Welcome to “The New Normal” – Are you ready?

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

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

But in early 2020, the COVID-19 Coronavirus struck. And now we’re in another new world. 

The “Lock-down” is in place in many countries. Under various strict rules. And now billions of workers are rushing again: Back home. 

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

Welcome to “New Normal”. With the home at its heart. 

But are you ready?

The race is on: To turn homes into micro-offices, micro-trading hubs, micro-businesses.

What will that take? Three things: 1: New Space. 2: New Habits. 3: New Equipment. ABC.

A. The Extreme Home Makeover:

Until now, your home was essentially designed for: Food, Personal Hygiene, Relaxation and Sleep. Now, add: Work, Income-Generation, Production, 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. Let this sink in fully …

This requires a fundamental new look at the space available to you, your family and/or house-mates. This is the “New Normal”. 

So: What is the optimal use of all your space, to ensure everyone at home can now manage this full range of activities effectively? Giving each other the space, they need, to each fulfil 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.

B: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Home Workers:

1: Be Professional: Be present, be an active participant. Just like you used to. Now, with video. Voice only is no good. The echo of your distant voice simply isn’t good enough. Be there, with 100% of yourself, with full techni-colour of your being. This requires full, high-quality video.

Listen, extremely carefully. The ability to listen to small faces on a digital screen is now one of your single-most crucial skills. We’re all used to communicating up-close-and-personal. Now that’s reduced to on-screen. Pay close attention. Watch. Listen. Learn.

Mute your microphone when you’re not speaking. You may need to clear your throat, or sneeze. Real people do this. The key is to be at ease. But there’s no need for all the others to hear this. Remember to un-mute, before you start speaking.

Don’t interrupt. In face-to-face meetings, it’s easy to jump in, and make an exciting point. Online, two-voices-at-once just can’t be heard properly. So, interrupting kills the other speaker’s voice. Don’t do it. Hold your tongue. Prepare your point clearly. Wait your turn.

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” and you focus on the issues of the day.

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: Socialize: 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 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. Et cetera. 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. You won’t survive “new normal”.

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.

C: The Basic Professional Equipment: 

· Quality Camera: Your built-in web-cam, on your computer or lap-top, is OK 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 noise that I hear, around me, 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. 

· Speakerphone: This is for people who don’t want to wear headsets – but who still want to sound professional. You want to hear the full, rich audio of the person you’re talking to – and for them to hear you crisply, too. A high-quality speaker is essential – with a good “Noise Cancellation” microphone. The standard to look out for will include specs such as “full-duplex” – which refers to the equipment, and the software which makes high quality possible.

· 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 “old world” office! 

· 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.

· Internet: This is the golden question: Our teenage kids will probably tell you the they need the fastest internet on Planet Earth!…, 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. Don’t do it …

Headset Solutions

Headset Solutions is a proud distributor of Poly, Jabra and Konftel products in Southern Africa. Our African footprint and comprehensive inventory allows us to offer fast and effective support to all our partners. With more than 1 Million headsets sold over the last 10 years, we are South Africa’s leading supplier of headsets. Our mission is to deliver cutting edge telecommunication solutions backed up by exceptional service & after sales support to ensure our customers achieve their objectives & remain competitive. For more information visit https://www.headsetsolutions.co.za

For more information on Poly’s Work from Home Solutions, click here.

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