By Anne Whiting, Senior Consultant
If you are like me, you have crossed the line from working remotely as a matter of convenience to doing it full-time due to COVID-19. In fact, according to a new report from MIT, 34 percent of Americans who previously commuted to work are now working from home due to the coronavirus.
It has taken a few weeks to settle into working remotely. I have been adjusting to other changes the pandemic has brought, such as helping my 17 year old get set up for home school, college-aged children returning home to live in our already downsized house, and grocery shopping trips that now feel like NASA space expeditions. I thought the transition to working remotely full-time would be easy, but like any sudden change there is a learning curve and surprises. Here are a few of my discoveries.
Be open to unconventional solutions.
Finding a quiet, productive place to work in my home has been challenging. There are five of us competing for suitable places to conduct Zoom meetings and conference calls. My husband suggested that we set up a tent in our backyard for additional space since we live in temperate Northern California. What started as a joke became a necessary reality. Our Coleman® Instant Tent has become a surprisingly functional home office. I have learned how to use virtual backgrounds as needed and have space inside the house that is appropriate for video conferences with clients.
Establish healthy routines.
While it was rough at first, I have settled into a new routine for beginning and ending my workday. I enjoy the quiet moments of solitude in the morning before my family stirs. I use this time to connect with my East Coast colleagues and to center on what I need to accomplish both professionally and personally that day. Ending the workday requires a stronger commitment, because there is nowhere else I can go, and it is easy to find “just one more thing”. I have learned that publicizing my schedule, including lunches and breaks, helps both my coworkers and family know when I am available.
Embrace new collaboration technology.
Working remotely full-time has forced me to become more tech savvy. While I can access a vendor for tech support, our provider is overwhelmed with the influx of newly remote workers who require assistance. I have learned how to update the firmware on our router and researched and installed a wireless range extender to get the WiFi coverage needed.
I am also learning how to use collaboration platforms (e.g. Microsoft Teams and Zoom) more effectively. When my entire team is working remotely, the potential for interruptions is as high as it was when we were in an office setting. Learning to use the ‘Do Not Disturb’ function has helped me protect the time I need to concentrate on tasks. By the same token, I have become more mindful in my interactions with my colleagues. For example, to protect their time, I no longer send duplicate requests for information across multiple channels such as email and instant messaging.
Prior to working remotely full-time, being on video during calls was optional. Now it is fundamental; I have come to rely on the visual component to enhance interpersonal communication and realize that it takes energy to be fully present and attentive during video calls.
I am not sure how long I will be working from home as states are beginning to loosen their restrictions, but I am certain there will be additional waves of change as workplaces evolve in response to the pandemic. I welcome the lessons brought by this COVID-19 tryout and am thankful that working from home is an option for me. I have a deeper appreciation for my friends and coworkers who have done this for years and have learned from their experiences… and I totally get why Sheryl from the State Farm Commercial has a ‘she shed.’
If you need more information about how your employees or team members are adjusting, consider using a short, focused feedback tool like 3D Group’s remote worker tool or reach out for more ideas.