Working Remotely, COVID-19
For those who are not accustomed to working outside the office or from home, the last few weeks have introduced many unexpected changes into your routines. Here are some helpful technology tips to assist you in working from home effectively.
- Set aside a dedicated workspace
- Take time to schedule breaks
- Establish a routine
- Leverage communication tools to stay in contact with co-workers
- Be available
The Full Scoop
The phrase “telecommuting” first came into our vernacular in 1972. Jack Nilles was working remotely for NASA on a communication system and began telling people he was "telecommuting", and the rest as they say is history. COVID-19 has accelerated telecommuting faster than any other industrial revolution we could have imagined, and with it has necessitated changes to many of our daily habits.
I first started working remotely in 2007. I transitioned from driving downtown to work each day, to working from a quiet space in our home (at first our bedroom and then a room we added to our home). It became clear fairly quickly, that I needed a dedicated space to work. I was home but I was not really "home", and my family needed to adapt to the idea of giving me space and independence while I was working.
When I left my traditional job, to begin working remotely for a software vendor, I was given very good advice by a manager where I had been working. He told me to not feel bad about taking breaks throughout the day, that while working from home it can sometimes feel like you need to working nonstop to make up for "not being in the office", but in reality it is just as important to get up from time-to-time throughout the day to stretch, go for a walk, eat lunch, etc. Very good advice.
I also found that I needed to treat my working from home with the same dedication I would, if I were going into the office. Getting up early, getting dressed, dialing into meetings on time, etc. This was not a day off, this was time to get some serious work done - I just happened to be working from a difference space. I wanted to show to my employer, that they could trust me even if they could not see me. Establishing a routine became important to showing I was consistent and could always deliver.
The tools I used became increasingly vital, as was the importance for me to be familiar with how they operated. Being able to remote into client systems, setup conference bridges, share screens, etc. Now we have even more of these tools at our disposal, and many are inexpensive or in some cases free. High speed internet is more widely available and essential if you are going to transform your home into a modern virtual office. Keep in mind with COVID-19, systems are under a lot of pressure. One tip is to avoid starting conference calls or screen sharing apps on the hour (e.g. 9, 10, 11am, etc); if you are having trouble joining virtual meetings, suggest that they be scheduled to start 10-15 minutes off the hour (e.g. 9:10 am or 10:15 am).
None of this matters if you are a challenge to contact, do not respond to emails, phone calls or messaging apps. We have worked with some employees over the years, where we often questioned if they were working at all; don't be that person. Make sure to communicate actively with your employer and your clients, ask them and actively discuss the preferred methods for communication. Nothing reduces anxiety like being present and available to quickly respond to the needs of or your stakeholders.