Life with Covid-19 – How to slay working from home

130 Days

It´s been 130 days now since the first patient was diagnosed with the corona virus in Wuhan, China. With its rapid spread around the world, our everyday lives changed almost instantly, sweeping us off our feet and completely turning around our routines and the things we took for granted until now.
The economy in many countries has come to almost a full stop. A lot of companies are now forced to switch to remote working models to keep the business going at least a bit while at the same time protecting their employees
(everybody who doesn´t really need their employees to come to work should be doing that actually!!).
However, most companies and individuals are poorly prepared for working from home. Essentials like trust, equipment and tech, experience etc. are missing.

People already see this pandemic as the trigger for a fundamental shift in business, changing business models, communication channels and working models alike. So how can we master this shift into working from home as good and especially as fast as possible? How can technology help us make the long-distance (work) relationships actually work?

CBC Spark Radio’s podcast #469: Remote from Toronto this week focuses exactly on this topic. Nora Young and her colleagues talk about working from their kitchen tables while entertaining children, bad internet connections and how to interview guests when you don´t have access to recording studios anymore. During the podcast they are talking to Natalie Nagele, Wildbit CEO and co-founder, a company with employees working remotely from all over the world on a 32-hour week. They also spoke to Shawn D. Long, the dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences of Kennesaw State University, about the informal aspects of remote working such as the hallway chat or coffee break at the office.

According to her, we need some essential ground rules for working remotely.
Those are:

  • Trust: Leadership and team members need to learn to trust each other on the work their doing, as otherwise nobody will feel comfortable in the situation and work will be compromised.
  • Rewarding & Focusing on Output: Managers should stop looking at the clock and start looking at the actual outputs their employees produce. Some tasks can be done in much shorter time at higher quality at home than when in the office, where distractions are waiting at every corner. And there is no need to pretend you´re working on a task for 8 hours, if you could finish that in less than 4.
  • Asynchronous tools & Increased flexibility: When working from home, your employees should be given as much space as possible in the respective situation. Giving them that freedom will make work much easier for them and they will be much more motivated.

There are a lot of advantages to remote work:

  • When employees are able to schedule their workday themselves, they can actually find the maximum time to be productive and at the same time enjoy the maximum time to enjoy their free time.
  • Unlike at the office, at home there are no distractions such as co-workers passing your desk to have a chat. Instead, workers have the possibility to take intentional breaks when most suited and focus entirely on their tasks when needed.
  • Taking breaks can actually help to increase productivity and quality of work. Activities such as doing the laundry, washing the dishes or taking out the trash are good options to take off-screen breaks and taking a few steps to get your body moving.
  • For companies who have a good remote working culture, this automatically means of course access to a larger talent pool from all over the world.
  • On top, they provide working opportunities for disabled people who cannot leave the house or people with special needs such as those who are caring for a relative.

Of course, there are always challenges to working remotely as well, but they are always manageable:

  • One of the most important aspects of working together are social interactions, relationship building and team building. When only meeting in front of a webcam from time to time, this part of work can easily be forgotten. However, many options such as simple meetings to talk about private life (How was your weekend?), Demo or Knowledge Sharing Days where employees can present topics important to them, Games, or Team Retreats (well, obviously not these days) can increase team spirit.
  • Technical issues such as bad internet connections or failing technologies are of course a constant risk. However, with all the technologies we have available today and the right mindset, this shouldn´t be a game changer.
  • Lack of trust could lead to employees feeling the pressure to constantly be available and answer every text and email asap. Leadership should provide guidelines communicate clearly their expectations, so that employees know what to anticipate. Check-ins should be used adequately, and important tasks that need to be prioritized should be communicated, while for other less important tasks the employees should be given more space and flexibility.

For more information on the implications of organizational structure, new roles and business infrastructures check out the entire podcast here

My personal tips for working from home:

  1. Establish working spaces and private spaces: No matter where you want to work in your home, try to set up a working zone and a work-free zone. For example, set up a table where you work with the equipment you need. Don´t watch Netflix or start eating there, so whenever you sit down you are automatically in your work mode!
  2. Plan your time and stick to that plan: When working from home, especially when you are going to university and are able to schedule your work yourself without anyone checking in on your progress, it can be easy to fall back and binge watch a new series instead. I bet everybody has done that at one point, but I bet everybody also felt terrible at the end of the day when you didn´t get anything productive done. Instead, make a plan for yourself when you want to get up, what time you will eat and what time you will use for work and free time.
  3. Don´t sit down on your worktable with your pajamas and without brushing your teeth. Instead, get yourself ready for work like you would do when going to the office. Not only will this change your mentality and activate your working spirit, you also won´t have to think of an excuse why you can´t turn on your webcam…
  4. Make yourself a to do list and set yourself realistic deadlines for the tasks you need to get done – you will feel amazing when you can start ticking things off!
  5. Plan breaks and off-screen time, not only your work time! Try to focus on your work and increase your work quality when sitting in your work zone, and take regular breaks to switch up your thoughts for a while and get your body moving. Cook a meal, do your laundry … Instead of coming home from a long day at work and looking at your dirty laundry, you will actually be finished in the evening and you´ll have more time to spend on other activities.
  6. Enjoy the time of working from home and use the space without distractions and chatting. If you feel the need to talk to someone, you can always pick up the phone and chat away, but when you are focused and working efficiently, turn off all distractions at your house and get that work done!
  7. Try to find solutions with your colleagues or team members for social activities where you check in on each other and where you don´t only talk about the work to be done. Focus on private things or fun topics as well to build up relationships (check out this page for a few ideas on games or activities you could do together online).

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