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How to Adapt to Home Working

image credit: Diego Tovar/Scop.io

Many industries are having to rapidly adapt to home or remote working as their staff have to be sent home due to the serious global health implications of coronavirus.

Various governments are offering guidance that workplaces should encourage their employees to work from home, wherever possible. Employees from defined vulnerable groups (including the elderly, pregnant and those with pre-existing health conditions) should be strongly advised and supported to stay at home and work remotely if possible. The utilities industry is already opting for remote working and industry conferences such as that run by the Gulf Coast Power Association has been cancelled. Utilities are having to swiftly accommodate the necessity of telecommuting.

Lots of people find the disciplines of the office environment conducive to working effectively. Meetings are scheduled, there are team targets to meet, and colleagues to have coffee or lunch with. You can't watch daytime TV or suddenly decide to mow the lawn.

That is not the case when remote working. There are lots of distractions. Here are some tips for utilities industry workers who suddenly find themselves working from home. One positive point should be stressed – home working can be very productive and effective: Stanford University Professor Nicholas Bloom performed an experiment which showed that home working instead of commuting gave workers a huge productivity boost, and contrary to some management beliefs, lower levels of absenteeism.

1. Start Early

The best thing is to use the hours you would commute to get stuck in to daily tasks. Early mornings can be very productive, especially if you are a “lark” type of person who is very alert at the crack of dawn. There is a real sense of satisfaction in completing a task before most people are even in the office.

2. Make a plan

Work goes more smoothly if you know what you have to do all day. Some people make elaborate instructions to themselves the previous night, but a simple “To Do” list is usually all you need. Bullet points of what should be focused on, who to contact via phone or video conferencing, information to chase up. It will help keep you to the tasks, as well generating a good feeling with each one you tick off.

3. Log out of social media

Unfortunately social media are a sneaky distraction. Check twitter, just quickly answer a post on social media....and an hour's gone. Log out from them all. Perhaps set up a work toolbar on your browser which does not have social media. Use an Incognito Window in Chrome (Ctrl+Shift+N) which will log you out of social media which solves the casual browsing issue.

4. Have regular online meetings with your colleagues

A good teleconferencing system is important. Skype is free and good for small meetings. Zoom and GoToMeeting are paid-for, but better for larger groups. Having regular updates with either individuals or the whole team keeps up morale, and tends to make you commit to more work than you would do otherwise. It's the “Little policeman in the head,” as Hercule Poirot would say, who keeps us on the straight and narrow, not external coercion.

5. Take breaks

It is important to take breaks from work. Make a cup of coffee, put the laundry in the machine, have a good lunch. You will feel recharged after a short break, and will then be able to steam into the next work task.

 

You can find out more about what utilities all over the world are doing to adjust to the difficult and fast moving situation here.

Homeworking, linked with unified communications systems is clearly the way working is heading. The coronavirus is awful, but perhaps might have a small positive in that many businesses will see how the day of the big office filled with cubicle workers is on its way out. Utilities have already seen the decline of centralised power stations in favour of renewables and microgrids and this is another facet of changing times for the industry.

Julian Jackson's picture

Thank Julian for the Post!

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Discussions

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 20, 2020 1:13 pm GMT

Thanks for sharing, Julian. I think as the first few days stretch to numerous potential weeks of this new setup, we'll certainly see people seeking out these types of tips even more and more. The utility professionals who can work from home will certainly relish in them, and to all the utility professionals whose jobs require their physical presence in order to keep our power plants and grid operating as normal-- thank you for your critical work!

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