A large chunk of America’s knowledge workers found themselves working from home this week, as the Coronavirus has become a global pandemic. And while a small fraction of America’s knowledge workers already have some familiarity with remote work, most don’t.
The truth is that for most Americans, the idea of working alone from the dining room table is completely foreign, especially if it involves the added distractions of caring for kids and/or a spouse. Most knowledge workers are used to being in an office environment, surrounded by a team focused on a single task.
And while the added challenge of working remotely during the Coronavirus outbreak can be intimidating, location-independent work comes with major upsides to productivity when done right. A recent Stanford study found that employees who worked from home had increased productivity, fewer distractions, and a 50% lower rate of attrition than office employees.
However, working from a makeshift home office is still a jarring transition for many employees. That’s why we wrote this post. We’ve aggregated best practices from across the internet for you and your remote team to continue working at your best in an unfamiliar setting.
Slack, Owl Labs, and The Motley Fool recently unveiled work from home guides focused on various elements of remote working. From improving and re-writing communication protocols to systems for being as productive as possible, the following guides are useful starting points for new remote workers. Below is a link to the full reports, and a few highlights.
Slack’s Guide To Working Remote
- Run daily or weekly standup meetings within Slack to avoid one-on-one meetings to keep track of large teams, and to increase transparency. Everyone can see what everyone else is working on, just like they would in a formal, physical standup meeting.
- Use statuses to indicate your availability. It can be hard for team members to get a sense for how busy you are without being able to see you hard at work on a particular task. If you need an hour of focus, set your status in Slack to Busy.
- Use video to maintain face-to-face contact. When on calls or in meetings, video can be an effective medium for employees to share ideas. It gives participants additional context and can make conversations feel more personal.
Owl Labs’ Guide To Working Remote
- Over-communicate. Nobody can see what you’re working on by glancing over to your desk or asking you in the hallway. Keeping your team members in the loop is more important than ever when everyone is working from home.
- Be clear and precise. You have fewer opportunities to clarify your ideas and get feedback when you are working remote. To overcome this challenge, spend extra time making sure that all your written communication is crystal clear before you share it.
- Use asynchronous tools. Instead of wasting time scheduling live meetings with remote coworkers, asynchronous tools like Yac give your team members video or audio updates that they can digest and respond to in their own free time.
The Motley Fool’s Guide To Working Remote
- Use a dedicated workspace. Working from a bed is an exciting idea on Day 1, but it isn’t sustainable. Pick an environment in your home that helps you focus without distractions. It should be a place where you can comfortably sit for a few hours at a time, and get work done.
- Get outside. Working from home means no more morning and evening commutes, but it also means no more sunlight and fresh air on the way to and from the office. To combat this, take a long lunchtime walk around the neighborhood each day.
- Set limits, and stick to them. Just because you can work whenever you want, doesn’t mean you should. Especially when working on a large team. To avoid burnout, plan your work hours in advance, and try to shut off your laptop once your work hours are over. A constant state of work isn’t healthy, or conducive to creating excellent work.
Working from home has become a reality for millions of Americans, whether they like it or not. And when it becomes safe to do so, some may shift back to office work. But others will find the benefits of remote work appealing and stick with the lifestyle change.
And considering that 75% of knowledge workers are already able to work remotely to some extent, there is a high likelihood that you or some of your team members eventually adopt remote work - even if only occasionally.
So use this experience as a learning opportunity. Your company’s transition to remote work won’t be perfect, and there will be new challenges ahead. But the freedom to work in new locations and on a new schedule may unlock a whole new set of benefits for your employees and their productivity.