Working from home – the long game

As some parts of the country are in local lockdown and we’ve all been encouraged to work from home again we need to get set up properly for working from home.

For 7 months now businesses have been making excuses for poor service and blaming working from home. Frankly, apart from a few badly hit sectors, if you haven’t adapted by now then it sounds a bit hollow. (If you want ideas on how to adapt then watch Hudson Business Advice’s old ‘One for All’ Covid videos or book onto their 30 day Makeover course starting 1 November – see for further information).

Employers still expecting their team to work from their premises need to have a pretty good risk assessment, and some types of business may also be called upon to explain WHY they can’t mitigate risks by working from home.

Make it easier to work from home with:

  • VOIP phone system for external calls or an alternative method of contacting the team. I have a VOIP phone but I also use Answer It answering service to take messages or redirect calls.
  • Paperless systems. Even the smallest businesses can store information in the cloud for free or cheaply. Where possible send out information electronically to minimise the number of people touching a document. I use the business version of Onedrive.
  • Online signatures for contracts, accounts etc. I use Signable and Accountancy Manager for the two sides of my business.
  • Internal communications for managing work. Invest in a workflow system. I use Trello, Active Campaign and Accountancy Manager for the different aspects of my businesses
  • Informal internal communications such as Slack or Microsoft Teams.

There are plenty of other cheap or free ways to run your business from home now that we have time to catch our breath and plan.

What is decision fatigue?

Decision fatigue is the exhaustion that comes with making constant decisions. My tip this week is to remove some of the smaller decisions in your life so here are some ideas for deciding what to wear.

I’d like to think that I simplified my wardrobe long before Steve Jobs or Barack Obama but I don’t know when they started to wear their ‘uniform’ rather than spending time deciding what to wear each day.

  1. The simplest thing is to limit your wardrobe to one main colour so that you need fewer changes to match outfits. You may have noticed that I’m almost always wearing blue with black footwear.
  2. I also wear branded polo shirts and jeans for normal work days. They’re as comfortable as a t-shirt so can be worn when working from home but the collar makes them slightly smarter. Choose something that matches your business image.
  3. These days I follow a 333 clothes system where I choose 33 items of clothing (excluding underwear and sports kit) to last me 3 months. Any seasonal clothes get stored in a box in the loft. I’m pleasantly surprised that I haven’t needed to cheat yet but you set your own rules.

Give it a try and let me know how you get on.

Underselling or underserving

Many of us are nervous of appearing too “salesy” but do we end up underserving our clients/customers as a result?

Thinking back to a long lunch with a friend a while ago now. We ordered our food and drinks and enjoyed a good chat. But the food took a long time to come, a minor irritation as we hadn’t been prewarned but we weren’t in a rush. We had, however, finished our drinks and wanted to order more.

There was no server in sight so we became very conscious of the food delay as well as our lack of drinks.

If only somebody had stopped by to ask if we needed anything else we would have continued our conversation over fresh drinks and stopped looking at our watches.

In failing to sell to us they actually ended up underserving us. They could have sold 22% extra (I’m an accountant, of course I worked it out!) AND had very satisfied customers.

So don’t be embarrassed about upselling or cross selling if you think your client/customer needs it (and, if they don’t need it you shouldn’t be trying to sell it to them anyway!).

Using Zoom (and other platforms)

Most of my work is done remotely already. My courses and webinars are online and my coaching is by telephone (have a look and see what is available on the website if you’re interested but that’s not the purpose of this email).

Some businesses are already using Zoom or something similar but here are a few tips for those just starting.

First timers:

  • Log in beforehand and play with the software
  • Test camera
  • Test microphone

The webinar:

  • Log in 5 minutes beforehand and check camera and microphone
  • Keep mic on mute when not speaking
  • Minimise background noise by closing your door and bribing any children. If you’re likely to struggle with bandwidth while working from home then ensure that nobody else is streaming videos or music
  • Software picks up sound from one speaker at a time (your background noise may force the main speaker onto mute)
  • Dress appropriately for the meeting. Dress codes may be less formal when working from home but think about what you’re wearing for your meeting.
  • Remember that you can be seen even when not speaking

To be professional:

  • Place your camera at a flattering angle. Slightly above you is best. If you are looking down into the camera you may provide an excellent view of your nostrils and multiple chins
  • Have good lighting on your face. Cheap photographic lights will do the job but experiment with what you already have
  • Make sure that your background is tidy. Green screen effects may be fun but they’re not great coping if the “edges” of your head/hair move and are fairly disastrous with curly hair like mine
  • An external mic will give much better sound quality. Being close to you it cuts out background noise more efficiently
  • An external camera may be better than your laptop one but start with the lighting.

I’m going to make some slots available to help people tweak their set up and have a play online so let me know if you’d like a 30 minute session this week. So far I’ve helped a professional speaker, my Spanish teacher and a piano teacher to try to keep their businesses going by moving to online.