Given the unprecedented events relating to the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus, many companies across the U.S. have instructed or encouraged their employees to work remotely. For many members of the U.S. workforce, this is a novel experience and one that is not without unique challenges. To put it simply, if you are used to working in an office setting, and now find yourself working from home, it is simply a different experience. Here are some tips to help with productivity and effectiveness outside the office.
Space to work effectively
Not all of us have a dedicated space at home setup for work. For those that do, that space may not be ideal with family, roommates, etc. home at the same time you are. Here are some tips:
· Ideally, you should be able to close a door or otherwise shut yourself off from the activities of the rest of the location. Bedrooms, basements, etc. generally make good locations for this.
· Be aware of how you’re positioned. If you create a makeshift desk area using a card table, plywood, etc., make sure you pay attention to your posture, and use things like books or other means to raise your keyboard/monitors as necessary to create a more ergonomic workspace. It’s not likely going to be perfect but being conscious of how you’re positioned can help save your back/neck.
Having the right equipment
We’re used to having certain equipment at our work desk and a way of working using that equipment. Maintaining a similar working style supported by the equipment (i.e. the number of screens) is important to supporting productivity when working remotely. Ask your employer if they can be supportive of your equipment needs.
· Printing: most printers are networked these days, but of course having something printed at the office when you’re not there isn’t very helpful. Though most of us don’t need to print on a regular basis, make sure that if this is a part of your daily work that you address it with your employer and explore options such as print/send services or coordination with someone still at the office for handling the printed documents.
· Scanning: It also can be difficult, though there are phone apps that can help with this challenge. Make sure to work with your employer to use the best solution for your work and company.
The office environment encourages collaboration, teamwork, and energy. This changes when we work in physical isolation from the rest of our co-workers and in a setting where we normally aren’t “working.” Being at home comes with challenges and distractions we don’t have to consider in the office.
· Work to maintain set hours. Make sure to set up hours for work both for yourself and your family. It is tempting to try and just “get something done quickly” when you’re at home. Interrupting work with household chores or other interactions are an increased potential distraction during this time. Make sure to define and communicate set hours with your family or roommates. It’s also a good practice to make sure your manager understands those hours and can work with you to help you maintain productivity.
· Focus on your metrics. Whatever your role, make sure you have clear visibility to the metrics you are charged with maintaining. Having visibility to where you are in your daily/weekly goals will help you to focus on the right activities.
No matter your industry, maintaining high levels of customer service is essential. In challenging times, the “little things” we do for customers are often the things they remember most. This could be as simple as answering the phone with a “smile,” proactively resolving issues, and promptly following up on customer requests.
Many of us have home internet; however, that connection may not be set up for the demands of remote work. Major providers use shared pipes. Your home internet is generally not dedicated bandwidth, which is why you see fluctuations. That means you “share” that bandwidth with other residential customers around you. Providers adjust the amount of allocated bandwidth based on time of day. When most people are at work they will shift bandwidth to commercial needs, and given people are generally at work, the demand for bandwidth decreases in residential areas. With a more general move to at-home work and people being temporarily out of work and off school, bandwidth requirements in residential areas are likely to spike resulting in slower speeds.
· Make sure you know what other bandwidth use is going on. Things like video streaming eat up a lot of bandwidth and with others also home, this can create a problem.
· Use other, separated bandwidth tools. You may not be able to rely solely on a softphone. Based on the call quality, consider leveraging your cell phone instead.
· Limit recreational bandwidth use during work hours. As noted above, have work hours set, then work with others to limit recreational bandwidth use during those hours.
We are used to being, in many cases, right next to our teammates and co-workers daily. The change to a more isolated work environment can be jarring because of that. We can’t as easily quickly ask someone a question or rely on bumping into people we need to speak with in the hall. Instead, we have to rely on email, smartphones, messaging apps and other collaborative tools to get the job done. Working with your teammates and managers, determine how you can use the collaborative tools your company provides to maintain productivity and visibility.
When all else fails, be sure you know how to ask for help, whether that is from a colleague, your manager, or from your company’s IT team.
Let’s get to work!