The COVID-19 Pandemic has forced numerous cities and countries to issue mandatory “shelter in place” rules, forcing the closure of any non-essential businesses. For many individuals that means they have abruptly found themselves working from home full time.
Working from home can be difficult for a number of reasons. You may not have the proper space or tools (desk, monitor, keyboard, etc.) to do work. With schools closing, you may have to juggle caring for children with taking conference calls. Maybe you just have a really slow internet connection.
So many workers out there are adjusting to new mandatory work from home arrangements because of COVID-19. Below are some tips, and best practices to help employees and managers get through this together. These are unprecedented times and we all need to be flexible with and understanding each other. Stay safe and healthy!
Staying productive while working from home
Create a routine: It can be tempting to roll out of bed and hop on your computer to start work, and then have your laptop nearby even in the evening. Short-term, this creates a sense of being “always-on” that can make you feel even more productive than you otherwise would be in the office. Long-term, however, this will burn you out, particularly when you’re stuck in the house for extended periods of time. Instead, try and set working hours for yourself, make sure you get dressed, don’t forget to eat, and take breaks. It sounds simple, but it’s important! As much as it can be tempting to wear pajamas all day, it won’t help you feel motivated or productive.
Choose a location: Everyone’s homes are set up differently, but, if you can, create separate space for yourself so you can draw boundaries between work and home. If you have kids, and it’s at all possible, set aside some time when you can close the door or have them work on a specific activity so you can give yourself space to think. Working at home full time eliminates the routine of “going home” at the end of the workday, so separating your space is a way of giving yourself this same reprieve at the end of the day.
Don’t forget to move: Intentionally stand up and walk around multiple times per day. If you can, go outside and take a quick break. This will help you to recharge and break up the day into manageable chunks. When you’re in an office you don’t realize how many “microbreaks” you take whether it’s talking to a colleague, getting up for water, or stepping out for lunch. When working from home, you need to be more intentional so you don’t lose these important social and physical interactions.
Stay connected: Use video conference and your phone to TALK (not just type) with your coworkers. A call can be much more productive than a back and forth email or chat conversation. Plus, it will help add some human contact, even if it’s virtual, to your day.
Communicate & set expectations: Make sure you’re in regular contact with your manager, at least once per day, and are clear on your goals and deliverables. It’s understandable that what’s possible to accomplish when everyone is working from home may change. If you have something going on in your personal life and need to adjust, communicate so that your manager is aware. When a whole team is dispersed, there’s no such thing as over-communication.
Some additional practices we use at Topia:
“Video On” is the norm for Zoom calls at Topia. We find it’s helpful and important to see our colleagues and it increases engagement on the call.
If you’re on a casual, conversational call with a few folks, sometimes it’s nice to take yourselves off of mute. It doesn’t work for larger or more complex calls because of the background noise, but it can facilitate more of a conversational tone in smaller groups.
COVID-19 has impacted each of us differently and we’re all managing through it in our own way. For example, we’re seeing frequent cameo appearances in our video calls from family members and pets. We’re trying to have some fun with it by taking meeting screenshots, and are supporting each other, understanding that we need to be flexible with each other and remember that each person is doing their best during these unprecedented times.
One of the key tenants of The Topia Way is to always assume positive intent in our colleagues’ actions. Deadlines and impacts of COVID-19 can cause stress, friction, and anxiety. Remember that everyone at your company is there to make it successful and you should assume positive intent in your interactions with one another.
Keep your calendar updated so teammates easily know when you’re available, and when you’re not.
If you need help – ask.