Last week, The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. As the situation continues to evolve and its effects are being felt even closer to home, people must proceed with absolute care and caution for not only themselves, but for the health and safety of others.
The topic of self-isolation and social distancing should not even be up for debate right now. This is an absolute necessity in a time with this level of uncertainty, and our duty as people living in such an interconnected, globalized world.
In an effort to mitigate risk, a rapidly increasing number of employers are shutting down their offices and many of you might be finding yourselves working from home suddenly. So, if you are new to working from home, welcome to the remote work club! We are an exciting group and glad to have you here. Although, we obviously wish it were under better circumstances. We’ve compiled some of our best advice to help you better transition to temporary, remote work life.
Gather Everything You Need From the Office
If you know your office is about to shut down or if you suspect that it will in the near future, begin to consider all of the items you have at your office that you need to get your work done. Begin to bring these items home and if possible, sync any items from your computer to a cloud storage system, so that you can access these files easily from home. Some things are out of our control and obviously we can’t bring everything home with us. But, if you can bring the item home without difficulty and within reason, or if it is absolutely essential to your work, we recommend bringing it home with you at the end of your next work day.
Set-Up a Home Office Space with Minimal Distractions
Carving out a dedicated work space in your home just for you can be difficult, especially if you are suddenly spending all day at home with your multiple roommates or entire family. Those quarters are going to feel extra tight now. Get creative and come up with inventive ways to “separate” your makeshift office. Partition your space with curtains, room dividers, or even furniture. Even if you don’t have the option of having a room to yourself, try to create the illusion of a separate space. If you find yourself in the situation of a “pop-up” co-working space with your significant other or roommates, be respectful of one another’s spaces and keep noise minimal. If you can get your hands on some noise-cancelling headphones, do it! These can be a total life-saver, especially if you have high-energy kids at home or some noisy, new “co-workers.”
Establish a Routine Immediately
The most challenging part of starting to work from home is establishing a routine that works for you. Everyone is different. We can become so accustomed to going into a structured office environment, that it might feel like we have too much freedom at home. So, how do we work out that balance efficiently and quickly?
Wake up at the same time you normally would. Follow the same morning routine you normally would. Do everything that you “normally would” except for getting into that car to drive off to work. You want to keep the same structure and schedule that your normal work office would have. Even though you now might be working from your cozy bed (which we don’t recommend if it’s too cozy!), you still have colleagues that rely on you and clients that need their deadlines met. Nothing else has changed, except for the fact that you are now conducting your work from a different location. Don’t fall into bad habits of watching Netflix while you work or spending time on social media. If your work doesn’t require you to have a phone beside you, keep it in another room – it’s a needless distraction that is often too tempting if it’s right beside us.
Communicate Regularly and Clearly
Working from home requires a higher level of communication that you might not be used to. In an office environment, we have the option to walk over to a colleague or to our boss to clarify something or to seek assistance. From home, we simply don’t. You might find your email inbox being bombarded, or you might be contributing to the bombardment of other people’s inboxes. This can be overwhelming in a time where all of us are adjusting and learning to work and communicate with one another in a virtual environment. Keep emails short and concise, but with enough detail so that you aren’t receiving unnecessary emails to clarify further. If it is possible, use Slack, WhatsApp, or other messaging tools to communicate with your coworkers and clients. If you often have meetings, download Zoom or Skype for Business and instruct others to do the same.
Use Digital Tools and Applications that Serve Your Work Needs
There are an infinite number of work-related digital tools and applications available today. Don’t get overwhelmed by all of the options out there. Keep it simple, do a bit of research, and use only a select number that actually benefit you, your team, and the work that you all do collectively. Click here for some of our favourite apps that we as Virtual Assistants rely on for our work. For everything else, we’ve come up with a list for you below.
- Microsoft Teams
- Google Hangouts Chat
- Facebook Workplace
Video Conferencing Tools
- Skype for Business
- Google Hangouts
- Facebook Messenger
Cloud Storage Tools
- Google Drive
- Amazon Drive
- ProofHub (Project Management)
- Time Doctor (Time Tracking)
- Microsoft OfficeLens (Scanning Files)
- iDoneThis (Task Management)
- Chimp or Champ (Feedback Tool)
As the unpredictable COVID-19 situation continues to unfold, we must continue to be vigilant and act responsibly to keep our communities and ourselves safe and healthy. It might feel like the entire world is turned upside down at the moment. As the impacts are increasingly felt closer to home and we are suddenly learning how to adjust our daily lives and routines, it is critical that we are all proactive and remain patient in our global effort to contain the COVID-19 virus.