The recent surge in confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the United States has U.S. officials urging employees to work remotely. As of this morning, March 13th, 1,714 positive cases of COVID-19 were reported along with 41 deaths. Amazon, Google, Facebook and Twitter were amongst the first big tech companies to quickly apply remote working policies. Because most U.S. businesses are ill-equipped to handle a sudden pandemic, some employees will be caught off-guard when they find themselves working from home for the first time in their careers.
While the idea of working from the comforts of home and avoiding commutes appears attractive to many Americans, maintaining focus in a setting that is mentally connected to winding down can be a challenge. Without the proper devices or an established routine and workspace, productivity levels can plummet. Having spent a quarter of my professional career working from my apartment, I was able to develop 5 major tips for success when working from home and maintaining productivity. The likelihood that the coronavirus will heavily impact our way of life grows by the hour, don’t let it disrupt your productivity and success when working from home.
5 Must Know Tips for Remote Working Success
- Establishing Your Routine
For most of us, a typical morning includes waking up at a certain hour, taking a shower and brewing a pot of coffee or tea. It is essential you continue your morning routine at home. While a perk of working remotely is sweatpants instead of slacks, continuing to dress the part will help maintain a sense of your normal routine and can even boost professionalism.
If taking short breaks throughout the day increases your productivity and improves your mentality, continue these breaks at the same times. Lastly, designate a location for lunch that is not your workspace.
- Designate a Separate Workspace
Whether you’re standing in front of an electric VARIDESK or sitting on a barstool at your kitchen island, your home workspace should be where your productivity levels are the highest.
From personal experience, this should not be a spot in your home that you typically use to relax and unwind, like a sofa in your living room or a game room that encourages procrastination. If you expect to attend video conference calls, checkout your backdrop and ensure anything personal is out of sight.
- Gather Necessary Devices
Do you live in a bustling city? Or in my case, did your neighbors in your apartment complex recently welcome their first child? Purchasing a pair of quality, noise-canceling headphones might be a sound investment to maintain a quiet work environment.
If in-person meetings with colleagues and business partners occupied your calendar, expect these meetings to occur via web-based collaboration software like Skype, Join.me or GoToMeeting. Become accustomed to the program before your first call. If you plan on presenting, mute all messaging and chat applications to eliminate distracting notifications. Lastly, make sure your Wifi-connection is strong to reduce static audio or pixelated video calls that are bound to happen.
- Inform Your Family and Friends of the Change
Discussing your temporary working guidelines with family and friends will reduce distractions and keep you focused on success. Of course, maintaining close communication with loved ones during a crisis is important, but smaller chats should still wait until scheduled breaks or after working hours.
If you have kids, your children are likely already home from school. Explain your designated workspace to them and emphasize the importance of being quiet during business calls. The audio mute button will be your friend during moments of chaos.
- Procrastination Kills Time Management
Vacuuming your bedroom or washing the dishes may make you feel productive during the day, but household tasks can often be acts of procrastination. Taking care of your home is important, but ensure these chores are not replacing challenging work assignment or a difficult call with your boss.
Bonus tip for Bosses and Employers
- Remain Calm and…Empathize
In the midst of a major crisis, exhibiting a detailed action plan may be evident, but expressing empathy to all employees during chaos is sometimes forgotten. In addition to their daily responsibilities, your staff is concerned about maintaining adequate food and supplies, the wellbeing of their families and friends, the unstable stock market and of course and their own health concerns. Disasters, like the coronavirus, that take a toll on human life are characterized by high levels of anxiety and uncertainty. According to a study published in the Journal of Urban Health on the West Nile virus epidemic and the Annual Review of Public Health,
“In a crisis, affected people take in information, process information, and act on information differently than they would during non-crisis times…People or groups may exaggerate their communication responses. They may revert to more basic or instinctive fight-or-flight reasoning.”
Right now, your staff is looking to you for more than just an action plan, and your dedicated employees deserve empathy during the coronavirus crisis.
- Covello VT, Peters RG, Wojtecki JG, Hyde RC. Risk communication, the West Nile virus epidemic, and bioterrorism: responding to the communication challenges posed by the intentional or unintentional release of a pathogen in an urban setting. J Urban Health 2001;78(2):382–391.
- Glik DC. Risk communication for public health emergencies. Annu Rev Public Health 2007;28: 33–54.
Written by Olivia Thomas, TownSq Product Manager