The global outbreak of the COVID-19 virus (also known as the Coronavirus) has changed the landscape of workplaces all over the globe. Some businesses have completely shut down physical work operations in the short-term; and while this might seem extreme, many businesses have adapted some form of a remote-style workplace. Remote work has been instituted mainly to practice “social distancing”, a term that in practice will limit the spread and severity of the virus. COVID-19 spreads when small droplets containing the virus are released, such as when an infected person coughs, sneezes or even just talks. These droplets can land on other people as well as on surfaces that when later touched, can transfer the virus to the next person. The result of this rapidly-spreading virus is that many businesses and individuals are self-quarantining to limit the mass spread of the virus that would occur in the physical workplace. This leaves many business professionals wondering how to efficiently maximize their work time while working from a couch in the comfort of their own home.
Working from home can be difficult, as the home is somewhere individuals usually go to relax and unwind after a long day at the office. However, your home does not need to be a place where workplace productivity disappears. We at PlexTrac have plenty of experience working remotely, and wish to offer a few tips and tricks to maintain the killer work ethic you’ve developed in the office:
One of the most common ways that remote work gets bogged down is from a lack of available tools in your new workplace. Individuals usually have the perfect hardware, software, and human capital setup in their office space. While you can’t replicate the human aspect of work, you can maximize your efficiency to work at home with a couple simple actions.
First off, having devices with the correct software installed is a great way to ensure a smooth transition to remote work. Making sure you have the correct and full list of company programs at your disposal ensures no task or project needs to be pushed off or delayed. Users working from home can be just as efficient (if not more so) with the right tools in your toolkit. This relates to your hardware as well. If your workplace has normalized a certain setup for you, try to replicate that in your household. Having multiple monitors, a dedicated desk or workplace station, or installing other “normal” work setup situations for you will make sure your home office still feels like an office, and not just a place to binge-watch Netflix.
While you may have a great hardware and software setup at home, you also need to ensure you have access to valuable human capital as well. This is one of deficiencies that plagues remote work the most, but it can be minimized.
Human capital is vital to the efficiency of any workplace. While you may be smarter than most and may think you have solutions to every problem in your way, the hard truth is that we all need communication and collaboration. You may not have a team surrounding you physically, but there are programs out there you can use to ensure you have access to the right people at the right time.
The first program many workplaces require is Slack. Many of our readers use Slack or a similar tool even while working in a physical office, but it becomes even more crucial of a tool when working remotely. Slack is a great program to message your entire company, a general team or subset of your company, or even a specific individual you might want help from. Slack helps make ensure your workplace can transition as seamlessly as possible from physical to digital.
There are other applications will be vital in your quest for remote work success. One of the most important besides an “always there” messaging platform like Slack is a program to replicate face-to-face interactions. These face-to-face interactions often guide organizational success, so it’s vital they don’t disappear. We use the Zoom platform for our virtual meetings, but applications like Skype and even FaceTime can serve as more than passable substitutes for in-person meetings. It is crucial that you have these meetings at least once or twice a week in order to coordinate workplace efforts and update each other on successes you’ve had and that roadblocks that inhibit your progress.
When working in the office, you likely were at your job from 9-5 Monday through Friday. While you might not be traveling to work anymore, you need to stay productive and stick to a set schedule. With the many distractions present at house, your hours are likely to change, but this change should be minimized as much as possible.
There are many ways to keep yourself and your schedule in check. The first, and most important is to set a daily work itinerary. This will keep you responsible for the meetings, assignments, tasks, and goals you set in place for yourself. This will also allow you to prioritize work and fit tasks in where you can, because remote work offers more flexibility (and thus, ambiguity) than a physical setting. An itinerary will help you sort through the clutter and distractions to concentrate on what’s important and maximize the time you have to be effective on a daily basis.
Many people also find success using software or time-tracking apps to manage their time. Spreadsheet software programs like Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel are great tools to track working hours and provide productivity details to yourself and your employer. There are also dedicated work tracking programs on the Internet, such as RescueTime, Clockify, and more to keep track of the time for you. These programs will help keep you honest and on track.
We’ve all heard it before: Exercise gives you energy and keeps you productive. However, this statement is backed by research and science, and is crucial to staying productive in your remote working environment. It’s easy to get sucked into living on the couch or at the desk, but this behavior can lead to the development of unhealthy habits that keep you tired and inefficient. Many people commute by biking or walking to work. Even those who don’t have to get up and move around on the way to work or at the office. This is not the case for those working from home. Nothing is forcing you to leave the comfort of your house, and that can be a tempting situation for inactivity.
With all this being said, activity to key to the healthy behavior of humans. Try to work in some sort of exercise or active behavior into your daily routine. This activity can be small or large in nature, ranging from a walk or errand to a full-blown workout. However, studies show that at least 30 minutes of exercise per day can lead to a rise in physical health, reduction in stress, and a boost in energy and mood.
In the world of remote work you might feel guilty for taking breaks and doing other “non-work activities”. Don’t be! It is easy to get caught up in your work and forget to eat meals and take other dedicated breaks. However, these breaks are what gives you the energy to power through the day. These breaks give you the ability to produce quality work in a timely manner. Don’t forget to take care of yourself and balance your hard work with plenty of time to recharge and regroup.
With all of this being said, plan work breaks into your daily itinerary. Setting specific times for breaks both ensures that you actually take them, and that when you aren’t on break that you’re bringing your A-game.
COVID-19 is affecting people in different ways. Some people have been working remotely for years, and thus will not see much change in their schedule. However, some people have never done so and may struggle to make the transition. We hope that this article provided tips, clarity, and reassurance to those unfamiliar with remote work.
Be sure to communicate with your employer about the specifics of your current working situation. This communication will provide additional clarity in deciding if remote work is something you can (or have to) do to limit the spread of COVID-19. Also, make sure to stay updated on the specifics of the virus and take all necessary precautions to limit your potential exposure to the virus.