Dr Nicola Millard, principal innovation partner at BT, spoke to BT’s veteran homeworkers and compiled an extensive guide of tips for successful homeworking.

Homeworking isn’t new. But many of us are finding ourselves being new at it. As coronavirus sweeps a path across the globe many more of us are experiencing long term homeworking for the first time.

We office dwellers are also rapidly discovering that working from home isn’t as easy as we might have thought.

BT isn’t a newbie to this homeworking thing. Our first homeworking trials were back in 1992 (the “Inverness Experiment”, which involved 11 volunteer directory enquiry agents in (oddly enough) Inverness).

By 2000, a significant part of our workforce worked from home. I spent much of the 1990s interviewing BT homeworkers and making sure they had everything they needed to work effectively … but I never became a homeworker myself. I’m also not the world’s best homeworker, so I thought I’d turn to people who have decades of experience for advice, tips and suggestions for doing it successfully – namely BT’s veteran homeworkers.

So, these are the top five tips from our people to yours:

* Create an environment that works for you and the space you have (but be mindful of security) – whether it’s the sunny spot in the house, or a separate room with a door you can close, creating a “space to work” is important.

* Routine is everything – it’s clear that it doesn’t matter where we work, but how we work. Re-establish routines that help you to become more productive and embrace the flexibility that home working can give you. Switch off at the end of the day – it’s easy to work long hours.

* Keep healthy and don’t feel guilty for taking breaks – let others know when you are busy, free, or unavailable using status settings on your technologies.

* Connect with colleagues through informal chats – including virtual coffee breaks and happy hours so you can share things.

* Make remote working less remote by using technologies effectively – usage of video conferencing can create more social conversations, but remember some people may not like it (especially if they are having a bad hair day), or have sufficient bandwidth to use it, so open up audio channels as well.

We’re in the midst of a big global experiment in remote, virtualised digital working. Our experiences in BT have shown that, done well, homeworking can be an extremely fulfilling and productive way of working. But it may take a while for all of us to establish new habits and routines. The results of this experiment will be fascinating, but one thing’s for sure: the ways we work are likely to change forever.