Are you ready for the new normal?

The new normal has the home at its heart. Headset Solutions gives us some tips on how we can adapt

Two hundred years ago, the industrial revolution changed humankind forever.

Across the planet, people rushed into new central hives of activity – factories, industrial areas, then office parks, economic hubs, cities.

But in early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and thrust us into another new world.

Lockdown has been enforced in various countries across the globe,  forcing billions of workers to retreat into their homes.

While many will eventually return to their places of work, others will not. Or not as often. Either way, every single home is now an equal center of the world economy.

Welcome to the “new normal”, where the home is at its heart.

Now, the race is on to turn homes into micro-offices, micro-trading hubs, micro-businesses, and more.

Headset Solutions have identified three keys things that the new way of work will require: New Space, new Habits, and new equipment.

Extreme home makeover

Until now, your home was essentially designed for food, personal hygiene, relaxation and sleep. Now, add: work, income-generation, production, and learning.

Your home is now your place of employment. And your partner’s workplace. And your kids’ classroom. And your student child’s virtual university. And more.

This requires a fundamental new look at the space available to you, your family and/or housemates.

So its important to reevaluate what the optimal use of all your space is, to ensure everyone at home can now manage this full range of activities effectively – giving everyone the space, they need, to each fulfill their most important tasks.

Is there a ‘team home office’ you can all share, together? To keep up a sense of companionship and camaraderie? Yes, it may be a shame to give up that big lounge, for example. But perhaps it’s worth it.

Or do you need private office or quiet space – like a professional-looking corner in a bedroom, so you can close the door and work uninterrupted?

Think about this all carefully and re-arrange your home and furniture to what works best for those for those 30, 40 or 50 hours a week of work at home. Only you can know what’ll work best for you all, in your home.

Then, in your new workspace: Create your best view of yourself, online. Raise your laptop, so others don’t see you squinting down at them. Set the scene you want others to see.

Think about light. Is the window behind you too bright, turning you into a silhouette? Does it change – depending on the time of day?

Is the background behind you too messy? Or too busy? Or too stark and bare? You don’t want to look like you’re in a sterilized prison cell. In your old life, your team knew your character, your passions. What made you distinctive. Online, present what’s most important to you too. Take this seriously. Be ultra-professional. But also express yourself.

Have what you need within easy reach. It’s distracting for the others if you need to get up and walk off to fetch items you need. Try to arrange what you need in advance.

Alternatively, if your work culture encourages active meetings, movement and energy, then ensure your equipment is set up for this – like a proper headset and microphone, so you can move freely, and still be 100% engaged.

Professional equipment shows who takes their professional duties the most seriously. A home-worker with decent quality equipment, who can be seen clearly, heard crisply, shows they’re taking their duties as seriously as ever. See the basic check-list below.

No human being can be always-on, 24 hours a day. Make your own rules, and police yourself strictly. Otherwise your new life won’t be sustainable.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Home Workers

1. Be Professional: Be present by being an active participant. Listen extremely carefully to others, mute your microphone when you’re not speaking, and don’t interrupt whoever is speaking.

2. Be Personal: Practice warmth, courtesy and essential human engagement. Greet one another! Ask how each of you are! Just like you would “at work”. Just because we’re now staring at machines, doesn’t mean we’ve become machines. Keep the human touch alive. Keep your company culture healthy before “the meeting starts”.

3. Be Prepared: Ready yourself for the day ahead, the night before: Arriving “at work” to a cluttered desk or working space – the left-overs from the day before – is the worst way to start a bright new day. Before “leaving work”, tidy up, take out the trash, put the day behind you cleanly. So, you’re ready for tomorrow.

Dress for success: colleagues, partners or clients can’t see you in the flesh, but they can still see you on-screen. Stick to your look, maintain your brand. Or perhaps this is your chance to improve it? The clothes on your precious, healthy body remain your first and foremost piece of equipment at the start of every day.

4. Exercise: This may be the best part of your day, or the worst – depending on your habits. So, here’s a simple tip: If that 10km run or 21km marathon is not up your street, then break up your exercise into bite-sized chunks. Most of us can handle a quick five-minutes of repetitive walk, around our homes or properties. Just five minutes. Then repeat several times a day. That’s do-able?

5: Socialise: You may be isolated – or a lot more distant – from those you love and share your life with. Don’t allow your most precious relationships to end.You’ll need to plan a strict meetings schedule, for work. Do the same for your network of family and friends too. Book actual meetings, to ensure you maintain healthy contact. For example: Monday nights are for extended family. Tuesday nights for exercise partners. Wednesday nights for staying up to date with kids’ parents. You get the idea. Plan, connect, keep your most important relationships active and healthy.

6: Boundaries: Separate “work” from “home”: In your breaks, or once work is done, develop strict rules for yourself. Like: Always eat as a family. Never check work emails. Leave your phone on your desk. Change clothes. Take a shower first. etc. Everyone’s needs will be different. But it’s crucial to separate work and home. No human being can be always-on, 24 hours a day. Make your own rules, and police yourself strictly. Otherwise your new life won’t be sustainable.

7: Don’t stop believing: The world may be in a terrifying place. We know many economic sectors are in terrible trouble. And many of us are, personally – and as families. But, equally, take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity to smell the roses. Literally. Take that 10 minute break away from your desk. In the garden, if you have one. Next to that pretty flowerbed you’ve never noticed before. On your apartment’s patio. Buy a pot-plant, water it, nurture it. Have your coffee next to it. Mix it up, breath in the outdoor air deeply. Perhaps it beats your “old” work place in many respects – if you think about it? Tailor your new life. Make it work for you.

The Basic Professional Equipment

Quality Camera: Your built-in web-cam, on your computer or lap-top, is okay to start with, but it’s not a proper business solution to work from home. To look, feel and be completely professional, you need a good quality camera. This is essential to have powerful face-to-face engagements. A High-Definition (HD) camera should be your starting point.

Quality Headset: On the subject of “sound”, there are two essentials: “noise cancellation” and “active noise cancellation”. The first one cancels out all the background noise, when I am speaking to you. Like my neighbor’s dog barking! The minimum standard here is called “wide band”.

The second one cancels out the background around you, when I am listening online. So, this blocks out all the noise around me. This is essential to allow me to focus, and not be interrupted by distractions.

Power: It’s not yet clear if/how Eskom is going to survive our long winter months. So, it may be worth investing in an alternative or back-up power supply, just in case. If you’re working from home, this could affect you severely. So, a guaranteed power supply is what’s known as “business-essential”. The good news is: You don’t need to spend a fortune. There are many options to consider. Also, a UPS is important – “uninterrupted power supply” – and this manages the amount of power flowing to your devices. A “surge” can “fry” certain devices – and this can be extremely costly. So, ensure you have a system in place to protect them.

A good quality camera is essential for having powerful face-to-face engagements. 

Screen/s: First, you need quality. Second, you should consider having two screens. On quality: Most quality laptops are sufficient. On having a second screen: For some people, it’s essential to be able to engage with colleagues or customers on one screen while studying important documents, or write up notes, on another. Remember: Working from home needs to be a full collaboration – just as if you were side-by-side in your office!

Internet: This is the golden question: Our teenage kids will probably tell you the they need the fastest internet in order to stream music videos and play games like Fortnite. For quality video conferencing, you will need at least a 10 megabite (MB) fibre line or equivalent. It’s important to be able to both send, and receive, data – at a comparable speed. The term used is “10 up, and 10 down”. It’s worth doing this properly. You may think you can get away with a far slower line – but you could just end up ruining important relationships – because people give up on trying to communicate with you! This is no longer a luxury – this is now of utmost importance, to keep your business healthy!

Desk & Chair: It’s all very well working on the kitchen counter. As a temporary solution. But we’re all in for the long-haul, everyone. And this is great news! Working from home could change our lives unimaginably – and in a wonderful way. So, invest in a proper desk, and chair. Get comfortable. And you’ll find this enables you to perform at your very best! It’s a tough, competitive world out there – you’ll need to bring your A-game! There are also crucial health benefits – a badly-fitting seating or working position can leave you in agony.

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