Due to the pandemic of COVID-19 many people in the workforce are finding themselves suddenly thrust into working from home. For some, the shift is easy, as they have the freedom to work from home during inclement weather or when they’re sick, but for many, this is brand new territory.
As of today, only 25% of non-essential New York businesses are permitted to report to their office to work meaning most New Yorkers are now required to work from home. Some of the biggest challenges both employees and employers face when shifting to a work-from-home model include having workers that struggle with loneliness, how to manage their time and poor communication among staff.
Furthermore, many of those now working from home are trying to juggle their work, along with ensuring their children complete schoolwork, while managing their household at the same time. While this is not an easy shift, there are steps you can take to make the transition easier, and ensure you have the ability to do your job efficiently and effectively.
The first thing you need to do to work from home efficiently is to create a real workspace for yourself. Ideally, this is a room with a door you can close, but if that isn’t available to you, a table or desk will work. Set up your workspace in a way that will be conducive to your work. Set up a second monitor if you need, get a mouse for your laptop, and make sure there is ample lighting. If you know you’ll be on a lot of calls, a headset will free up your hands so you can type, and will also prevent you from straining your neck.
You may already have everything you need to work from home, but in the event you don’t, take some time to review your needs with your employer and order the necessary equipment. If possible, create a workspace that can remain intact for the entirety of the work-from-home period so you don’t need to dismantle and set it up each day.
It’s also important to minimize distractions while you work. Again, if you don’t have an office or private space to work, this may present a challenge for you. Using noise-canceling headphones to drown out the noise in your home, may provide some relief in this area. Or, if you have a spouse working from home as well, consider taking shifts working and taking care of your children to give the other some quiet time to work.
This is a key step, especially if you have children at home during this time. This is something you may need to do each night as each respective family member’s tasks and responsibilities will change daily. Some things to include are when to start your workday, the tasks you need to accomplish for work that day (more on this later), when you’ll take a break, and when you’ll end your day. It’s important to stress the importance of everyone sticking to your schedule and for the members of your household to give you the space and time you need to perform your job efficiently.
Since many people normally have lunch breaks during these workdays, you should be consistent in scheduling a little time off for yourself so you don’t burn out or get too distracted. Taking a 10-minute walk or playing with your kids for a few minutes in the middle of your workday can actually help increase your productivity.
If your job already has a workflow management system in place, you can move on to the next step. However, if you don’t, read on.
When working remotely, task management is absolutely vital to ensuring employees stay on task, and that there is open communication between staff. Some great programs to consider are Asana, Monday, Trello, or Teamwork. Use these tools to assign work, communicate questions or potential problems with tasks, and create a collaborative environment for teams to work together.
If paying for a management program isn’t in the budget for your company you can even create a shared Google Sheet to track tasks and leave updates on the work.
Clear and constant communication is another important aspect of successfully working remotely. Having daily or weekly team meetings via video chat can help get everyone on the same page, and allow people to ask questions or clarify work tasks.
Some programs to consider for video calls, phone conferencing, or webinars are Zoom, GotoMeeting, Google Hangouts, Skype, Microsoft Teams, or even FaceTime. These programs can be used on your laptop or even from your phone if you download their app.
Another benefit of having video chat capabilities is to have the ability to continue meeting with clients, which will allow much of your business to carry on as usual.
Another great communication solutions for questions or issues that don’t warrant a phone call are chat platforms. Platforms like Slack and Google Hangouts offer messaging solutions for quick questions that can replace physically walking over to someone’s desk to speak to them.
One benefit of working in an office environment that many people will miss is the social interaction. If you find yourself in this position, take steps to schedule a time to interact with others on FaceTime or another video chat program to connect with others and combat feelings of isolation.
While navigating through all of these changes can be tough on both employees and employers, finding a strategy that works for your business can help you make it through.