Working from home

WFH.

An alien concept 15 years ago, ‘working from home’ has gone from a euphemism for watching Holly & Phil to a productive and (sometimes) encouraged practice. Indeed, some of our managing agent clients have created new business models around homeworking and working from the sites they manage, but most of us commute to the office five days a week.

All of a sudden, nearly all of us in our sector are at home, coping in variety of ways. At the time of writing, it’s only day 8 for us at BBL and fortunately we can do 99% of what we need to do for our clients and candidates armed with a smart phone and a laptop.

Most property managers – who remain in great demand – are adjusting to an unfamiliar set-up. During the current lockdown, they are unable to visit site, unable to meet with their clients, unable to have face to face one to ones with their line managers…

Woo-hoo!

They are able to:

  • Lie in.
  • Log on from bed.
  • Dress only the top half.
  • Speak to mum more often.
  • Break all Jaffa Cake eating records.
  • Break all Yorkshire Tea drinking records.
  • Blame the government for doing no exercise.
  • Tidy the parts of your kitchen visible on conference calls.
  • Shout at flat mates, spouses, children etc to keep the noise down.

The novelty will fast wear off, so we’ve put together 9 top tips for remaining sane and productive during the coming weeks.

  1. Don’t stay up all night watching Netflix. Get up at a reasonable hour, stretch, shower, eat breakfast and be ready to work at your normal start time. Remember that you don’t have a two way commute every day – make the most of that extra time!
  2. Work in the quietest room in the house. Not the bathroom (can be quite echoey). So this may not be easy if you have another full-time homeworker with you and perhaps some children thrown in. Check the strength of your wifi before you settle in. Do your best and resist the temptation to have Sky News on in the background reminding you of the 2 metre rule.
  3. Get comfy. It’s really important that you do a workstation assessment. Try to use a full-size keyboard and wireless mouse if using a laptop. Keep the screen at the right height – the middle of the screen at eye-level ideally. Make sure your chair is comfortable – use a cushion to support your back. Use earphones/AirPods and get up and walk around for phone calls. If you’re in the bath, don’t drop your mouse in the water.
  4. Plan every day. Without the normal distractions, you should be able to get done most of what you plan. Don’t just react to who is shouting the loudest. Plan for breaks too – outside if you can, remembering to practice ‘social distancing’. And of course, this is a unique opportunity to plan longer term. Think 10 year cap ex plans for your buildings (call your surveyor – they’ll be pleased to hear from you!). Think about consolidating electrical testing, FRAs, utilities management. Think about getting with the proptech programme – look what is out there in terms of software that your peers rave about.
  5. Keep in touch with your team. You might ordinarily work on your own portfolio and not talk too much with your colleagues. But now is a good time to change that. Compare notes on client wishes/worries and how to best resolve them; set up a video call on Zoom and get a discussion going. If you have a team to look after, set up regular video calls and put the dates/times in their Outlook. See how you can support your line manager who will no doubt be having one of the most stressful times of their life. They’ll remember your help.
  6. And keep in touch with your key suppliers. Increasingly, they may struggle to fulfil their obligations to you. See how you can support them and agree to put things on hold or bring things forward depending on how they’re able to resource. Pay their invoices! With a downturn in work, many suppliers will be struggling with cashflow. Keep on top of your invoice workflow!
  7. Remind your residents you’re there. And you care. Portals like Dwellant’s are really coming into their own. A few clicks and you can send a message to all owners and all residents in a block. You can tell them about extra cleaning visits or maintenance that has been put on hold. Let them know you are available to them as normal.
  8. Build some ‘me time’ in. You’re at home so take advantage. If you draw, play the piano, do crochet, enjoy Scrabble, take time out for ‘me time’. Creative activities should help to offset the mundane parts of your role! It’s possible to work a 12 hour day in front of your laptop and not realise where the time has gone. Work hard but know when to stop.
  9. Always try to retain a sense of humous.

 

Rhys Townsend
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