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Practical steps to help your staff work from home

Practical steps to help your staff work from home
As we all prepare for a potential period of self-isolation, a lot of businesses across New Zealand are scrambling to help their staff work from home. To help everyone navigate through this, we've pulled together a guide on practical steps you can take to ensure your staff are working safely and efficiently from their homes.*

In this guide, we cover these four basics:
  1. Communication
  2. Health & Safety Requirements
  3. Working style
  4. Mental health

1. Communication

Communication is the number one thing to get right. There are several layers of communication to think about. Start by setting an expectation with your team around what channels they have available, and when to use them. Try to stick to two or three channels max to avoid creating silos.
  • Informative = Email
  • Urgent/Time Sensitive = Phone/Chat
  • Difficult/Emotive = Video/Phone
  • Catch up/Meetings = Video
  • Informal = Video/Messenger/Chat
Informative = Email
Informative communication includes things like business updates, weekly news, new information or a change in work style.

Urgent/Time sensitive = Phone/Chat
Urgent or time sensitive communication is for when you need to relay or receive information now (or at least in the next 15-20 minutes). Ensure everyone has a list of personal/work phone numbers as well as access to a good chat tool. Some good messaging tools to use: Try to stick to desktop tools where you can (it’s easier on the fingers for big conversations). But texting/phone apps could also work in a pinch.

Difficult/Emotive = Video/Phone
Context is king when you’re not face-to-face with someone. If you have a difficult concept to explain or you need to have a serious discussion, consider using video or a phone call. Our facial expressions and tone of voice send a lot more cues than plain text.

Use tools such as: Catch ups/Meetings = Video
Schedule regular team catch ups to make sure everyone is getting everything they need. These would be easiest via video. It’s a good chance to see each other again, have a yarn and hopefully a laugh or two as well.

Use: Informal
Encourage people to stay connected by providing informal channels to chat in. This can be over Facebook or, if you want to really get organised, through a tool such as Slack.

Slack allows you to set “channels” for chats, plus there are cool features like emojis and giphy for people to express themselves.

2. Health & Safety Requirements

After working out the practicality of your communication, the next thing to think about is your Health & Safety Requirements. According to the Health & Safety at Work Act 2015, a business must ensure the health and safety of their employees at work – this includes working from home.

This can be tricky to arrange at the best of times, and right now it could be near impossible for some businesses.

To help we have created a checklist of the things your team should have access to at home.
These include things like an ergonomic workstation, clear exits, ventilated rooms and emergency contacts.

Feel free to download and use the list as you need it.


Here is a list of links and resources if you're not familiar with the Act:
However, it's not always possible to set up a work desk, ergonomic chair, monitor, keyboard and mouse in every person's home. Here are some things to consider if your team is making do:

  1. If they don't have a desk, ask your team to work from the dining table or kitchen bench (not the couch or bed).
  2. If their set up is not ergonomic, ask them to work at it for an hour at a time. They should have at least 20-30 minutes of break or other tasks away from that station between each hour. This will stretch out their work day, but it will save their body from RSI and other long-term injuries.
  3. Instead of taking meetings on the laptop, consider doing phone catch ups and encourage people to take a walk outside/around the house while they're on the meeting.
  4. This is a time where people will start getting creative, encourage your team to share their own tips and tricks. Maybe you want to set aside regular "stretch/yoga" breaks for everyone to do at the same time. Or, if you're brave, start a dance challenge where people can film themselves trying to complete it. (Ask your teenagers for inspiration or Google TikTok Dance challenges.)

3. Working styles

For those of us who have never worked from home before, this new style of working may come as a bit of a shock.

At first it can be tempting to lounge around in pyjamas, with our laptops precariously balanced on our knees and a growing collection of tea cups and bikkie crumbs spreading around us. But, luckily for us, there are some work-from-home veterans at OfficeMax who have warned us against it! Not only does it lower your productivity, it can lead to a very sore back, neck and overall feeling of discomfort.

Plus, when you stop separating your work life from your home life, you may not be able to shake off the feeling of “being at work” even after you’ve signed off for the day.

Here are some tips to share with your team on creating a work routine and style that allows them to separate home life and work life.

Share with your team:
  1. Create a workspace – If you can, use a room you can shut off from the rest of the house. If not, a corner that you can mentally “put away” when you’re not working. Make sure you follow Work from home ergonomic guide as closely as you can and read up on how to work more ergonomically at home in this NYPost article.

  2. Get out – If you can, start your day with a quick walk/run/trip out of the house. (Of course this is only if you are not in full quarantine!)

  3. Get dressed – It doesn’t need to be the full make-up, suited-up, hair-styled pizzazz. But do put on clothes you wouldn’t mind being seen in public in. It will get you in the right mindset to work, and will make your comfy clothes that much better when you put them on at the end of the day.

  4. Eat well – Try to stick to fresh fruit, veggies and carbs (like oats/rice) that will keep you full and sustain your energy. Not only is this building your immunity, but you’ll avoid getting sugar crashes and losing your concentration.

  5. Non-flexible hours – It could be that you need to schedule one hour a day/week for everyone to catch up. Keep this hour in your schedule as a meeting/scheduled work hour.

  6. End your work day – Try to physically end your work day. Whether it’s packing everything away, going for another walk or changing your clothes. A physical change acts as a notice to your subconscious that you’re switching gears. This is important for your mental health and to stop the feeling of always needing to be “on-call”. Make sure you respect your team’s work hours as well, we all need time to connect with our loved ones, pets and hobbies.

4. Mental health

This is a tough time for all of us, and something we have never faced before. With that said, working from home gives us all the opportunity to build in some habits to help our mental health. Some things to consider sharing with your team:
  1. Keep/start exercising
    If you usually go to the gym, but can’t anymore, keep up your exercises at home. There are plenty of YouTube workout classes, from yoga to HIIT training, that you can do at home. If that’s not really your cup of tea, consider taking a walk every day to get some fresh air, sunshine and to reset your mind.

  2. Keep in touch with people
    Use the internet and your phones to catch up with your people. Check in on your neighbours and anyone you know who may need assistance. We’re social beings and it’s important for all of us to keep up the communication.

  3. Meditate
    There are plenty of apps and YouTube videos for beginners to try. Meditating is a proven way to relax our minds, focus on what matters and calm anxiety.

    Check out:
    - Headspace
    - Calm
    - Insight Timer
    - Smiling Mind
    - Stop, Breathe & Think

  4. Play music and podcasts
    Going from a noisy workplace to the silence of home can feel peaceful at first, but it can also quickly start to weigh on you. Blast your favourite music, check out “Low-fi music” YouTube videos for concentration or get into podcasts to bring some life to your house while you work.
    Ask your team to recommend their favourite podcasts and playlists, you never know what you might discover!
As we all adjust to working a little differently, let’s keep sharing tips, tricks and funny memes to keep the morale going. Please feel free to get in touch with us for specialist help with setting your team up with the technology and ergonomic products to work from home. We are working hard to keep our customers supplied so they can  keep doing their work.

Kia kaha Aotearoa, and much love from the team at OfficeMax.

*This information is intended as a guide only to general safety and does not replace or represent expert advice. OfficeMax New Zealand does not accept responsibility or liability for any action taken as a result of the information provided.
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