Remote work in the age of coronavirus

Everyone is preparing for large-scale containment to combat the spread of the new coronavirus.

This is why: Working remotely is not an option, but a necessity

This health crisis forces us to make one rule: Your home is the new office

Coronavirus: how to work well from home?

Working from home can be very convenient, especially if it can save us from the nasty coronavirus.  

However, being away from the office comes with its own set of pitfalls that can reduce your employees’ commitment, productivity and motivation.

Most writers, designers and other web professionals know that one of life’s little pleasures is being able to work from home. You don’t want to get stuck in traffic jams or in an office drinking bad coffee, sitting in an uncomfortable chair. Instead, we should work from home at our own pace and under conditions that suit us (some people don’t even leave their pajamas).

Here are some rules and good tips to follow absolutely during the period of isolation that we go through to work effectively at home:

15 rules to follow to work well at home

  • Don’t make yourself at home: Stay Professional!

Working in pajamas is not motivating! Dress for work as if you were leaving home.

A remote work day is a work day. It starts as soon as you wake up. 

Just because your office is at home doesn’t mean you don’t have a dress code and you can walk around in your pajamas all day, even naked! 

Things should stay the way they were when you went to the office.

Do this for the good of your mind and for effective remote working. To make your days even more productive, force yourself to get dressed! Take care of yourself and keep your daily gestures.

If you’re dressed and clean, you’ll have a much more professional attitude when you call people. And you’ll get better results. Don’t fall into the trap of being overly relaxed when communicating with others just because you’re wearing your rabbit-eared slippers!

  • Schedule your tasks

Starting a day knowing nothing of what you’re going to do do dooms you to failure. 

Before starting his activity, the employee is therefore asked to define with his manager the time slots during which he is supposed to be available.

When you work at home, you’re solely responsible for your schedule. No co-worker or boss to get you back on track if you get distracted.      

Therefore, it is good practice to make a work plan for yourself, to determine your goals. Clearly determine your goals, whether long term or short term, so that you are motivated and don’t get overwhelmed by unnecessary actions.

Try to draw up a list where the items will be prioritized. Being organized is important. 

  • Build your cocoon and choose a fixed workspace:

Whether you have a desk or a small work table, make sure this area is reserved for your professional activities. It will be much easier to leave work at the end of the day and not let it interfere with your family life. Choose an area away from the hustle and bustle of the house or consider a quiet corner in your garage or basement that will serve only as an office. And, no, your couch or bed doesn’t count. One of the best tips for working at home is to have a specific workspace . And don’t stay in the bedroom or couch under any circumstances!

In remote work, there is only work. Working at home doesn’t mean relaxing in bed or working in the shower.

  • Establish clear boundaries – Separate work and personal life

Oh, no, you don’t! It’s not the perfect time to do your laundry.

It’s always best to separate work and private life, but it’s essential when both activities take place in the same place.      

During your working hours, don’t let outside activities interfere with your work. While it’s easier to avoid these distracting moments at the office, at home everyone can reach you and disturb you.   

In the same logic, in order to be efficient it is necessary not to blur the boundaries between work and leisure. Remote workers should therefore choose a dedicated space to carry out their professional activity. If possible a closed room.

Remote worker can indeed lead to work-family conflicts, as family members may interrupt work, especially if there is no room dedicated to remote worker, or make requests for availability which they would not express if the person did not work at home.

It is therefore advisable to inform your family as much as possible of your schedule and remind them to contact you only if the situation is important. The distinction between professional and private life is essential.

Take care to keep everything separate – work only during office hours and only in your work space. This will allow you to “close the office door” at the end of your working day.     

In short, remote working means more freedom, more comfort, but also more responsibility and discipline.

  • Working with regular hours

Just because you’re home doesn’t mean you can’t be on time. Plan your work day as if you were in an office. If you have children, consider sharing custody with another parent who works from home. That way, you can take turns enjoying these much-needed periods of uninterrupted time. Stick to fixed office hours, whatever they may be. Consider yourself “on duty” during these hours. Plan to report to work and leave work at the same times. This will allow you to set boundaries between work and family life.

  • Stay connected to your business – Say hello to everyone

One of the most important rules of remote working is to preserve team spirit, so you need to talk often with your managers and colleagues.

When you work at home, you will not see your boss or colleagues often, so it is important to contact them frequently. Send an email to confirm receipt of a shipment, call a colleague to talk about a project and make it clear that you can be reached and that you are available all day.

Trying to say hello in the morning or virtually sharing a coffee in a videoconference is important first to reduce the sense of isolation that the remote worker may feel. In fact, distance can be a source of isolation due to more formalized exchanges and reduced sociability moments.

Beyond sociability, communication is also essential with the manager and the employees. Remote workers should therefore be transparent, especially about the breaks they take, and inform their manager to ensure that the day runs smoothly. In short, being contactable and transparent is a way of reassuring people that they are available and involved.

  • Take breaks, it’s necessary

Finally a break? Yes, logical.

To better remote work, organize a schedule and a to-do list! Divide up a specific working time for each task you have to do and take 10-minute breaks every 2 hours.

Take a few minutes during the day to relax. Take time to recharge before returning to work and the rest of the day will go much better. It’s not always easy, but it’s necessary. These short breaks are essential to keep your mind clear.

However, you still need to set a time limit for each break.

Remember that a lunch break is one of the things that can make you happier and healthier at work.

  • Don’t eat in front of the computer

Don’t eat your lunch in front of the computer: it’s a chance to have lunch with your family and to talk about the seriousness of the situation that this microbe has plunged us into. 

Plan to take an hour’s lunch break, just as you would at work. It’s not a matter of eating a meal prepared in 10 minutes, take some time for yourself!

  • Don’t clean up

Resist the temptation to tidy up or embark on big projects when working from home. Stick to your regular cleaning schedule. To avoid having to clean during the week and stay focused on your work, do these tasks on the weekend.

  • Don’t waste too much time on shopping

It’s tempting to shop when you’re working at home to avoid the weekend rush, but you have to be reasonable. If you work from home, you may receive an e-mail or call about a work problem that you need to deal with immediately.

Try to do your lunch hour shopping or simply let your team know that you’ll be out all afternoon and will be working later in the evening to make up for lost time.

  • Don’t over-offer your services

Even if you stay home all day, avoid volunteering to babysit children or pets for friends and family. This kind of kindness can quickly become painful if you have to stay very focused during your “office” hours.

  • Take advantage of technology

Technology is your ally, not your enemy, especially when you work at home. To work at home more productively, you’ll need a reliable computer, a headset for hands-free note-taking, some software to manage your schedule and clients, and a fast, reliable Internet connection. Without these simple technologies, you’re doomed to failure.

  • Your family become your colleagues: respect yourself

Your family is an endless source of distractions, sometimes unintentionally. You’re faced with a dilemma, so you have to impose that your home is your office and seek their support. Again, explain to those around you that you become invisible for much of the day and that conversation will wait until after work.

A small family meeting is in order: “Tomorrow I’m working and you’re going to help me make sure that everything goes well, okay?” .

Work at home also requires effort from family and friends. Let them know your working hours, the times when you can be disturbed and the times when you are not available. And when they don’t really understand the hint, you can always put up a “Do not disturb” sign or lock your door.

  • Don’t get distracted

Turn off social network notifications, turn off the TV and mute your phone to avoid being disturbed. If you’re expecting calls from your boss, remember to tell your friends that you’re not on vacation! Save text messages and social networks for your breaks. 

  • Give yourself rewards

Never go through a long working day without enjoying yourself. One of the benefits of remote work is that you can do things you enjoy away from the prying eyes of your colleagues.

Treat yourself to a cookie after completing a task – Make a nice cup of coffee after a conference call.

And finally, I recommend that you prepare your playlists: the confinement may last a long time, and don’t forget to take care of yourself.

How to Create a Remote Work Policy and Guidelines

For a successful transition, make sure to write a remote work policy or guidelines that includes the rights and obligations of everyone, but also to deploy effective, paperless communication and mission reporting systems.

Remote work policy and guidelines are essential for organisations for those just starting to work at home. Having a clear policy in place helps employees to work at home productively from anywhere in any situation.

Here are some steps to follow and questions to ask to create a remote work policy that works for your organization:

1. Determine how employees will work remotely

Although employees in many positions can work effectively outside the office, not all positions are suitable for a remote work environment. Your policy and procedures should allow everyone to work from home when necessary, regardless of their role. For example, HR functions that coordinate face-to-face interviews and training sessions may not fit as easily into a work at home policy as a writer. The remote work policy should provide them with the guidelines they need to conduct interviews and training sessions at a distance.

Your policy will describe all the tools and strategies that will be needed to ensure that all employees can work productively outside the office. Here are some issues to consider when developing the policy:

  • Will the nature of a certain role hinder success when played at a distance?
  • What tools, resources and strategies will team members need to work effectively?
  • What considerations need to be taken into account in determining who will manage a remote employee? Will this person require additional training and resources?
  • How will remote work affect the culture and collaboration within your teams?
  • Will work at home have an impact on taxes or benefits for the company or employees in different states or countries?

Ask the right questions and determine the answers with your human resources, legal and financial teams before implementing a Work-From-Home (WFH) policy to ensure a smooth transition.

2. Provide the right tools for successful and safe work.

When working away from the office, your employees need the right tools to work safely and productively. For many employees, a laptop and Wi-Fi connection may not be enough. Remote workers need technology that makes them feel engaged and part of the team, not just an afterthought. Be sure to ask questions like :

  • How will remote employees communicate with the rest of the team?
  • Will you equip them with video conferencing software and hardware so they can virtually attend meetings and retreats?
  • Do you have meeting spaces and tools that allow remote employees to be clearly seen and heard?
  • Do your employees need separate technology or equipment to maintain an efficient workspace at home, such as a second monitor or printer?
  • Will you provide an allowance or reimbursement for employees to purchase the necessary equipment for their home office?

In addition, cybersecurity concerns should be at the forefront. Remote workers may need a VPN or other form of security to work on important company files or private customer data. And while some employees can use public Wi-Fi networks, others may need to stay home or in a more secure workspace to ensure data confidentiality.

You’ll also need to put in place policies and tools for remote collaboration and communication between teams. Use additional tools such as live chat, synchronous recording of screencasts, live video conferencing and more to ensure that technology does not interfere with an effective and meaningful working relationship. For example, eXo Platform, Slack and Google Hangouts can serve as a digital workplace, where employees can not only discuss the status of a project, but also report on Game of Thrones, share chat GIFs and connect through their favorite music.

3. Establish clear rules about working from home.

When you don’t meet team members in person, it is essential to create processes for collaboration and communication. Think about the types of communication tools that work best in situations such as these :

  • Manager 1:1s
  • Bare-handed team meetings
  • Kick-off meetings for customers
  • Performance Reviews
  • Employee training and development activities

Communicate clearly and document what is expected when employees work remotely. Although most employees report being more productive when working remotely, distractions abound outside the office. Establish policies regarding when employees are expected to be available online, or whether they can work flexible hours that focus on their personal lives – for example, to accommodate a doctor’s appointment or a delivery.

4. Allow time for collaboration and socialization.

Make sure your policy includes guidelines for allowing time for teams to meet outside for impromptu conversations and team building. No matter what technology you have, human beings need face-to-face contact. In your policy, set aside time each month, quarter or year for all team members to meet virtually for reflection, planning and fun.

You can hold virtual kick-off meetings for projects during office hours, or set up a video call for non-work related conversations. All of these activities will bring your team closer together, even if they’re spread across multiple locations. Check out these team-building activities for even more inspiration.

5. Clearly state the legal rights that remote workers have.

Remote workers are entitled to the same legal protections as on-site workers. However, work at home can present additional difficulties that need to be resolved if your company is to comply with the law.

Put in place a time reporting process for hourly paid remote workers. If they work more than 40 hours, they will likely be entitled to overtime. To avoid high overtime costs, select the hours that employees should and should not work. With clear guidelines, they will not be able to work outside these hours without permission from their manager. This makes it easier to prevent employees from accidentally working more hours than planned.

It’s important to support employees who work remotely, just as you would support employees on the job. This means clearly discussing the training, benefits and promotions available to them. If you do not provide remote workers with the same level of support as on-site workers, this could lead to discrimination or disability-related violations in the workplace.

6. Discuss the pay and benefits that employees will receive.

Benefits may be specific to your company, but you should list everything that employees earn. Some companies provide an allowance for equipment needed for the job, such as computer monitors or office equipment. Others reimburse employees for work-related expenses, such as electricity.

Survey your teams before you decide on benefits, to find out what’s important to them. This information can help employees decide whether they prefer to work at home or in the office. Include all benefits and allowances so employees can make the best choice.