In the past few years, many employers have begun moving away from a strict office attendance policy in favor of a more flexible schedule and remote work options. What was once viewed as the ultimate luxury for office workers is now considered a necessary allowance for attracting and retaining top talent.
However, due to the unprecedented spread of COVID-19, businesses around the world with no previous intention of adopting a work-from-home policy have been forced to do so. As a result, many employees are now adjusting to new surroundings, learning new technology, and balancing the responsibilities of work and family.
As offices, schools, and businesses close, those who are new to working from home, as well as those accustomed to it, may benefit from changes to their work schedules and daily habits. Let’s look at some best practices for adjusting to a fully remote work environment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Schedule Productivity and Breaks
Working from home doesn’t mean employees will have more spare time. On the contrary, the opposite may hold true as the line between work and free time becomes blurred. What it does mean, however, is that spare time is often reallocated. Commute times may be replaced with checking emails at the breakfast table, while prime working hours may be interspersed with feeding kids and juggling homeschool lesson plans. In a remote work environment, it becomes more difficult to maintain a stringent work schedule, which many employees rely upon to be productive. Therefore, rather than considering a traditional 8 to 5 workday, try to schedule small blocks of time to be productive, while incorporating breaks for meals, exercise, and childcare.
Spend Time with Family
Nearly all parents wish they could spend more time with their children. Though office and school closings may not provide more spare time to dedicate to fun activities, there’s still something to be said for togetherness. Rather than becoming annoyed with kids’ interruptions that may be commonplace during phone calls or Zoom meetings, parents should embrace the opportunity to eat lunch with their children, take an active role in their daily education, and spend a few extra hours with them each day. Likewise, those without kids should be patient with their coworkers who are adjusting to the challenges of managing work and parenting responsibilities simultaneously. When the self-quarantining period ends, parents around the world will welcome the solitude, while lamenting the extra time they’ll no longer have with their young ones.
Take a Class
As employers adjust to the effects of the Coronavirus, it’s only natural that schedules and procedures will change. Meetings will be canceled and business will slow as companies react to economic changes. For some workers, this could result in periods of downtime during the workday, and during a time of economic uncertainty when many may be facing layoffs, appearing bored isn’t an option. Taking an online class can be an excellent way to stay productive while enhancing one’s knowledge and skill set.
Websites such as Coursera, Udemy and LinkedIn Learning all offer online courses on hundreds of subjects that may be useful in a variety of industries. Courses vary in length and difficulty and can be paused at any point and completed at a later time to accommodate even the tightest schedule.
Nearly all employees know the value of networking, but most will say they have trouble breaking away
from their busy routine to do it. However, for those who have suddenly been thrust into working from
home, their routine has already been disrupted and they are now in adjustment mode. What better time
to prioritize making a few new connections or reconnecting with old ones? Often, one doesn’t realize the
importance of a strong network until after losing a job, and considering the recent spike in unemployment rate and uncertainty surrounding the economy in upcoming months, it’s wise to plan ahead and prioritize online networking in the new work routine. Spending a few minutes each day inviting others to connect on LinkedIn, joining groups, sharing updates or touching base with former coworkers or associates could prove to be a valuable future investment.
Hold a Virtual Happy Hour
By now, many of us have reached a point we never thought we would – we’re starved for interaction. Employees miss going into the office, interacting with their coworkers at the water cooler and Xerox machine, and exchanging small talk in-office meetings. One solution is to hold a virtual happy hour. Some who have tried this have posted Brady Bunch-style webcam screenshots online showing coworkers socializing and catching up in Zoom meetings during downtime or off-hours. While it may not be a perfect substitute for an in-person happy hour, it can be a welcome break after not leaving the house for several days or weeks.
The rapid spread of the Coronavirus has changed the way we work forever. Elements of remote work that were once seen as luxuries or perks are now considered necessities. Though the adjustment period is far from over, it has marked an important turning point for employers and employees alike – one in which flexibility and adaptability are key. As of now, there’s no telling when telecommuting will end and office life will resume. Until then, employees who find ways of staying active and engaged while working from home stand the best chance of remaining productive and successfully employed.
John Feldmann is a Communications Specialist for Insperity Recruiting Services in Houston, TX. John specializes in employment- and HR-related content development for a variety of media types in order to communicate Insperity’s brand to both business professionals and job seekers.