The work world has suddenly being forced to go remote. The COVID-19 pandemic accompanied with the lockdown, self-isolation and quarantine has rendered only two options for businesses - shut down or go remote.
Staying at home at this point in life is necessary so that gradually we can flatten the curve and kick this virus out of our world.
Hitherto, work from home was seen as a luxury. Admittedly, not all industries can move fully into the work from home culture. Businesses like salons, healthcare, cleaning services etc cannot be fully remote because their services involve physical touch and interaction. For eCommerce businesses, working fully remote is possible depending on the industry.
Transitioning at this time from regular office work to working from home can be quite tasking. It is also notable to mention that around this COVID-19 period, working from home is not the same as before. If you are new to working from home, understand that this is not the norm. Children are home because schools are closed down and everyone is home because social gatherings are prohibited. Globally, there’s grief. We are mourning the loss of lives to the coronavirus on a daily basis. There's so much anxiety, fear and panic from all news outlets. Things are not the same as before.
Therefore, it is important to treat working from home during this period special, practice self-care and keep looking on the brighter side of life. We can't tell for sure if things will get back to what we knew as normal, however, we can make the most of our work of home time, get some work done and make money while at it.
Challenges of Work From Home
There are a number of challenges with working remotely. It is ideal to identify these challenges early and plan towards them. It is not easy to thoroughly mimic working from the office to working from home. From the employees' point, it comes with adjusting how they approach work and handle family needs when working from home. On the supervisor or employer's point, it comes with adjusting how to ensure work is done regardless of the bottlenecks remote work poses. Here are a few challenges identified;
Distractions at home
Modern studies have shown that our attention span has become fickle. There are several distractions surrounding us every time. Distractions at home may not come clad as distractions. They tend to look like 5 minutes of making coffee for a family member, 10 minutes of jumping on a quick call with a friend, 20 minutes power naps at a simple yawn, 5 minutes check of Instagram notifications to name a few. These acts by themselves are harmless. However, they could lead one down a spiral which stops after several hours. You can recall when one quick 5 minutes YouTube video led you to check out another recommendation and another and another until you spent a huge chunk of your time watching videos on why ventilators cost a fortune.
Lack of face-to-face supervision
Working from home means no supervisor physically present to dictate your next task. For employers, this requires a lot of trust in your people. You won't see them to ensure they are working. You can only trust that they perform their duty well enough. Micromanagement doesn’t work here. You have to give them the tasks with deadlines and trust that they meet them.
Lack of Discipline
Not everyone is disciplined enough to perform efficiently without supervision. Nonetheless, the power of remote work lies in discipline. Discipline, in this case, is doing the work which is required of you at all times without supervision instead of procrastinating. Although pointers can be shared on how to be disciplined, you need to practice discipline to become one.
Loneliness and Lack of Human Interaction
Working from home comes with loneliness if you live alone. There will be no team members to ask you simple questions face-to-face, smile at you or make small talk with. It is just you and your laptop. For some people, the lack of human interaction can affect them even with chatting platforms available for work. Reach out to colleagues via video calls or simply work in the coffee shop near you home (after the covid19 pandemic is gone).
Effective Work From Home Tips For Managers And Business Owners
Create An Accountability program
There must be a system of accountability to track their performance. How will each member know if they are performing well? Build an accountability system where people can speak up, talk about the tasks to be done, the task accomplished, challenges faced and share remarks and learning. Have daily or weekly check-ins where they keep in touch with the whole team. Think of how everyone can report to the team when things are going well or otherwise.
Communicate Often and Well
Create a company where people feel seen and heard. The power of communication cannot be overemphasised. Talk about any and everything. Build a rapport with your team. Talk about work, family and the seemingly small stuff like the best television series they are enjoying currently, how their little children crack them up and how they cannot wait to get out of the quarantine. In an office setting, people would usually gather at lunch to have conversations about all topics outside work. Encourage them to do the same remotely.
Create Realistic Deadlines and Expectations
Give your team enough room to do great work within a reasonable time. Set your expectations right as well. How long can someone take to reply to emails and chats? Set all those ground rules. Remove all ambiguity around their work. Focus on the outcomes, not the activities. Provide all the work resources to help them work effectively from home. Pay for their internet, required software, mobile phones and all essential items necessary for their role.
Establish Clear Remote Work Policy
What time do you expect them to report to work? How many hours will they be at work? How will you track their presence at work from home? How can they communicate with the rest of the team easily and quickly? What projects are they working on at every point in time? What are their key performance results? How do you schedule meetings? How easily can one schedule a meeting?
Encouragement and emotional support
Mental health should not be overlooked when working from home. You need to make room for emotional support. Healthy people do good work and unhealthy people don’t. Make sure you provide a way to check in on your team's personal health and mental health. You have to be there for them as a leader and train them to be there for you as well. If you can afford it, book some therapy sessions for them. You can also have regular one-on-one meetings to hear them speak about their lives and work. Once a month organise remote team bonding activities.
Effective Work From Home Tips For Employees
Set Your Own Working Schedule
If you have strict working hours from work make sure you adhere to it. If not, set your own working schedule considering your peak hours, energy levels during the day and family time. Make sure to include lunch breaks, naps and enforce a strict boundary on closing time. You can easily work throughout the day without any closing times where you do other things from work if you work from home.
Manage Your Time Properly
Working from home means more time on your hands. The time for your usual 2-hour commute to work has been regained. This may not reflect in your daily schedule if you do not manage your time properly. Set boundaries for working hours, closing time, lunch breaks, naps etc. Enforce the boundaries you set for your own sanity. Remember that balance is key.
Practice Good Health Habits
Working from home the whole week plus zero commutes can lead to poor health habits. Make it a point to exercise. Take breaks to walk around your apartment. Eat well and avoid junk food. Walk in the sun for some minutes to absorb vitamin D. Generally, take care of your body.
Ask For Help
You're working from home but you're not working alone. Reach out to your team. Ask for help with your work. If you need to ideate on your task, speak to someone in your team to help you brainstorm for solutions. You must reach out to others when you need help and know that you're all in this together.
The idea of technology is to make our lives easier. Use tools to make working remotely easy. There are several free tools to keep in touch with your team, achieve results faster and do great work with little to no stress,
Tools for effective remote working
Below is a list of tools to help you replicate in-person interactions, collaboration and team accountability.
Communication and Collaboration
Slack is the perfect communication tool for all companies. Your team gets to communicate on one platform real-time and collaborate with each other. Slack gives you the opportunity to have channels per department. You can also set up channels for other non-work related topics and have wholesome conversations there.
Use Zoom for team calls and calls with customers. You have video calls options and screen sharing options. Zoom is one of the greatest video conferencing apps available currently.
Other alternatives are Skype, Google Hangout and Blue Jeans.
Google Drive is a cloud storage and a centralized hub to store and share files, documents, spreadsheets and slides. Use Google Drive to keep track of the work each team members does, review work in real-time and chat on each document in real-time.
With Dropbox, you can sync, collaborate and share documents and files with your colleagues. Dropbox is similar to Google Drive but doesn’t present the feature of creating a document, spreadsheets and slides in real-time nor commenting in real-time.
Productivity and Project Management
Manage the tasks for all your team members on Todoist. Assign tasks, sub-tasks and leave notes on your thoughts to team. This is perfect for project management.
Other alternatives are Asana and Trello.
Calendly is a calendar management system that helps you share your calendar with others so they can book appointments. Open up slots when you’re available to talk and plan it accordingly.
Keep all your passwords safe with LastPass. To prevent exposing accounts of your company passwords and keeping them safe, use Lastpass as the password manager. Upload all the passwords and information of accounts there and invite your team to access them for LastPass. Your security is assured.
An alternative is Dashlane.
How To Set Up Your Work From Home Office
Your workspace affects how you work. To do good work, set up your workspace with the essential tools for comfort so you can concentrate better.
Buy an ergonomic office chair and desk which improves sitting, posture and working for long hours. A good chair supports your spinal curves and prevents you from bending your neck and backaches. There should be enough space under your desk to rest your feet. If possible, get a footrest to help.
Laptop or Monitor
Adjust the light and dimness of your laptop to a bearable level good for your eyes. Let your screen be directly in front of you.
Get good lighting in the room which helps you see well and prevents strain for the eyes.
Power Plugs and Sockets
Get plug close by or use an extension board so that you can easily charge your phones, laptop and other devices.
This is the perfect time to make your business remote. For eCommerce merchant and people in industries which can afford running a remote team, this guide is great to set you up. Make room for errors and improvement and tweak your plan to suit your team demands as you move on. You can successfully run a remote team with the right mindset, tools and team.