Working From Home During COVID-19: You Can Do This

Working from home is not new but as we face the new realities of work and school under social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we are going to have to adapt to this new normal.

  • Remote workers take longer breaks on average, but they remain productive for an additional 10 minutes per day.
  • Remote employees work 1.4 more days per month than their office-based counterparts, resulting in more than three additional weeks of work per year.
  • The most effective ways for remote employees to stay productive, according to the survey, were to take breaks (37%), have set working hours (33%) and keep a to-do list (30%).
Source: 2019 survey by Airtasker that polled 1,004 full-time employees throughout the U.S. about their productivity, their commutes and other facets of their lives. Among that group were 505 people who worked remotely.

 

CTV Morning Live invited me to share my best tips about working from home and being good at it. When I started working from home I had 3 children under 5 years old. It was challenging to say the least. But it can be done and you CAN be more productive than when you go to the office. Let’s talk about what you can do to set yourself up for success as employers and business have instituted Work From Home (WFH) policies as we deal with COVID-19 protocols for social distancing so we can flatten the curve and reduce the spread of this pandemic.

This COVID-19 crisis will prove which businesses are agile enough to pivot to this new government-recommended protocol and which will struggle due to aging infrastructure and lack of investment in IT. At the same time, we are in every sense of the phase in a “special circumstance.” Now is not the time to try to do things “by the book” but instead to see how you can best keep on working to meet the needs of your customers during this uncertain time. This might mean personal cell phones get used for work. This might mean your child or your puppy sits on your lap for a video conference call (trust me, this will make everyone smile at this point in this crisis—IT WILL BE OK TO SHOW YOU ARE HUMAN AND HAVE OTHER PEOPLE AT HOME.) This might mean that work takes on new meaning for you as you find how valuable your role is even when you are not seated in your office chair—some types of work really can be done from almost anywhere. This is both liberating and will challenge you to build boundaries around work and life. But don’t worry. YOU CAN DO THIS.
So how are we going to get started this week? Here are a few tips for both employers and employees as they take a 3-minute commute to their new home working space. Notice how I don’t say office? More on that later…

 

TOP TIPS FOR EMPLOYERS FOR WORK FROM HOME SUCCESS:

  1. Setting expectations. This can mean communicating expectations around deliverables during this period and keeping in mind employees’ mental and physical health as they navigate these times with their families too. Assurance is paramount.
  2. Cloud-based apps will make work from home easy and seamless. Yes, some workplaces may require employees to connect to proprietary systems or programs via work-issued laptops; but other employees might be able to work remotely quite easily thanks to cloud-based services such a Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack, and project management tools like Asana or Trello. Many of these SaaS have opened up their platforms for FREE so everyone can benefit.
  3. Keep regular communications and meetings that would have occurred in the office or on the schedule that can just move to online thanks to technology. A few ISPs have lifted limits on internet usage so employees don’t have to worry about using too much bandwidth.
  4. Try to use video conferencing fairly regularly during this period. We are wired for social connection and maybe even more so during this period of social distancing. Seeing the faces of your staff and co-workers will be beneficial to fostering a teamwork approach and the feeling of “we are all in this together.”
  5. Celebrate success. When your team completes its first project or goal via remote work take the time to congratulate and acknowledge this. We are in stressful times and navigating this new normal will be easier for some than others. But hearing from the manager or supervisor how well everything (speed bumps were mitigated and managed too) went will do a lot for building morale in the coming weeks and perhaps months.

 

TOP TIPS FOR EMPLOYEES FOR WORK FROM HOME SUCCESS:

 

  1. Get ready like you are going to work—because you are. One of the things I always did was get dressed like I was going in an office. It helped me mentally prepare to get ready to work. It’s just the ritual of getting ready that helps set the tone for what you might be working on that day. You might be tempted to just work in your pajamas. This will only create stress when you get an email saying that there will be a video conference call in 30 minutes. Creating to-do lists just like you would at the office is helpful. In other words. Whatever successful strategies you have used AT the office try to keep them as you work from home too.
  2. Set-up a space. Now this might be a challenge because if your kids are going to be home and your spouse or other family members are working from home—space will be at a premium. But it doesn’t have to be a lot of space—just space that is yours to work from. (See the CTV Morning Live video where we show you can even use your kitchen counter as a standing desk.)
  3. Speaking of kids being home—there are going to be assignments from teachers that they can focus on and Scholastic has opened up their website so kids can keep their brains busy and learning during the suspension of classes.
  4. Set boundaries but be gentle with yourself and your co-workers. Keeping a schedule will be helpful not just for productivity but there is so much to be said for taking that 10-minute walk at lunch or doing 20 minutes on the treadmill just to have a break in your day. Accept there will be glitches. Iron out the rough patches and move on. However you set-up your work from home environment take notes on what is working for you and keep improving on getting comfortable in the new setting.
  5. Don’t forget to socialize. This is actually a huge part of office life. The people you see around the coffee machine or the proverbial water cooler. It might help if you can connect with your favourite work buddy via FaceTime for your remote coffee break together or even take a walk on FaceTime together. These rituals will help ease the transition to working from home too.
  6. Getting it all done. Employees will likely find they can be FAR MORE productive working from home than in a office. Ditching the commute means people can get some time back and studies have shown employers benefit from that time. But Work From Home (WFM) employees do report more stress about maintaining work/life balance—so keeping those office hours at home are a smart way to be a productive and maintain boundaries as we navigate these next few weeks and perhaps months.

 

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