Working from home during the COVID-19 outbreak involves a combination of technologies, time management, communication and finding the best work/life balance that realistically works for you.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has presented an unprecedented situation - one that's affecting all of our families, our communities and our businesses.
Around the world, precautions are being taken in the workforce to protect the health of all individuals and prevent the exposure and transmission of COVID-19 outbreak among workers. These types of precautions include things like, work travel bans, cancellation of in-person meetings, events and conferences; self-quarantining and working remotely until the dangers pass.
This leaves, however, the workforce to deal with an unusual challenge: Working from home for the first time.
Even if you have experience in remote work, voluntary or mandatory working from home because of COVID-19 probably seems like a whole new world - and it's most likely feeling very sudden and abrupt.
For workers who may feel in uncharted territory amid this pandemic, these tips will help ensure a successful transition into working remotely until the risk passes.
1. Know your work from home policy -- if there is one pre COVID and the workforce
During onboarding, many companies will introduce a program that holds specific guidelines to ensure all employees understand what is required from them when they perform remotely. The policy would include instructions for an employee’s working schedule, the organization's overtime policy, description of a dedicated workspace, how to report personal injury and damage to company equipment, and protection of proprietary company information. If you're unsure of whether or not your employer has a policy or if your worker classification status requires you to follow one - ask!
2. Have the proper technologies in place
Computer, email, phone conferencing, virtual meetings and access to internal networks are all tools workers need whether you work remotely or another remote location. Do you have all the tools you need? What steps is your employer taking to ensure you can perform your job? If you have any concerns surrounding your access to key resources and technologies, make sure to communicate them right away.
3. Designate your working space
One of the biggest challenges you may face when working remotely is trying to separate your work and personal life. Usually, a commute to work creates that physical space, and you want to try to recreate that feeling of distance as much as possible. It doesn't have to be a physical room, however, yet it should still feel as separate from the rest of the most commonly used spaces in your home as much as possible.
It's also important that you do what you can to ensure your workspace is as comfortable and functional as you can make it. If you're a full-time employee expected to work eight hours a day, sitting in a bad chair will do damage to both your body and your attitude.
4. Use to-do lists ... just a bit differently
Every morning, an effective strategy to a productive day is to have a to-do list of tasks you hope to get done. The key, however, is to understand that many days, you won't be able to complete everything, especially when you're just starting out working remotely, so don't beat yourself up over it. However, you do want to prioritize your tasks in order of 'must get done' and 'would like to get done' to ensure your job is getting done and projects are getting completed.
5. Implement a routine
Keeping clearly defined working hours will establish your routine and help transition you into "work mode." A lack of socializing in the workplace may cause you to become restless and prone to distractions; a routine that includes setting specific times for emails, conference calls, reporting, breaks and other job duties will ensure a productive work day. The goal is to create a schedule that works for you.
The 2020 workforce is also a very collaborative one, and if your role requires you to work with others on your team or departments, keeping the same schedule as your coworkers makes getting the job done much less stressful.
6. Learn from your experiences
To help develop and maintain a routine that works for you, learn from your experiences! This means monitoring how long it takes for you to complete a certain task or project, and then building that into your daily schedule. Good time management is an essential component to working remotely and will help you become more productive.
Not being physically in the workplace can often translate into distance from workplace values, culture and community, and staying inside during this pandemic may cause you to feel even more alone. Yet, self isolation doesn't mean no socialization. Ensure to maintain connection to the office and co-workers by using internal communication platforms like Microsoft Teams, Yammer, Slack, Zoom meeting and other messaging and video services. Additionally, call someone rather than sending emails and keep in touch with teams and departments via video conferencing.
Working outside the office will also offer unique challenges as you try to do your job, which can vary greatly depending on your role. Don’t hesitate to connect with the same people you would normally turn to for clarification or help—even though you’re not in the same building, technology has made it easy.
8. Dress for the day
While staying in pyjamas all day is a novel idea, for most workers, it isn't conducive to productivity. However, getting dressed for the day doesn't mean dressing as formally as you would for the office, but the simple act of changing clothes serves as a signal that it's time to transition into work mode.
9. Stay active
The COVID-19 pandemic has many people worried about staying healthy, finances, businesses, friends and loved ones. It’s a stressful situation and exactly why maintaining a workout routine in the face of the crisis is so important - it's also a way to practice self care. Being anxious and uncertain will lead to stress, and stress, is not a healthy state. While you're indoors, try to maintain a fitness routine as best as you can. You want to not only manage your physical and mental health, but also prevent the loss of momentum that can come with working from home for a prolonged period.
10. Set boundaries
It's important to communicate with your colleagues, its crucial to communicate boundaries to roommates, family members, partners and especially kids while working remotely. For some, this may mean setting physical space limits within the home during working hours or letting roommates, family and partners know when you need to be in 'do not disturb' mode. With kids - It's not that easy, and will probably require a little negotiating with other members of the household to collaborate on enforcing your 'do not disturb' mode.
11. Take breaks
Although it may seem counterproductive, taking short breaks can increase productivity and creativity levels. One way to add breaks into your schedule is to create a daily calendar invite for 10 minutes in the morning and then another 10 minute break in the afternoon. However, don't just sit at your desk and open up that YouTube video; take time away from your designated working area and move around.
Additionally, when it's time for lunch, choose an area that's away from your workspace, so you don't feel like you haven't moved all day!
12. Learn how to deal with distractions
A work from home environment will inevitably create distractions - especially if you aren't the only one in your household who is staying home. However, try to deal with distractions as you would at the office. If you work in IT, this may mean taking a few minutes to surf your favourite tech blog rather than binging the latest content on Netflix.
13. Take care of yourself
The transition could be difficult under normal circumstances, yet it's important to remember COVID-19 isn't a normal situation. During your first week or two, listen to what your mind and body needs in order to set a schedule and routine that works best. It's important to process the emotional aspect of the pandemic as well as the transition into working from home.
If working from home is a new reality for you, remember that you're not alone. The entire workforce on a global scale is adjusting along with you. How are you staying connected to your workplace while staying inside?
Video interviews and conferences are one way employers and employees are engaging. Get tips about preparing for video interviews and other remote working tricks with Procom's Contractors' Guide to the Galaxy newsletter.