While many Americans started 2020 commuting to their jobs, the onset of a global pandemic quickly showed just as many that their jobs can be done from remote locations. As “stay-at-home” orders shut down state after state, extending a short-term change in the workplace environment from on-site to virtual, a lot of companies have realized that there may be some benefits to not having their employees return to the corporate office full-time. As the new “hybrid” working environment is making itself more popular, it’s very clear that there is an adjustment period for the company, the employees, and their families.
“Working from home” has long been a term associated with parents who want to stay home with their kids and make a little side money. However, this virtual working concept was already gaining popularity in the past few years as technology applications were created to help companies connect across the global, cutting down on travel, and ultimately costs. While workplaces were starting to see the benefits of having their workers move to a remote environment, most were not prepared to have to do so immediately in 2020-and it has been a rough adjustment for many. Now that states are opening back up, some organizations are starting a “hybrid” workplace concept, meaning they are having their employees work from home, and at the office.
We have talked to some of our colleagues and corporate clients about the ups and downs of switching to a remote/hybrid working environment, and asked them to share their personal insight as to how to navigate the obstacles and challenges, as well as the perks of having a home office for the first time. Here are some of their tips to help make your new “workplace” as productive and normal as your former office was.
Establish your workspace in your home. Try to find a room separate from living, dining, or sleeping spaces so that you truly feel like you are in an office setting. Make sure your modem and router are both up to speed and that your wireless connection is strong enough for your occupational needs in your new office space. If you are lucky enough to have a door to your workspace, make sure your family members or roommates know that when the door is shut, you are not to be disturbed.
Know your virtual communication applications. What programs will your company be using for team meetings and communications? Zoom? Webex? Find out what you will be using the most for teleconferencing and give yourself a quick tutorial so you don’t miss out on important information and events.
Stay organized. If you are an employee that is having to learn the “hybrid” concept for the first time, organization will be key. Find a way to keep important files and notes electronically in a shared drive or database so that you are not constantly moving piles of papers to and from your work environments. Have everything on your laptop ready to go so that wherever you have to be logistically, you still have access to everything you need for meetings.
Create a schedule. There will be times when you are going to be required to be in the office for in-person meetings. Work with your supervisors and colleagues to find common days and times to be in the office, when necessary. As the whole purpose of social distancing is to limit contact, be sure that you are only including the people who absolutely need to be sitting in the conference room and any others can be brought in from their remote locations.
Plan for changes in your salary/benefits. If a car allowance is part of your monthly income, you need to be prepared that the amount you’re currently getting may be reduced or eliminated altogether. I mean, you’re not driving to work full-time anymore, so why should the company be compensating for you to do so? As our economy has taken a huge hit due to the global pandemic, more and more companies will be doing anything they can to cut costs to make up for their financial losses. Headcount and benefits are usually the top costs in many organizations, so these will be the first areas to see cuts.
Be prepared for the future. If your company doesn’t need you to come into the office on a full-time, they may also realize that they don’t need you to work full-time anymore. Then, eventually you may not even be needed part-time. Meaning…you just got laid off…permanently. Start planning now for a potential job change..today. Reduce your spending and find ways to stockpile some cash, should you find yourself unemployed. Update your resume and LinkedIn profile so you are ready to hit the ground running if you need to start looking for a new job. Network amongst your peer group, family members, and colleagues to see what is out there in your industry and beyond. While some companies are going under, there are just as many thriving and adding to their workforce.
As we continue to try to live and work during these “uncertain times” caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, being prepared for the unknown will be key to surviving. The new “hybrid” work environment concept that has been a direct result of what’s going on in the world will be a win for some and a huge loss for others. Hopefully these tips will help to ensure that you are one of the “winners” in 2020.
Many of us have been working from home for years. Now called a “Virtual” or “Remote” environment, with the global healthcare crisis consuming daily activities, many more of you are getting the opportunity to see that “working from home” isn’t always as glamorous as it seemed when you were working outside of the home. However, there are things you can do to make the experience a positive and productive one for you and your family.
Logistics & Structure: Your first priority is to establish a space for each person to work in, and if you have kids home from school or college, they are going to need a place to study and do homework as well.
If you have the room in your home, try to give each individual their own space to work in. Whether it be an established home office or setting a card table up in a basement or spare room, make your workplace as close to your office/dorm/classroom setting as possible.
Establish work/quiet hours as much as you can and save your evenings for downtime.
Make spaces like the kitchen and family room “No Work” zones, so you still have a place to gather without interrupting someone who is trying to work.
If you are tight on space, work with each other to prioritize who gets the “quiet space” at certain times.
If your internet service is not optimal, look into other options. Many internet providers are offering WiFi packages for homes that may not have it, or may need to upgrade their speed, with minimal, or in some cases no extra fees.
Communication is Key: While the original “work from home” environment is usually one person, by themselves most of the day, that scenario has changed for many of us. Now we have a spouse, college or school-aged kids, and even toddlers who can no longer go to daycare/school/college surrounding us all day while we are still trying to work…oh my!
Consider your family your new team of colleagues. You still have a job to do, and they probably do as well, so have a team meeting upfront and establish some guidelines for your new corporate office setting.
Communicate with your family the times you can and cannot be interrupted. A lot of professionals are still dealing with conference calls and virtual meetings, while students are having to sign into remote learning sites at specific times. Everyone needs to be on the same page. If you have a door for your space, keep it shut so they know not to bother when it is shut (as my teen just barreled through my door with a non-essential life question, clearly I failed to communicate what “when the door is shut” means).
If priorities or deadlines change (and believe me, they will), make sure your team is aware of these changes and lets you proceed accordingly.
Don’t overcommit to clients or colleagues regarding when you can complete a project or get online for a meeting. Depending on the ages in your home, you may find that your corporate colleagues and clients would rather “meet” after hours when kids are in bed, or early in the morning before the kids are jumping off of the walls and needing your attention.
Keep Work and Family Separate: We all have work and school commitments, but we all also need to remember that we need our normal family time as well (remind me of this again after our three weeks of in-house isolation is up-lol). This situation is new to all of us and navigating through it on top of each other in one space is going to take an emotional toll on everyone involved. Stay strong and set the tone for your work and family environments.
Bring back the family dinner – at the table or in front of the television – at least you are having a meal together!
Still talk about your workday/school day so everyone has an opportunity to talk about what is actually going on in their own virtual worlds.
If your kids are willing (raise your hand if you have a teenager), try to do a movie or game night and leave the “screens” on their chargers for an hour or two. It may just lead to laughter and fun…you never know.
Have a “Project List” of things that need to be done around the house. If one of your team members has a really frustrating day, ripping out that nasty half-bath wallpaper from 2002 may be the key to feeling better.
When the weather allows…get OUT of the house. Take a walk by yourself or with the family, play a yard game, etc. Do something that gets you outside of the work/school environment, even if it is only for a short time period. Fresh air is great!
These are unprecedented times for ourselves, our families, our places of work, our nation, and our world. Change is hard on many of us-and “social distancing” and “shelter in place” are not only new terms but also a new way of life for all of us. Perseverance and tolerance will be key in guiding your family through this pandemic and time of isolation and fear in our world. Emotions will run high, but if you communicate, try to focus on your work and family needs, and keep a positive attitude, your “team” will be more productive and stronger in the long run. This too shall pass and your working from home environment will eventually be yours again!
If you’ve been dreaming of being able to work from home and have finally started to live the dream… the first month of working from home is a reality check.
This is the time you figure out what will and will not work for you. You might have set up your working space according to cute ideas on the internet and discovered that you hate actually working that way. You may realize that you need to get dressed in order to be productive. You certainly will discover that everybody (including you) thinks you can do all the household chores as well as your job. Working from home does not mean you can “do it all.” It means you can be flexible in figuring out what works best for you and your family, but some things will still need to be delegated or eliminated from your lifestyle.
Get everybody’s input on what is important and prioritize the top three for each person. One couple’s list looked like this: wife wanted laundry kept up, kitchen neat, and bed made. Husband wanted laundry kept up, living room neat, and cookies always in the cookie jar. So the family priorities were laundry, picking up once a day, making the bed in the morning, and keeping cookies around.
Everybody living in the home has a job. Let little kids make their own beds and put their toys away. They get better at it the longer they do it by themselves. Really!
Relax standards. Health & safety hazards are important, but perfectly folded towels aren’t.
Working from home means you CAN do a lot more! Most of the time you have the flexibility to move the laundry from washer to dryer during the day or keep an eye on something in the oven. You can plan work times around naps or get a mother’s helper a few times a week. Every family has different needs, and those needs change as its members grow. The reality of working from home isn’t like a daydream, but it is the best choice for many families.