Etiquette expert and former butler to the Royal family reveals how to maintain decorum in remote work
As the world adjusts to remote work, home offices have become the norm.
And while the idea of working in the comfort of your own home, surrounded by your belongings and pets, sounds idyllic - the reality is far from it. A culture of being constantly ‘switched on’ has emerged, with work-life balance all but disappearing into early morning Skype calls and weekend-long email chains.
Stats from Microsoft found a 200% spike in employees using Microsoft Teams on Saturdays and Sundays – with four in five HR managers believing remote work has led to a sort of ‘e-presenteeism’ whereby employees feel obliged to be available at all times.
This stressed out atmosphere is breeding ground for dramatic outbursts. And while it may feel good in the moment to vent over Skype – you’re doing yourself no favours.
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In a recent Accountemps report, 85% of employees said that being courteous to a co-worker had an impact on their career prospects – which means if you have a tendency to be abrasive, it could actually be hurting your long-term success.
Remote working etiquette has never been more important – as employees grapple with home-based angst and C-Suite anxiety. But how do you keep your calm when your stress levels are going through the roof and your line managers keep wanting more?
There’s no simple answer to remote working bliss—but there are certain rules that you can follow to make your life a bit easier.
HRD spoke to etiquette expert and former butler to the Royal family, Grant Harrold, who revealed the top five golden rules for working from home, maintaining a level head and – most importantly – not offending your colleagues.
A report from CareerBuilder found that 23% of employees are late to work at least once a month – and, when working from home, that number is bound to be much higher. It’s important to remember that working from home isn’t code for Netflix and a beer - maintain that professional mindset at all times.
“Make sure you continue to observe the same time frames,” explained Harrold. “If you start in the office at 9 am, then you will be at your home desk at 9 am. Ensure you take the same breaks, including your morning coffee/tea and the lunch break. It also gives you a little break but makes sure you start back at the same times as in the office.”
The average workstation actually has around 400 times more bacteria than your toilet seat – so giving it a clean every day is a must. Harrold also explained that maintaining order on your desk is the key to a productive mindset. Setting up a comfortable and practical home office is the ideal way to get yourself into a work frame of mind.
“Ensure that you have a workstation, preferably as a desk,” Harrold told HRD. “The sofa or armchair may seem a more suitable location, but it is best to set up a desk and chair or similar. It will also be important to take the correct breaks to give you a rest from this workstation which of course is the same within the office.”
A report from Udemy found that 75% of employees are distracted when working - with a further 16% admitting to constantly being distracted. Working from home, it might be tempting to put Sky News on – but try to resist the urge and focus.
“It is possible when working at home you want to have the TV on or radio which might not be permitted in your office,” added Harrold. “I would advise against the TV as this can be a distraction, however, the radio and a little music in the background should not have you dancing in the corridors.”
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Three in four workers (73%) with children under 18 in the household believe the stress and strain of 2020 – from the COVID-19 pandemic to social and political unrest – are starting to take a toll on their work performance, according to a study from The Workforce Institute at HR tech firm Kronos.
“If you have children or pets around, they can take up your time and distract you from the work at hand,” explained Harrold. “It is difficult not to give them the time they need but try to give the children activities/projects to keep them entertained. Maybe during your lunch break, you can take the dogs for a walk as this will help them want a rest in the afternoon.”
A report from Hive found that 60% of employees are more productive when their organizational dress code is relaxed - however, that’s not a carte blanche to dress inappropriately.
“When working from home some of us may think it is a good idea to stay in our pyjamas and wear our comfy clothes,” Harrold told HRD.
“When I work from home I still get dressed and keep the same routines which I feel is vital to keep the continuity going. So, even though the pyjamas may seem like a good idea, the armchair and pyjamas would not be a good look as a substitute to the office dress codes.”