6 Tips for Working From Home Amidst the COVID-19 (Corona) Virus Outbreak
By Paula T. Edgar
March 18, 2020
The impact of the COVID-19 (Corona) Virus on our global community has been vast and created many challenges. One significant challenge that many people are dealing with is the recommended social isolation to “flatten the curve”. People are being encouraged or mandated to work remotely from home instead of commuting to work and school. As everyone adjusts to this new short-term normal, I am sharing some tips and best practices that make working from home productive, using the acronym CORONA (sorry).
O– Own your space
R – Remember you are working
O – Only do the task at hand
N – Notify stakeholders
A – Anticipate distractions
Phone Calls and Video Calls
- Maintaining contact with colleagues, clients, and/or professors while working remotely is important to foster greater engagement, accountability, and trust.
- When we are communicating via phone calls or emails, we cannot read people’s intentions or frustrations and it can challenge communication, especially when working with remote teams. In addition to phone calls, I recommend scheduling video conferences to connect with others. Video calls help to maintain human connection visually through seeing others’ eyes and facial expressions.
- In some cases, managers do not trust that their employees will be productive when they are working remotely, so it is necessary to set up consistent/scheduled meetings, (via video call if possible) to set expectations and timelines and to check in on projects and deliverables.
- Most of our communication happens via email. It’s important to make sure when crafting emails to be personable instead of just getting to the point, to check in with people, have pleasantries at the beginning of communication, and also to close out with something thoughtful so people feel heard, even via email.
- During the current situation, it’s even more important than usual to focus on specifics when drafting communication (use bullet points) and to keep emails short and concise, communication so that your correspondence does not add to the overwhelming amount of information that people are receiving.
Social media communication and content can sometimes be a distraction, but it can also be an effective way of staying in real-time contact with your colleagues to combat the effects of social isolation. Apps like Slack, WhatsApp, and Group Me are helpful to maintain the human connection with your professional, personal, and school networks.
Own Your Space
Organize your workspace
- Most people’s normal workspace is within an office setting, and they may not have an office at home. During this time of working remotely, it is beneficial to create a dedicated workspace, if possible.
- Having a dedicated workspace helps your environment to be “work like” and puts you in a work mindset. One issue with people working from home is that their space might be too comfortable and can prevent them from getting and staying in the right mindset to be “on” and productive.
- Having a dedicated workspace can also make your participation in video calls appear more professional.
Dress the Part
- When working from home, it is very enticing to want to stay as comfortable as possible (i.e. pajamas), however changing into business casual dress (emphasis on casual) is a good compromise for a home setting, especially when communicating via video call.
- Dressing the part also helps you to shift to work mode mentally, which can beneficially impact your work productivity.
Remember You Are Working
- When working remotely, it is important to follow your typical work schedule as much as possible, so that you can be available for your colleagues and clients. Sticking to your normal workday routine can also help to put and keep you in the work mindset.
- Start your workday off with a to-do list of what you want to accomplish, to hold yourself accountable.
- Do whatever you have to do to be prepared to start your workday. Have your phone and laptop charged so you don’t have any tech issues and can start immediately.
Only Do the Task At Hand
- Studies show that employees can be more productive when working from home because it allows for a flexible schedule, however attempting to multitask has been shown to be ineffective.
- While adhering to set office work schedules is a best practice for collaborative work, this is sometimes not when people are most productive. Working from home allows you the option to be more in control of your projects and to work when you are in the right frame of mind, but remember, don’t multitask!
- I use and highly recommend the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method that allows you to be more productive by getting work done in small chunks with small breaks.
- 20 mins work on one task – no distractions (phone on silent, no checking emails or social media)
- 10 mins break
- 20 mins on a new task or the same task
This method is very effective for getting assignments done because 20 minutes is digestible and easy to manage (in both thought and action).
- On a daily basis, in order to counteract the perception that you may be less productive while working from home, it may be helpful to send a brief end-of-day synopsis of what you have accomplished to your manager or team. (“Here’s what I got done, and here’s what I will get done tomorrow”)
- Everyone has different communication and management styles and also different preferences for when and how they want to be updated. Manage up by anticipating any potential requests and by being proactive. A best practice is to affirmatively check-in with your manager in order to facilitate better communication, rather than waiting for them to check-in with you.
- When working from home, there are lots of distractions – your bed, family members, tv, pets, etc. It’s important to know when you are most productive or when you will have the least amount of distractions and schedule your project time or conference calls around those times.
- Talk to others in your home in advance to let them know when you’re working and should not be disturbed.
- At the start of any conference or video calls, give the other attendees a heads-up by letting them know that you are working from home and that distractions may occur.
- Use the mute button when you are not speaking to prevent attendees from hearing any distracting sounds during calls.
- Instead of trying to hide your personal circumstances, be real and authentic about your situation so your colleagues can understand and empathize.
As a reminder, when done properly by incorporating the resources and tips above, working from home can be productive and mitigate some of the stress we are going through in this time of on-going change.
Be well, stay safe, and wash your hands!
Paula T. Edgar, Esq.
Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC