Working from Home: COVID 19 and Beyond
As shelter in place rules and efforts to self-isolate become the norm across America and the world, millions of people are making an emergency transition to working from home. For some, this is a dream come true – for others it is a shocking dislocation. Even if you fall into the dream come true camp, the work from home (WFH) lifestyle takes some getting used to, especially if you hope to be efficient and highly productive.
Help is at hand though, because many of us have been engaged in working from home, or what is more formally termed as working remotely, for years. Here at Wodu Media, our team members are scattered across the world and linked to each other and our Florida, USA headquarters by the Internet. We work entirely remotely, and we are not alone by any means. According to data from the 2018 American Community Survey by the United States Census Bureau, 3.6% of the American workforce, or 5 million employees work at home half-time or more. That number has room to grow because Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicates that 56% of employees have a job that includes at least some work that could be done remotely.
Whether you want to call it working from home, telecommuting, remote work, distributed work, or mobile work, chances are this paradigm will only increase in prevalence into the future. When the current crisis subsides, many more companies will have recognized the value of remote work models. Others will want to be prepared to weather the next crisis with less disruption. So, with an eye to helping future-proof your livelihood as well as offering an immediate helping hand through the present emergency, here are five useful tips from a WFH pro.
1. Set Up a Proper Work Space
Google “remote work” and you will quickly encounter pictures of people sitting on couches, beds, and beaches with laptops. Some are in the backs of vans or on Hawaiian mountain tops. Although such scenarios are open to the seasoned remote worker, they are also to a large degree nonsensical. To get good work done, you need a proper office, and if you insist on using a laptop day after day, you better have a good optometrist. You need a quiet, comfortable work space, high-quality chair and desk (I have the Jarvis Bamboo Standing Desk.), printer/scanner/copier, file cabinets, and any other equipment and accessories common to your profession. Get a hot computer, fast Internet, and one or two big monitors; maybe take your office desktop box home if that’s allowable. WFH is no different than going to the office when it comes to a functional work environment and quality tools. In fact, WFH may present the opportunity to upgrade your situation as compared to the office and possibly on the company’s dime if you play your cards right.
2. Find Comfort and Efficiency in Routine
Everyone knows that normal working life is based on routine. In fact, that is part of the drudgery of it all. When you work from home, routine becomes your friend, especially if you are feeling shocked and dislocated by the switch to remote work. Sticking to a good routine is also the foundation of productivity. So set your alarm clock like always (Ok, maybe convert the commute time to sleep time.), set up the coffee maker, dress in your normal work attire if that makes you feel right, and establish a time when you have to be at your desk. For some folks, this might be easy because many companies will expect their people to be reachable during normal business hours. Meetings can be held as scheduled but in virtual mode, and on-the-fly consultations with colleagues will happen via email, SMS, Skype, or online collaboration platforms such as Basecamp and Slack. Many workers will find that WFH is not all that much different from going in to the office.
3. Stay in Touch
Depending on your individual situation, you may have frequent messages coming in through whatever communication channels you set up. This is likely if you work in one of those offices where people walk up with questions and such all of the time. Folks need to move forward with their tasks, so they will expect you to be responsive with quick replies. In many cases, heavy reliance on digital messaging is already common in the office, so WFH will not be that major of a change. Either way, respond quickly but be careful not to let emails and etc. become too great of a distraction. WFH is no different than the office in that sense.
4. Speaking of Distractions…
One thing WFH will do is make you aware of just how much work time is wasted with idle chit chat and even basic daily greetings. Many or even a majority of people regard work as a major part of their social life and there is no doubt that this cuts into productivity. At home, in silence, with spouse, kids, and pets locked out, it’s just you and the tasks at hand. Anything that breaks the focus is unwelcome, and you will soon come to recognize what a time suck simple phone calls are. At least, that’s the ideal. The reality is Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, your favorite news sites, and anything else that can and will happen when you are off the company network and have no boss looking over your shoulder. Now, it’s all up to you and your self-discipline. It comes easier for some than others, and this is another area where a solid routine is helpful.
5. Give Yourself a Break
As part of your routine, be sure to include the normal breaks and lunch hour you are used to. When you are alone, it is easy to get deeply immersed in work; before you know it 4-5 hours have gone by and you are so stiff it is difficult to get out of your chair. You don’t have people around you getting up and heading out for breaks and lunch, so set an alarm if needed. WFH also generally involves less walking around than being in the office, so make it a point to get up once an hour to stretch out and move a little. You may also want to consider a standing desk, and be sure to keep a good after-work exercise routine going.
Working from Home: Embrace the Change
The COVID 19 pandemic is forcing abrupt changes in the way we all live and work, and many of these effects will outlast the emergency to become permanent. Alert employers will discover efficiency and additional profit margin in having near-empty offices; in the past decade, many already have. For a simple example, consider electricity, heating, and air conditioning costs for a large office building. It is a good possibility that many people will find that WFH is their new occupational reality.
Like many who work in the fields of digital design, website development, and online marketing, here at Wodu Media we are very comfortable working remotely. With a little time, you can be comfortable too, and you will likely find that your working from home days are busier and include more interaction than when you were in the office.
Wodu Media is ready with expert help for companies, small businesses, and entrepreneurs making the transition to a WFH model and needing some help with their online infrastructure and digital tool sets. Get in touch via our live chat space, email, or phone (800-909-WODU) and we will help you adapt to the new working-from-home world.