While some people have been working from home for months or even years, many of us are new to the experience, including myself. COVID-19 has created an imminent need for telecommuting so that businesses can remain open and productive.
If working from home is new for you or your organization, here are some best practices to get you started.
Working From Home Tips For Employers:
- Develop a plan for communication and provide the tools and software needed for team interaction.
- Allow managers to define their team’s plans for workflow, discussion of projects and communication.
- Create a business-related expense policy and equipment standards for all telecommuting employees.
- Design technology policies with a focus on network security, protection of confidential information, network capabilities and encrypted access to the company’s network.
- Set boundaries and expectations for an employee’s availability, which should not be greater than non-teleworking employees or from their typical work schedule.
- Select time-tracking standards for hourly employees and for salaried, nonexempt employees to manage overtime usage.
- Create childcare policies for different scenarios that arise: Emergencies when an office can’t be accessed, ongoing telecommuting, short-term projects requiring telecommuting, dealing with illness, etc.
Working From Home Tips For Employees:
Two of the biggest challenges for employees not accustomed to telecommuting are (1) getting their technology needs addressed so they have the tools to continue work projects as if they’re right at their workstations in the office and (2) keeping a normal schedule, as the routine can be extremely beneficial to productivity.
Maintain Your Schedule
- Maintain regular work hours and your typical schedule.
- Incorporate your normal routines, starting with waking up at the same time every day, getting dressed and preparing for work.
- Schedule breaks, lunch and time away from your desk periodically during the day.
- Be disciplined during your day to limit personal distractions while being home.
Keep a Dedicated Office Space
- Set up a quiet workspace with a comfortable chair.
- If bringing office items to your home, keep binders, notepads and folders easily accessible.
- If other family members are home, set some ground rules for having people in your workspace.
- If you have kids who are home from school, a lot depends on their ages and whether you have a partner/helper at home. One tip if your office space has a door: Place a sign on the door to show whether you can be interrupted or not (e.g, stop or go, thumbs up or thumbs down).
- Ask questions if you are not sure about something.
- Since most people are in an unexpected work-from-home situation, communicate more than you think you need to. “Got it,” “I will take care of this,” “Will do” and “I’m starting on this now” are helpful communication phrases.
- Schedule routine meetings or discussions with your manager and colleagues to keep projects progressing.
- Share your perspectives about managing the workflow.
- Keep in touch with co-workers —Send an email to someone you’ve missed seeing in the hallway or lunchroom, or give them a call.
- Communicate with your manager and IT department about the tools, software and training you need.
- If you need to coordinate projects with other team members, use a collaboration tool (like Microsoft Teams or Smartsheet), or create a process for the interaction.
- Organize your email and folders. Delete out-of-date materials.
- Think about alternative ways to get tasks accomplished.
- Document procedures or update existing procedures.
- Identify training opportunities to learn a software package better or create more efficient workflow.
Take Time for Self-Care
- Be positive and willing to adapt to changes.
- If you’re not feeling well, take a sick day and rest.
- Get outside for fresh air.
- Take the breaks you need for mindfulness or stretching.
- Schedule time to move—Do flights of stairs, lunges, jumping jacks or high knees, or walk around the block, etc.
- Continue washing your hands for at least 20 seconds and sanitizing surfaces you touch.
Remember that this is a stressful time for everyone. We are all doing our best. Extend some grace to yourself and your co-workers as we all adjust to a situation that just a few weeks ago seemed unimaginable. We are all in this together.
Learn More About Coronavirus and the Workplace
For additional information on coronavirus and the workplace, read more on Word on Benefits or visit the International Foundation Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources page.
Anne Newhouse, CEBS
Information/Research Specialist at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans