With more than 100 million Americans told to stay at home – nearly one-third of the country’s population – this order has drastically changed many of our daily lives. As a nation, we have had to alter the way we work, learn, and socialize.
The New Normal
So, if working from home is the new normal for so many of us, how do we adapt? The best tool at our disposal is technology. Imagine if the COVID-19 crisis had occurred even 50 years ago. No virtual meetings, no webinars, and no virtual company happy hours. Our ability to collaborate and work together while apart would be nearly impossible.
For those mandated to work from home, there’s no shortage of ways to remain productive while self-isolated or quarantined. But, as many workers have likely begun to find, working from home can be challenging at times. As a company, Ongoing Operations, is predominantly made up of employees who work from home. We’ve all had our struggles staying productive and engaged while working remotely, but along the way we’ve discovered many tips to make working from home work for us.
Even if the current situation is short term for you and your company, we wanted to share some best practices from our team to yours.
Tips From The Veterans
We polled our staff on what the one piece of advice you would give to people new at working from home. Here is what they shared.
- Make a schedule and stick to it. Treat your day as a professional but be sure to schedule time for breaks. Take breaks during your work day to get up and move around before you get "round". Also have a work life balance. Just because work is there 24/7 doesn't mean you have to be working 23/6.
- Make sure you get up and walk around. Make it a habit to get up and walk away from your desk at lunch time. Even though your “desk” may now be your kitchen table, don’t feel like you need to sit there from 8 AM – 5 PM straight.
- Utilize and embrace technology that gives you the opportunity to work from home. Our company utilizes Microsoft Teams, and it’s a terrific way to transfer the collaborative nature of your office to your home. You can always stay connected! With COVID-19 continuing to impact people and countries around the world, teams and schools everywhere are moving to remote work and distance learning. Microsoft is currently offering Teams for free. Learn how to get started.
- Ensure that you have good internet at home to support the tools you are using. There may be multiple family members in your home now streaming school lessons or streaming movies. If you also need to be on work Zoom Meetings or Microsoft Teams strategy sessions, you may start to have problems. If you need to up your internet, don’t wait to call your internet provider. Nothing is more frustrating than your internet slowing you down while you work!
- Have a separate work area. Make your space as comfortable if you can. It helps relieve you mind and get you ready for your day, every day! Make sure your work area helps bring about harmony.
- Get multiple screens for your home office. If that’s what you’re used to, don’t toil away trying to work on a small laptop.
- Set expectations with people. Let those you live with know if you need them to stop using Netflix or work on school work in a different room. Likewise, if you need to take the dog for a walk, or make food for a child, let your coworkers know that you will be off line and when to expect you back.
- The only difference between being in a business office versus your home office is what you're wearing...mentally, nothing else should change as you are expected to do your job during your appointed hours. Try to keep that in mind when you’re tempted to start cleaning the kitchen or are staring at that load of laundry.
- Headset or ear plugs to help with the noise can make a huge difference on calls.
- CALL! Yes "messaging" and "email" are great but also a way to jump into false assumptions. If you're not certain or feel frustrated of an email or message, call to confirm. You'll get work done much faster with less stress.
- Working with Family at home? Communication is key. Put up a list on the kitchen refrigerator of your scheduled today… Meetings you have lined up… What time you will be done, etc…
- Staying connected to your colleagues is the single most difficult yet important part of working from home. Staying connected with your direct report(s) is essential. Here are a few tips we practice at Ongoing Operations:
- We start each work day with a daily morning huddle on Microsoft Teams (cameras on!). We discuss wins, blockers, priorities by department, and any organizational announcements.
- Set up weekly or daily check-ins with your direct reports depending on what level of touch bases you are used to
- We end the week with an optional virtual happy hour for all employees – again, cameras are on! This is particularly helpful during stressful times such as the COVID-19 pandemic. It connects us all on a more personal level and allows people a chance just to talk and joke with one another. We try to keep it casual and not talk business, though of course sometimes it creeps in! You may realize some folks in your office are quarantining alone, and this may be the only chance they have to “see” people, which makes it even more important to stay in touch!