When New York issued stay-at-home orders in March of 2020, the continuity of doing business suffered for many. In the case of my company, however, it was business as usual.
Why, you ask? Our business and team have been working remotely from day 1.
While many businesses did not have the luxury to pivot to online, I am going to provide you the essential tips and tricks for both remote work and hybrid as this is now mainstream.
Where will you work remotely?
This is the biggest part of the puzzle. Working from home is great, but you will need a space to do the work. While I have a dedicated home office, many friends of mine have resorted to various spaces such as converted closets, garages, guest rooms, etc.
In some areas, the weather even permitted working outside. I have found that in order to be successful at work, a dedicated space needs to be defined. Working at the kitchen table and then losing that workspace for mealtime is not ideal.
Focus on finding a space that doesn’t need to be moved or transported each day.
A folding table and an office chair are relatively inexpensive. In some cases, companies even allow you to take home supplies and equipment for work use. In a pinch, the party table from work and your desk chair may suffice.
How will you deal with the technology?
Most companies traditionally have separated home and work in terms of support. Your IT department at work is not necessarily going to support you at home. In 2020, this changed! An essential part of this equation is finding out if employees are covered under this support umbrella and what are the boundaries. For employers, the key here is to set those boundaries.
It is essential that you use your work equipment (laptop, phone, printer, etc.) for work only, as this is mandatory.
One big advantage in these times is that many line-of-business applications we use are cloud-based. This allows us to truly work from anywhere. There are still times where you need access to files that are not in an app.
For those times, file sync-and-share services are essential. They allow you to have a “file server in the cloud.”
From a technology standpoint, I feel the following are necessary “tools of the trade” to work from home:
- External monitor(s) if space permits
- Phone (Either a desktop phone or softphone on your PC)
- Printer (If needed for work docs)
- Camera and mic (Built into a laptop; use a better one if you are conferencing a lot)
- External lighting and back-drop if you do a lot of video calls
All the above is only applicable with internet access. For anyone without internet, or good internet, check to see if your phone can be used as a hotspot or perhaps your company has one they can loan to you for work activities.
One new challenge will be for companies to determine a work from home stipend for employees. Like per mile rates for employees using personal vehicles for work, use of services at home such as power, internet, and phone should be covered as well for work-related activities.
How can you “be at work” remotely?
It’s easy when working from home to succumb to the distractions that are all around us. Cleaning, laundry, doorbells, kids doing on-line classes; the list goes on and on. The key to “being at work” remotely is to set boundaries both for yourself and for those around you.
While it may not be feasible to block out 8 straight hours for work, look for some flexibility. Consider 2-hour blocks with 30 min – 1 hour breaks in-between? This may give you that precious time needed for time-sensitive tasks. There is also what I call “travel time.” In a traditional office environment, you have the time between tasks to get to your next meeting and grab a coffee. How about using that time at home to throw in a load of laundry or answer a quick question about your kid’s schoolwork?
There are many studies that show working from home leads to more productivity from the employee.
How will you be productive and keep your cool?
Some think that employees who work from home now have unlimited time and availability. It’s 9 p.m.? Can’t you just get me that info really quick? Again, boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. Just because you are working from home and receive messages and email after hours does not mean you should and/or must respond to them.
Also, working from home means you are “living at the office.” Do not get Zoom fatigue! Get out of the house! A quick walk or some other activity (shopping, errands, etc.) to get out of home/work is good for the mind and body.
Once you navigate all the above, how do you handle hybrid work? As companies are starting to open back up, this is now a new road to navigate.
For hybrid work to be sustainable there must be a few ground rules:
- Work out a schedule up-front. This is key to ensuring the office is not too full and there is some regularity to the schedule.
- Equipment that may have been brought home has to be brought back or duplicated for use in both places. (What better time for an upgrade at the office?)
- Make sure the plan is amenable to both the employer and employee. Some people want to stay remote; some thrive to be back with their co-workers. Create a plan that works for everyone.
Our work/life balance has never been swayed as much as the past year. However, with good planning and common-sense, a sustained work from home or hybrid plan can work well. My company and co-workers are living proof.