March 10, 2020
As we all try to manage the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing is certain: It’s a tumultuous time. Around the world, health officials and world leaders are working to address this evolving crisis, and the health and safety is the top concern. From social distancing measures to remote work decisions to shelter in place announcements, the next month will represent a change in the way we all work and live.
Depending on where you are, working from home is either recommended, actively encouraged, or in some cases required. Though some of us are used to working in this environment and some of us are used to managing a remote/virtual workforce, others among us have not experienced the complete change this represents.
Today, we’re kicking off a two-part series on working during the pandemic, discussing how employees will need to adapt in part one and provide tips for managing a remote workforce in part two.
A New Experience for Some, Just another Day for Others
Working from home is nothing new—for some employees. Others, however, might not be used to the experience. Add to this a group who relies on coworking spaces and coffeeshops, and it’s an interesting conundrum.
Many people just aren’t used to the experience—whether it’s the lack of designated workspace, the new distractions that might pop up from kids, pets, or daytime television, or the lack of “work mentality,” getting in the right mindset may take a day or two. But this is the life we can expect until the restrictions are lifted, so best get used to it.
Tip 1: Enjoy the Little Things. Five Reasons Working from Home Is Great.
It may take a bit of time to adjust, but maybe this is what you need to reinvigorate your work. Here are five benefits noted by people who have been there before.
No Commute—Or the Stress That Comes with It
Now, despite any anxiety caused by COVID-19, take a second to enjoy that time—and the mental health benefits that might come from it. A study of more than 34,000 U.K. workers found that people with long commutes are 33 percent more likely to suffer from depression; 12 percent more likely to report work-related stress; 21 percent more likely to be obese; and 46 percent get less than seven hours of sleep each night.
You’re Saving Money
In addition to the potential $1,000 stimulus check, think of all the money you’re saving. How much do you spend each week just getting to and from work? How much do you spend on daycare? Let’s not forget about meals—that coffee and bagel in the morning, lunch, and happy hour starts to add up. Gone.
Life in Sweats
Even if your office has gotten more casual, it’s not sweatpants casual. You may have seen the trope of the person who takes a video conference call with a shirt, a tie, and sweatpants.
More Work-Life Balance—Really
You may not think it’s the case, but it’s true. In a study done by Owl Labs, many workers reported alleviated stress levels with even one day of work outside the office. 86% of respondents in the survey believe that working remotely reduces stress levels and improves health.
More Done in Less Time
Somewhere between avoiding the stress of the commute, working more comfortably, and not being constrained by the annoyances of the office, workers see another benefit: More productivity. Whether it’s perceived (65% felt more productive) or documented (Stanford reports remote workers are 13% more productive), this time away from the office might actually increase the quality of your work.
Tip 2: Establish a Routine
Sticking to a schedule is key. If you normally arrive at the office by 8 a.m., then start your remote day by 8 a.m. Take your lunch at the same time and end your day at the same time you normally would. Your day needs to follow the exact same structure as it normally would when you’re in the office.
Maybe you’ve fallen out of a good routine at the office. Now’s as good of time as any to set one up. The Pomodoro technique might be one of the most effective time management methods—but most people are skeptical to take a five minute break every 25 minutes.
Tip 3: Build Your Space and Get Your Mind in the Right Place
Are you ready for ten or twenty days in self-quarantine? More? It’s not one day working from home here, you might be spending the next couple weeks at home. A dedicated work area really helps to separate work and home life, and lessens the inevitable distractions that working remotely can cause.
This could be as simple as a desk that’s only for work. If possible, a room with a door that closes—anything you can use to put your mind in the right place. Get comfortable with this designated space and only use it for work. This will help you to check in and check out of work.
Tip 4: Be Present and Attentive
Slack may be one of the biggest distractions at the office. But when it comes to working from home, the green dot is your way of saying “hey, I’m here and available.” People can’t physically see you, so they need another way to know that you’re ready for work.
That said, you still have to limit your time on the app and snooze notifications. Just because you’re ‘there’ doesn’t mean you have to keep up with all the latest gossip.
Tip 5: Limit/Manage Distractions
Now, especially if you’re moving from a distraction-filled open office to a home office, it may be easy. If you’re moving from a quiet office to a hectic home environment, the change might create unforeseen distractions.
Knowing when to embrace the distractions is a big part of the Pomodoro, as it helps to reduce monotony. Just don’t let them overtake your day.
Tip 6: Communicate More than Necessary
Communication is key for any workplace, but when you can’t see the people you’re working with, it’s easy for communication to break down. If you’re relying on a messaging app, everything from excitement to warmth to sarcasm can get lost in the shuffle.
Did the person end a sentence with a period when they normally use an exclamation point?! The Wall Street Journal explored this issue in 2018 and found that as office communication has changed, “exclamation point anxiety” has begun to take over a variety of workplaces.
As noted in The Ladders, “You may have to work a touch harder to keep an emotional pulse on what’s going on with each member of the team, but it’s crucial to have regular virtual meetings with everyone to ensure you’re all headed in the same direction. Also, don’t assume you know the intended tone of someone’s email or chat post. If it SEEMS hostile or weird, get on a video call with them as soon as possible.”
Tip 7: Deliver and Document
Of course, if you haven’t been in this situation before, one of the biggest fears that you (and your boss) may have is the lack of execution. When you’re at the office, you’re at the office. People know that you’re present and in turn, can see you working.
When you work remotely, your focus has to be on getting things done that are visible to others in the company. Since people can’t see you working, the only way they know you are working is through your execution.
Show that you can work, show that you did work, and document the time spent. It goes a long way in protecting your job and helping you go from remote work by necessity to remote work occasionally when it’s not.
Look Out for Your Health and Safety
As we are all now trying to manage the growing impact of the COVID 19 crisis, we at the Business Software Education Center want to remind you that it’s necessary to take precautions to protect yourself.
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