By now, many of us have been working remotely for a few weeks. With “shelter-in-place” becoming more prevalent (Houston just extended its “shelter-in-place” on this week), more of the workforce is going to find themselves working from home which is uncomfortable territory for a lot of people.
I personally think people can be just as productive working from home. Of course, it depends on the type of person and the type of work. Some roles are more conducive to remote work (IT, writers, sales, etc.). Others have more challenges (teachers, doctors, etc.). I worked remotely at a previous job as an Account Manager for a digital advertising agency for about one year. It had its challenges. I had to lead a team which was hard to do through video chats, emails and phone calls on a daily basis. However, I adapted and found ways to be productive.
I learned a lot from working remotely. The biggest thing I learned – and I was only able to realize this in retrospect – is that working from home without kids is a WHOLE lot easier than working at home with kids. See, I didn’t have kids when I worked remotely previously. Now, I have three who are ages 6 and under. With schools being closed until at least the beginning of May, this makes this working-from-home situation different and more challenging for working parents. Here are some tips from a parent's perspective on how to be successful and productive working-from-home in our new environment.
Be adaptable and get creative
First and foremost, know that you are not alone! Almost 50% of the workforce is female and 7 out of 10 are working mothers with kids under 18 years old. I’m sure a fair amount of to 50% male workforce has kids too. I’m just trying to illustrate that there are a lot of working parents out there, a lot of which are in dual-income households. If you are a working parent, know that this situation is not unique to you. Any major transition or change is going to cause some amount of distress, so my advice to you is to take comfort in the fact that there are plenty of others are being forced to adapt and get creative quickly too. Lean on one another. Stay connected with colleagues. Figure out what works and what doesn’t. Read blogs (shameless plug) from industry peers on their experience and advice. Once you can get past these initial stages of discomfort, you can better assess the situation, set a game plan, get prepared and lead a successful work-from-home operation.
Have a dedicated workspace
Honestly, for the first week, I enjoyed the break from my normal routine and worked with my laptop on the couch or at the breakfast table but the novelty wore off and I quickly realized I needed a place to work with no (well, let’s be honest, less) distractions. My husband and I are in a unique situation because we just sold our house and aren’t moving into a new house until late April. That means we’re living at my in-laws during this unprecedented lockdown, go figure. For us, we didn’t have a dedicated workspace to use. We are fortunate that my parents also live close so we set-up a desk, monitor and cables there. Whatever your situation is, try to find a dedicated space. Having a dedicated space doesn’t just limit the physical distractions, it also helps center yourself and get you in the right mindset to work productively.
Leverage technology and tools
Now, more than ever, you need efficiencies. This applies to everyone – working parents or not. Don’t let technology, or lack thereof, be the problem. Make sure you have set-up a workstation that meets all your daily needs. For me, I’m a minimalist. Most of my documents and programs are in the cloud so give me a power cord and I’m good. However, every job has different demands. Make sure you have all the hardware items you need like chargers readily available, a monitor or monitors (if yours can’t be removed from the office, then use a small TV around the house as a monitor) and a printer/scanner. Also, make sure you also have access and logins to all the software you will need. Don’t wait till 3 minutes before a call to realize you have to contact your IT department to reset your password, do it now. From a tools perspective, I found that you only really need four essential things: A shared file system (we use SharePoint), a reliable video conferencing system (we use Zoom), a platform to communicate with your colleagues (we use Teams) a working internet connection. There are tons over other useful online tools, but these are some of my most frequently used collaboration tools.
Make a schedule
This is key for working parents, especially dual-working parents. We are still expected to be getting our normal workload done but how do you do this when you have kids that need constant supervision? My suggestion is this: make. a. schedule. Since my kids are little, someone always has to be with them. If you have older kids, this may be a little easier on you but now the babysitting gig is replaced by the teaching gig. My husband and I decided to take “shifts”. He works in the morning and I work in the afternoon. The one not working, takes care of the kids. Then we both make up the hours by working in the evening once the kids are asleep. The days are long, but it works. We are still available on our “off-shifts” too for answering emails and calls but by blocking out uninterrupted time, we are both more efficient vs. having constant distractions over 8 hours. As long as you communicate this to people in advance, most of the time you can limit your calls and non-interrupted work to your dedicated shift. There will be an occasional urgent request in the off shift, and you will just have to adapt and make that work (see point #1 about being adaptable).
Maximize your time
I love commuting…said no one ever. With no commutes, there is no need to get dressed up in your 9-to-5 wear and not having to get kids ready and off to school – you should have some time back on your side. For me, this is a HUGE. I’m using this time to make up for my shorter workdays and putting back into work. I feel like that’s only fair – that my saved commute time should be reinvested into something I do for the company, hence I’m publishing a blog. This could be a chance to tackle operational items that have taken a back seat to client work. Whether that be documenting a process or improving internal operations – you now have time to do it. It could also be time for personal development related to your role. Take a training you have been meaning to take or read a book that inspires you to be a more productive employee. Even getting outside and exercising can improve work performance so you if are someone that has been neglecting your health due to lack of time, use your extra time as a chance to better your physical and mental health. At Veritas, we just started the 30-Day Fitness Challenge to encourage employees to be their best-healthy selves and redirect energy toward a positive goal. Whatever it is, take advantage of some extra time wisely.
Working-from-home under unusual conditions has its challenges. I’m writing this from the perspective of a working parent in a dual-income family, so these tips are most applicable to people in similar situations. Everyone’s situation is unique but the above advice can be applied to most people with tweaks to your unique needs. At the end-of-the-work-from-home-day, you can be very productive working remotely if you adapt quickly, prepare, set realistic schedules, communicate with your team and take advantage of the extra time you’re given.
At Veritas, we pride ourselves on our ability to be agile and adapt to new situations, including unexpected situations like COVID-19. We are committed to our clients and have adapted quickly to continue work despite the circumstances, we are committed to our employees by keeping them informed on the health of our company and checking in on the health of each other and most importantly, we are committed to our community and have been doing our part by encouraging employees to work from home (#stayhomeworksafe). If you are interested in knowing more about how we are responding to COVID-19 or need help or advice, we are here for you. Connect with us or subscribe to our blog to get monthly updates.