Tips for Working at Home
Unifying teams while working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Before we begin to address the transition to remote work, it's important to understand that the most challenging aspect of the current situation is fear and uncertainty about COVID-19 and the resulting impact on the economy and jobs. Clear and calm communication is necessary from employers in order to help employees through uncertain times, both at work and at home. Organizations must designate a team/individual to coordinate these efforts and act as the central source of communication with response checklists, policies for exposed employees, regular status notifications, and guidelines on how to stay healthy and sane are all important things to communicate. These templates can help guide these conversations and communications.
- If remote work is an option for you, realize that you are lucky to be in a position to still be able to conduct your work remotely and not at immediate risk of job loss. From there, it's about optimizing your tools, processes, and daily routines to as quickly as possible adjust to the new paradigm. This includes, but is not limited to, upgrading your internet, allowances for home setup, best practices around routines, more regular calls/video calls, setup tools like Slack/Microsoft Teams if you're not already leveraging them, compassion for challenges around kids being at home, etc...
- Set clear expectations: It's important to communicate and over communicate expectations. Set expectations around acceptable work hours, processes to share availability, milestones and deadlines for projects, success criteria for project outcomes, how often you will check in with your team and / or manager, how you will ask for help with work, and acceptable response times when someone reaches out to you. But you must also assume that people are doing their best and that this is new for most, so show support and help each other be successful.
- Many organizations are already accustomed to using video calls to conduct business, either internally across offices, or externally with clients. Leveraging tools like Zoom, Google Hangouts or even FaceTime to also foster personal, human connections. Setting up "fun" video calls is more important than ever now; virtual lunch and coffee hangouts, group wellness, playing games, and having a dance party are all great activities to help replace social elements of the office environment and unify teams while working remotely.
- "It’s important to check in with workers who may not thrive in an isolated environment and to elevate voices which can be drowned out in the chatter of online communication." Understanding that you have employees with a variety of work styles and making sure they're not feeling neglected or isolated. This is always an important thing to be aware of, whether in an office environment or remote.
- As we transition to remote work, there are some cases where companies are only requiring employees who are showing symptoms or have recently traveled to work from home. In these cases, the dynamics of a mixed work from home model can be a unique challenge to deal with. These organizations must at once deal with the virus in the office environment and also get setup to support remote workers, essentially doubling the challenge. Some organizations are opting to shift entirely to remote work at once to ease this transition.
Additional trends in remote work and how organizations are addressing/applying them
- The question is no longer “is remote work here to stay?” It seems like remote work might even be the new normal. 98% of those surveyed would like to work remotely, at least part of the time, for the rest of their career. This is driving trends around tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams to foster remote work. Remote work may also prove to be more productive than being in an office — based on a Stanford study, remote workers are shown to be 13% more productive than traditional office workers. Remote workers could save up to $7,000 per year on things like transportation, food, clothing and child care and companies can save up to $11,000 per employee per year.
- Communication, collaboration, and loneliness continue to be top challenges for remote workers and remote organizations. This is especially true for teams that are blended between in-office and remote workers, where the core employee experience is set up for in-office workers and remote workers have access to tools, but not a cohesive experience. Tools that allow asynchronous communication like Slack and Microsoft teams are increasingly more popular in and out of the office. Also, making remote employees feel included through virtual lunch and coffee hangouts, group wellness, playing games, and having a dance party are all great activities to help replace social elements of the office environment and unify teams while working remotely.
Additional resources on remote work
- OMG! I’m working remotely, now what?!
- The 2020 State of Remote Work
- The Remote Work Report by GitLab: The Future of Work is Remote
- How to transition to remote work
- COVID-19 Company Playbook
- Coronavirus: A quick start guide to working from home
- Zapier's guide to working remotely
- Remote work wiki
- Bonus: How to Not Completely Hate the People You’re Quarantined With