According to ACTU (Australian Council of Trade Unions) survey, prior to the pandemic only 12% of employees worked most days from home. During the peak of the pandemic, this tripled to 31%.

The adoption of Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams during the peak of the pandemic has been essential to the continuation of many business operations, keeping many Australians productive and employed during these unprecedented times. Amid changing restrictions and snap lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home and hybrid working models have become the new norm. There are many benefits to working from home, including flexibility, productivity and employee satisfaction. However, this is only possible if employees are given the correct functioning equipment, and under the ideal conditions.  

According to a survey from the Sydney Morning Herald, the 50 largest companies in Australia who collectively employ more than 1 million people allow their employees to work from home in some capacity, with some companies even allowing certain employees to work entirely remotely.

93% of employers expect their employees to work remotely in some capacity after the pandemic.

As offices reopen, the new hybrid working model will allow for stronger business growth. Employee capacity can easily increase with better onboarding and support for remote workers, and social distancing measures easing as vaccination rates improve will push office capacities back up. Furthermore, research from ACTU found that employees were often more productive working from home giving more support for retaining this model.

Below are our top tips to improve the working from home experience.

Create a dedicated space

Separating work from home can be difficult when you work from home, so having a dedicated office space or room can help with this.  

ACTU found this was a common issue, with 48% of employees having difficulty separating work/home life.

Whether you live in a shared household or live alone, without having a dedicated workspace there’s likely to be multiple distractions that will hamper your ability to get things done. Having a well set up home office space can boost your productivity, enabling you to best manage workloads and provide a sense of accomplishment.

If you do not have a dedicated room, setting up an acoustic privacy wall such as those from Woven Image, will provide a space for you to work with minimal distraction.

Woven Image’s room dividers, cocoon privacy screens and desktop screens can help provide greater seclusion when working from home, and with their sound absorption properties will deliver better acoustic performance to enhance the audio experience when making and taking voice and video calls.  

Using the right technology to stay connected

Leveraging technology to maintain connectedness is essential to successfully working from home. It can be easy to feel disconnected from the world without office banter and water cooler conversations, particularly if you live alone. Open and consistent communication can be maintained by simply organising regular video catch-up meetings with colleagues, even if you don’t have a specific topic to discuss. Removing yourself from your solitude and checking in with others, even for a moment, can be both energising and invigorating. Don’t overdo it though, “Zoom fatigue” is a real thing!

Video conferencing aside, apps such as Slack, Zoom and Microsoft Teams offer great chat platforms to enable quick and easy ad hoc communication and collaboration throughout the day, and have the added benefit of retaining conversations which are later searchable.

At Merge, we use (and love) Zoom to stay connected with each other and with our clients. Using Zoom for chat, video meetings and phone, we can easily connect with each other wherever we are at the tap of a button (on our PC or smartphone) to shares ideas and solve problems quickly and collaboratively. Often a phone call is all that’s required, although if it turns out a screen sharing session is more suitable we can instantaneously elevate the phone call to a screen sharing and video call. On that note, our policy is “video on” as this changes the tone of our meetings and improves engagement and understanding.

87% of remote team members say that they feel more connected to their colleagues with video conferencing.

For those wanting a more light-hearted use of video calls with colleagues, team building exercises such as video conferencing calls with screen sharing trivia can help build a sense of camaraderie to replace social work events such as Friday drinks and other non-formal gatherings.

If you need guidance selecting the best video conferencing platform for your organisation, read our previous blog.

Successfully using video conferencing applications requires the right hardware. Without the correct equipment, employees will almost certainly fail to be as productive as they could be in an office setting.

Research from ACTU found that 42% of employees working from home do not have a suitable workspace or equipment.

As a bare minimum, employees should have a computer with video and audio capabilities. Headphones, ideally noise cancelling ones, although able to provide good quality audio can be uncomfortable when worn for long periods of time. Conversely, using in-built microphones/ speakers on a laptop doesn’t cause any discomfort but usually provides a very poor experience. Basic in-built laptop webcams can be very limited in functionality and low quality and often do not provide a very good angle.  

Personal professional AV equipment such as the Poly Studio P15 or the DTEN ME can bring your video conference and collaboration experience at home to the next level, not just for the person using it but for those they’re connecting with.

The Poly Studio P15 is a video soundbar with a high quality 4K resolution camera. There is a wide 90-degree field of view with auto tracking to ensure flexibility if you move around. Poly’s advanced noise blocking technology will also block out any unwanted noise compared to basic in-built microphones.  

The DTEN ME 27 inch Personal Collaboration Device is an all-in-one solution with a built-in conference camera, speaker and microphone, perfect for personal video conferencing and collaboration from your home office. The DTEN ME features a full 1080p HD camera and touch screen display ensuring an immersive, intuitive experience. Furthermore, the DTEN ME uses a microphone array system, ensuring high quality sound wherever you move around in your workspace at home.

Maintain physical health

Meditation and yoga can support you physically and mentally to get in the right headspace for the beginning of your working day

In a normal office setting, you would physically get up to take your morning, lunch and afternoon tea breaks, and also walk to meeting rooms. Many people would usually use their commute to and from work as their daily exercise whether it’s walking, running or cycling. Replacing these activities that would normally be part of the work day is hugely important when working from home to maintain a good mental and physical state.

James Park, CEO of Fitbit said:

“I think we all know that being on Zoom calls all day can be challenging, so I try to build in breaks throughout the day—even just 30 minutes—where I can step away from my computer. I’ve been able to squeeze in a quick workout during those breaks, too, which helps break up the day and improve both my physical and mental health.”

Standing desks are useful for reducing fatigue which can set in if sitting down for long periods, and taking regular breaks helps to stay motivated and refreshed throughout the day. If you can, go outside and get some fresh air!

In terms of mental health, staying connected with your friends and family is paramount. Whether that’s a phone call, a video call or sending a contactless delivery, there are many ways to show the ones you love that you care during these unprecedented times.  

Structure your day as if you were in the office

One of the core functions of working in the office is forming a routine and providing a familiar setting for productive work. It can be difficult, but it is important to try and maintain this structure in your work from home routine as well. It is essential this schedule is formed early, to avoid burnout and encourage a strong work life balance.

ACTU found 56% of employees are not working set start/finish times when they work from home.

Elaine Quinn, an author and small-business consultant said:

‘Think about the major requirements of your job, and divide this into chunks of time, so you can lay out your day and make some progress on each of these issues.’

If you usually transit to work, taking a walk in the morning can help you get ready for work. You might not need to wear a suit for work, but it is important to change your clothes for a working day as this can mentally prepare you for the day and any upcoming meetings.  

Jennifer Hyman, CEO of Rent the Runway said:  

“For me, getting dressed during the pandemic has been an act of normalcy that sparks joy at a time when we could all use more of it. When I was wearing my pyjamas 24/7 back in March, it felt hard to motivate. Getting ready in the morning helps signal my body and brain that productivity is my priority.”

The simple act of getting dressed can greatly increase productivity.

Implement systems that support natural remote participant engagement

Video conferencing and collaboration technology has come a long way in a short time, although remote participants and students often feel isolated and lack a sense of belonging compared with their in-office colleagues unless the right hardware systems have been implemented. For this reason, new technology such as the Catchbox microphones and smart auto-framing cameras can help create stronger remote participation, and help remote participants to feel as though they’re in the room.  

Catchbox

The Catchbox is the world’s first throwable microphone, reducing the intimidating nature of normal wireless microphones. This not only encourages stronger participation in any meeting, but also helps bring remote participants into the conversation, as they are able to hear their in-room colleagues with perfect audio. For more information, watch our video on our Catchbox solution for the International College of Management, Sydney below:

Co-founder Timo Kauppila said:  

“Instead of passing a handheld microphone, you simply throw the soft Catchbox into the audience. Not only is this a much faster way to get the mic around, but the playful nature of the product quickly lightens the mood and encourages even the shyest to speak up.”

Neat Symmetry/ Smart auto-framing cameras

In a typical video call between an office meeting room and remote participant, the remote participant will often be larger in their frame, and the in-room participants will appear small and be framed in a wide angle to capture all participants. Using smart auto framing cameras or video conferencing features such as Neat Symmetry, in-room participants will be individually framed in a similar manner to their remote participants. Psychologically, the feeling of being an equally valued participant in a meeting will help encourage greater collaboration and interactivity.  

For more information on taking your remote and hybrid workspaces to the next level, reach out to the experts.  

AUTHOR
The Team @ Merge Technologies

We are passionate about providing Australian businesses easier, no-fuss access to the best workspace and audio visual technology available. Our collective goal is to use this technology as a means to reduce costs, enhance communication, streamline processes and drive success.

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