a mental well-being aspect for you but also to show your work that you’re not sitting with your feet up all day watching daytime TV. Make a point of detailing your daily/weekly goals or projects and then on a daily or weekly basis record this, either by email, internal CRM or at least through conversation with your peers.
We are all social animals, if one thing the past year has taught us is that the need for human interaction shouldn’t be taken for granted. Being in the office allows you to chat, catch up on the latest gossip and that’s important for our mental health. Try to make time to chat with co-workers (you might even now realise they could be classed as your friends, well some at least might be) either on the phone, video conferencing or even a Whatsapp group chat.
It’s important to feel part of the team so don’t feel bad that a telephone call that could have taken 5 minutes takes an additional 3 or 4 because you were catching up on a personal level.
Walk away from the desk!
Far too easily the line between whether we are “at work” or not can blur when working remotely. Just as it is important to stick to scheduled breaks, it’s equally important to switch off when you are finished for the day or week and also to make sure work colleagues know and respect your working hours. Get away from your desk at breaks, lunch and the end of the working day.
If you find that you are still receiving telephone calls or emails that expect an immediate response outside of your working hours – ignore them, better still, simply switch off your computer. I found, to my detriment, that by giving the impression you are always available, always keen to help that co-workers just assume that means you are contactable 24/7 no matter how small the enquiry.
A few years ago I was on my annual holiday with the family in Turkey, I’d forgotten to take the divert off my phone and so I found myself taking calls by the poolside from the office trying to pick my brains about a problem they were having 2,000 miles away. It was my own fault as, up until then, I really was always available, even when I wasn’t scheduled to be working and that was all because I was working from home and didn’t ever really switch off.
When will things return to normal?
Hopefully the restrictions that we are all living under won’t last too much longer, however I don’t expect things will ever return to how they were before. There has been a fundamental shift in how a lot of us work and for some that means the prospect that remote working may become the new norm with time in the office reduced to a handful of days a month or perhaps less.
So with the prospect of more remote working becoming the long-term norm remember to continue to communicate with colleagues as if you were in the office, get up and get dressed as if you were in the office and start, finish and physically leave work as if you were in the office.
Page Last Updated: January 19th, 2021