With the world swept off its feet by the coronavirus pandemic, most countries have put restrictions in place to further prevent its spread. Borders are closing across the globe and travel has been locked down in an attempt to flatten the curve.
More and more companies are joining those who have decided to have employees work from home to keep as many people from getting sick as possible. Many of the most familiar companies we know have been setting the trend.
• Twitter previously encouraged workers to telecommute. Now, it has become mandatory for all employees to work-from-home.
• JP Morgan put their remote workers plan to the test, allowing 10% of all staff to work remotely. Now they’ve spread that allowance company-wide..
• Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook have updated their work-from-home recommendations to include all their workers internationally..
• In addition to asking office workers to work-from-home, Apple is closing all of its retail outlets for several weeks.
• REI closed all of its retail locations, and will continue to pay all employees.
• T-Mobile has shut the doors of all of their indoor mall locations.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that companies and organizations turn to remote work during the Covid-19 pandemic. Nearly half of them have begun ordering their workers to work from home. If your employer doesn’t have an emergency work-from plan there are still plenty of steps you can take to ensure you can work from home in case of any emergency.
Outside of global pandemics, there are multitudes of other sudden emergencies that may force you to have to work remotely. Anything from power outages to natural disasters could put you in the position of needing to work from home for a few days.
Luckily in any situation there are many ways to stay successful when there is no time to plan.
Keep in touch
Communication is key when maintaining and continuing any working relationship. Working from home even when not amidst an emergency can make even over-communicating an essential priority to ensure a smooth transition into working remotely.
Start by identifying what platform(s) you and your team will be using to maintain contact remotely. This can be a combination of project management tools, chat, and video/phone call systems. Once you have settled on an approach, be sure to familiarize yourself with how it works, and install any software in advance. Read up on strategy guides to best utilize your tools.
Next, allocate times that your team is available. Will you be keeping the same hours? Are you expected to check messages within a certain timeframe? Are the timeframes different for different types of messages and cases? Make it part of your gameplan so you can communicate as quickly and efficiently as possible, and be ready to inform coworkers and clients about turnaround expectations.
What platforms do you prefer?
Grab your gear
When you leave the office, take your essential equipment with you. Your main instrument is likely a laptop, so you’ll also need chargers and adaptors to get yourself set up at home.
If you will be working from your own personal devices, be sure that they are enabled to connect to any remote intranet, and that you download your data following the security policies of your business. That includes if you use usb sticks or hard drives to transport your existing files.
Plan back-ups in case something happens to your equipment to prevent downtime. This could include doubling your data, or having a second computer in case of crashes. Consider a back-up battery or anything you don’t want to have to leave the house to pick up in an emergency, both for timeliness’ sake as well as to avoid social contact during the pandemic.
What gear do you need to work from anywhere?
Having a comfortable and quiet setting to unwind and push out a few hours of work in is essential to putting out your best work. A home office doesn’t have to be its own space, so be creative with how you use yours.
Nonetheless, your space should be private when you are working, and free of distractions or potential interruptions. Sometimes maximizing space means bringing it down to the bare minimum; a power outlet, a chair and a desk can be all you need and help you concentrate.
What does your ideal work-from-home space look like?
Not everyone you share your home with will necessarily be on the same schedule as you. That’s why it’s so important to communicate your work hours and availability to others the same as if you were working away from home.
You need to be mindful of each other’s need for peace and quiet. If you have children, set an easy reminder for them such as a sign on your office door, and explain what you expect of them in simple, clear terms. Explain to friends and family how you will signal to them that you’re in your “work zone”, and that as much as you would like to see them and engage with them, you need to keep your boundaries so you can get your work done.
What other boundaries would help you focus?
Treat it like business as usual
When you work a job for a long time, you build up a schedule, internally and externally. People are creatures of habit, but it’s easy enough to break those habits when you loosen the belt a bit too much.
That’s why you should endeavour to keep to the same schedule and set of routines as if you were working at the office. This will keep your sleep schedule on track, and help you maintain focus in a more comfortable environment.
Maximize the time that you would normally devote to commuting to enjoy yourself, such as cooking a homemade breakfast or walking the dog, but keep the time frames the same as if you were normally on your way to work. Alternatively, you can get a head start on your tasks, letting you relax a bit if you’re bombarded with work.
What else can you do to keep up routines from home?
Give yourself a finish line
For your own sake, as well, make sure you do something to help allow yourself to decompress and “unplug” when the day is done. Small practices can help your brain transition to “home time” so that even when your work comes home with you, you can stop the work when the working day is over.
This could be a routine like putting on your comfiest pants, having a special snack, or going on a walk around the block so that when you get home, you can feel like you’re coming home after a day at the office.
It is also important to establish these limits so that you don’t let work bleed into your personal time and risk becoming exhausted or overworked. Your work will suffer as well, if you do. Just like you expect others to respect your boundaries when you’re working, you need to respect the boundaries of your working time as well!
What do you like to do to let yourself know it’s time to unwind?
Keep people in the loop more than ever
Especially your supervisors and managers. Since they cannot intuit an idea of your progress from watching you work, and may not be hearing as much direct communication from your peers, it’s your responsibility to update them consistently about your progress.
If you have a team project of some sorts, you need to loop in your coworkers as well. It’s easy to drift apart when you don’t see each other every day, so ensure that you don’t just bridge that gap, but keep pulling them in closer whenever possible.
Be mindful not to overload others, of course. You should be providing critical information, and reassurances. Bogging people down with unnecessary details or long spurts of idle chit chat will slow down the whole team.
How well do you keep your team informed?
Plan, practice, and prepare
If you don’t currently have an outline for your business and how they will handle emergency remote work, then suggest to your management that they build one in advance. It’s better to be prepared in advance than to come up empty handed when you don’t have a choice.
Now is an excellent time to practice your plan, and build preparations for situations like these that may come in the future.
What’s your company’s work-from-home plan?