Nigerian Architects! This is the perfect time to learn how to productively work from home successfully.
At times of pandemic, unrest and other deadly circumstances, working remotely become inevitable. Everyone decides that working from home is the safest option. Interestingly, a lot of people have always worked from home by choice to either keep their costs low or give them extra time.
Nigerian architects and designers through their constant use of computers and technology are very familiar with the concept of remote work, in fact, a good number of us have embraced it. This article sheds light on how to enhance our productivity as we all consider working from home for whatever reasons.
Telecommuting which is another word for remote working simply means working from home with the internet, email and telephone.
Some other factors that may necessitate the need to work from home are illness or disability, corporate outsourcing, a new startup with limited resources etc. Individual viewpoints may differ on the effectiveness and productivity level of remote workers but studies show that remote workers are happier, more productive at work and likely to spend long hours working than regular workers.
Let’s start by looking at the advantages of remote work, ways to manage remote workers, tips for successful remote work, and items needed in your home office.
Benefits of working from home
There are numerous benefits of working from home for both employees and employers. In fact, working from home has become a global trend because a lot more youths keep more than one job or are self-employed and can’t commit to dedicated time in an office. Here are the advantages;
Elimination of commute hours
When you think of the hours the average office worker spends in traffic congestion every morning and evening, you wonder why remote work isn’t considered an option. People often spend at least three hours on the third mainland bridge in Lagos, Nigeria computing to and fro every workday. This amounts to six hours (one-third) of the day wasted. Similarly, this go-slow as it is popularly called worsens the already sedentary lifestyle of the worker deteriorating his health and well-being. The stress acquired on the way to work unknowingly has an effect on the day’s work and productivity. On the other hand, when you stay home, you are less stressed, sleep adequately, and are better prepared for work.
Homely and relaxed environment
There is something relaxing about working in a familiar place, it makes you more relaxed and in control. You can do a lot including looking after your loved ones as you work.
Control is the ultimate desire of everyone, whether it’s your time, sleep, money, music etc. When you are in total control of your time and workspace, you ideally become more productive.
Reduced office overhead cost
With most/all of your workers working from home, you no longer need to cover certain office expenses including electricity, water, cable, etc. Similarly, when you make remote work permanent then you can also save on rent, office furniture, computers, entertainment etc which adds up to huge savings monetarily.
Freedom to work from anywhere
Freedom to work from anywhere is rare freedom that most may never experience. Start-up companies (including most architectural firms) with little capital begin operations remotely to keep costs low. They can source workers from every corner of the world including other parts of Africa and Asia which are known for their lower cost of living. Workers, on the other hand, can work from anywhere even from the comfort of very remote areas so long as they have access to the internet and a computer.
How to keep track of employees who work from home
Working remotely requires a few personal traits for success and these apply not only to the employees but also to the employer. Examples are self-discipline, organization, focus and time management skills. Some tips for management and collaboration of workers working remotely are;
Set expectations for remote workers
You should set periodic targets (daily or hourly) for your team. If you don’t, you may have others working but working on unimportant items leading to a waste of their time and your money. At the beginning of the day, let all your team members know their tasks, the expectation by end of the day and how often (preferably 3 hourly) they should report their progress to you. Progress can be reported via emails, WhatsApp messages or phone calls.
Establish clear communication
You should establish a clear and honest communication line with your team members to keep track of the work being done. Let your team know what method you will use in communicating and how often. It could be by video conferencing, phone calls or messages. Ensure they have the technology to set up this communication and that they use them.
Schedule consistent check-ins
Let your remote worker know that you will check in on them and the progress of work. Ensure you do! This keeps them connected and motivated to work. If you fail to check in on time, your remote workers will think the work is not important and shelf it.
Once remote work commences, you want to document every stage of work completed so that your team can keep track of their success. This high level of organization will keep everyone focused. As work progress, you should share this progress with your team members to maintain the pace of work and serve as a reminder of where they stopped.
How to work from home
The following tips will serve as a guide as you plan your remote work schedule. It is important that you take each one of them seriously to achieve success and productivity.
Prepare for remote work
There are several preparations to be made in order to work from home successfully;
Discuss ahead with your housemates or family members about your remote work.
This is very critical because you don’t want distractions while you work. It would be unprofessional to have your children show up when you are on an important conference call or your mum calls you for an errand when you are trying to meet an urgent work task. Tell them about your remote work and give them boundaries and the schedule of time you are available to attend to them. Let them know that though you work from home, you are still at work.
Ensure food is available
Similarly, don’t ignore food. Either learn to cook or order/shop for what you need in advance. When you are hungry, it is certain that you will leave your workspace in search of food. If this happens too often then you are likely to be unproductive. Plan ahead.
Create a comfortable and dedicated workspace
Since you are a designer, think of ergonomy and aesthetics. Create a dedicated area where you wake up in the morning and go to work. A place that inspires you and reflects your style, mind you it doesn’t have to be expensive. It helps put you in the mind frame of work and regulates your work-life balance. Once you are done with work, shut down your system and go elsewhere to relax. Also, your workspace is where you keep all your work materials, this will help keep things organized and you, productive.
Set work hours
You need to be organized and focused. Effective time management starts with setting your work hours. Usually, it may be in line with what is set by your office so that when they check in on you via calls or video conferencing, you are available. You need to strictly adhere to your set work hours and don’t underwork or overwork as both are counterproductive. You want to carry out the right amount of work to meet your daily expectations. Usually, 9 am to 5 pm is ideal with an hour break in between.
Be intentionally visible
This addresses the downside of remote work. Introverts are very comfortable working remotely because it aligns with their personality, however, they need to be careful as telecommuting can make it difficult for participants to form professional connections/relationships harming their career development.
It is easy to be hidden from view when you work remotely. You may be very competent but because no one sees or hears from you could be ignored, passed over or forgotten. This can be particularly detrimental when your office is looking to promote or assign a special task to someone. Always remember that competence alone isn’t enough to succeed in the workplace, you also need to network and have good soft skills. Periodic 15 minutes calls to your colleagues and employers for chitchat will do just fine.
Dress for work
By dress, I don’t mean to wear a tie and a jacket. No, look comfortable and prepared for work. Get up early, don’t sleep and wake up late. Maintain your usual work schedule. Take a shower if you can, brush your teeth, eat breakfast, and wear something comfortable not your robe or nightie. Try to adhere to your morning and evening routine.
Must-haves to work from home
The following are items remote workers need to work effectively and productively;
A reliable source of power
it is easy to forget that when we work from home we have to provide all the essential items needed to be successful. Knowing the peculiar power situation in Nigeria, everyone needs to plan for this. Power failure during telecommuting can lead to a complete loss of productivity. A reliable power-generating set, good laptop batteries, inverters etc are ways to mitigate this challenge. Also, you can work from places with guaranteed electric power like fast food outlets, coffee shops, public libraries etc.
A good Internet
The most important piece of technology needed by any telecommuter is the internet. Whether it is wifi, the internet on your phone or on someone else, without it you can’t transmit work or communicate effectively with your office. Knowing the unique circumstances and the quality of the internet where you live, it is advisable to make an advance plan to get a reliable one. There are several wifi/internet providers around, you can ask a friend for recommendations. You want one that is reliable and cheap.
A reliable computer and all its accessories
When we have to work from home, it is likely that we will be doing so on our own personal computers and not the office PC. Therefore, this is the time to check that old computer. You don’t want your computer crashing or hanging while you work. You also want to check your mouse and your power pack. I will advise that over time you should plan to get a reliable computer for telecommuting, that is if you don’t already have one. All you need is a good laptop or workstation, accessories, updated office software (such as AutoCAD, Revit, SketchUp etc) and video communication apps (like skype, zoom etc).
A good desk and chair
This is not the time to work on the sofa, on the dining table or on the kitchen aisle. A good piece of furniture will make your work easier and more enjoyable. You don’t necessarily need a big desk because you may not have space, a sizable and comfortable desk will work well. Also, a good chair is not negotiable, you will need an ergonomic chair that supports your back and posture. Sitting for hours on your settee or dining chair may be harmful to you. So this is the best time to invest in a good chair even if it is a used one.
Natural lighting and ventilation
You are now working from home and want to feel relaxed. It doesn’t have to be like you are at the office with all the artificial and fluorescent lights. A good view through your windows as you work can also spice things up. You are in control remember? One thing to do is to locate your workstation close to or by the windows. If possible, replace curtains with blinds to allow for more natural light.
A good backdrop
This may not apply to everyone but a good backdrop/background can do wonders. If you frequently make video calls while you work then it is necessary you provide a good backdrop. It can be a blank wall, curtains, or window so long as it looks presentable. It will help your viewer’s perception of you and make you come off as professional.
Do you currently work from home? What are your tips on how you stay focused and productive?