Working remotely: The new normal
Around the world, global companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Twitter, and Amazon are clamping down hard on measures to ensure the safety of their employees and their communities by implementing obligatory work-from-home policies in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. And many other companies, Profound included, have followed suit, moving work from an office environment to telecommuting for millions of people practically overnight. And it is very realistic to assume that this ‘home office’ reality will be THE reality for many until further notice as this pandemic continues to cross borders.
But there’s good news: working remotely offers a host of benefits to both the remote employee and their employers. It can namely bring about increased productivity, which leads to more revenue for businesses. That is to say, working at home heavily reduces the number of distractions for employees. Not to mention it takes commuting (and all the headaches it brings) out of the equation, which also plays a significant part in stress reduction. And ultimately, these lower stress levels raise company morale, which is also good for its bottom line. As a whole, the company also has less recurring and operating costs to keep the business running steadily as a result of working from home.
However, for those who are not accustomed to the virtual workspace lifestyle, it can be quite an adjustment and this should not be taken lightly. By neither employers nor employees. So here are some guidelines and tips for those companies and entrepreneurs who are still new to this working-in-pajamas way of life (that is actually something to avoid, but more on that later).
For Employers: Communication, communication, communication
As an employer who has introduced a work-from-home policy, you must be very clear in your communication with your employees as they work remotely, creating specific guidelines. You must also make it your top priority to roll out communication programs to stay in touch with employees and facilitate their communication with their colleagues. Think of messaging services like Skype, Slack, and Discord.
The reason why this must be a top priority is that working from a home office can be quite a lonely experience, especially when workers feel disconnected from the rest of the company. So make sure to keep all communication lines open.
Also, you must give clear instructions as to what is expected of remote workers in your work-from-home policy. These can include instructions for their daily schedule, for reporting a personal injury or damage to company computers or laptops, the company’s overtime policy, and the protection of company information.
For Employees: Don’t lounge
Just because you can just let it all hang and take a casual approach to things like work attire, it doesn’t mean that you should just lounge around in your PJs. Take this seriously: shower, get dressed in proper clothing, sit on a proper chair. You must really make your home office an office and really put yourself in a frame of mind that you are working. It really is all in the attitude, because otherwise having a computer and laptop set up on your desk in a room in the house does not constitute a workspace. Amateur gamers have that too.
But this does not make having a proper workspace at home any less important when working remotely. If you are not living alone and you don’t have the luxury of having a home office in your own private room, then just do as much as you can to make a space in the house that is tailor-made for your work, and your work only. The purpose of this is to also send a signal to others in the house that they must not disturb you while you are there.
Also, make sure you set a beginning and an end to your workday. Just because you are working from home does not mean that the boundaries between home life and work life need to become blurred. Do morning rituals like morning stretches before you start work and then do some basic calisthenics after you have finished working to really give a sense of routine to your workday. Having this type of structure goes a long way towards keeping your productivity and morale up.
And if you are a parent working remotely, then stocking up on books and puzzles needs to be part of your plan for providing education and entertainment to your children. Using streaming services like Netflix is also a great tool. On Netflix, in particular, you can find fun and educational shows like Magic School Bus, PJ Masks, True And The Rainbow Kingdom and Ask The Storybots. Do what you can to work efficiently while having your children at home but remember to stay flexible about how much work you can get done while balancing work and child care. Now more than ever, maintaining a good work-life balance is of crucial importance.
Lastly, and most importantly, remember to do everything you can to stay healthy through all of this. Eat plenty of healthy foods in a balanced diet and remember to get up and walk around regularly, if only for 5 to 10 minutes.
For Teams: Have fun with this virtual workspace thing
In these trying times where negative headlines are the norm of the day, it is of vital importance for the company team as a whole to get creative with ways to keep the spirits up. There are fun and inventive ways to simulate a sense of business-as-usual and sociability on the digital platforms available to you. Schedule and send out invitations on Google Calendar for remote happy hours or small parties with themes where everyone can dial in on Skype, Slack or Discord. Also, celebrate birthdays, completed projects, online course completions, or any other milestone on these platforms. It may seem silly at first but it really is worth the effort to create some levity and foster unity among everyone.
And in the current situation, that is just what the doctor ordered.