A while back I remember having a “spirited” discussion with a previous employer about productivity within an office environment and potential benefits of remote work. I can still hear the words, “Anthony, successful people get to the (physical) office early, stay at their desk, focus on their job and leave late.”
Welcome to April, 2020.
Offices closed, toilet paper gone, schools out, the economy struggling, your favorite local restaurant closed (maybe not coming back at all), practicing social distancing and trying to stay healthy during a global pandemic. Just a few of the things we are trying to adjust to, as the effects of the Coronavirus have disrupted our world as we know it. Welcome to our “new normal.” To Mr. Stay at your desk and leave late, I hope you enjoy the ride.
Thinking about the massive shift in the way many of us are now operating, we as a global community have essentially created the world’s largest at-home workforce in a matter of weeks! Remote work has always been on the rise (140 percent increase since 2005) but never to this magnitude.
Both businesses and employees alike are struggling to adapt as customers maintain the same service expectations, and new remote workers are acclimating to doing their once “office job,” which is now down the hall, in their kitchen, maybe with screaming kids in the background or a barking dog, (or both!). Furthermore, we must now also adapt to upholding the security measures to ensuring our personal data, client data and IT environments stay secure as we make this monumental shift. This is an ideal opportunity for cyber criminals to capitalize on non-secure connections, poor pandemic planning and end users not being educated on best security practices in a remote environment.
As someone that has now been remote for a while, I can offer these tips to help navigate this new normal and maximize your productivity, security and overall attitude during the remote work transition.
We (most of us) still want human contact! With remote work offering fewer opportunities to talk, network and build relationships within the company, it is so important to maintain these contact channels as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to have informal chats just like you would have in the office. If your company offers it, embrace secure messaging to stay connected and collaborate throughout the day. If someone closed a big deal or did an amazing job on a project, let them and others know about it!
Given the current cybersecurity landscape and cyber-crime at an all-time high, this may be the most important thing you can do while working remotely. Ensure you are following your company’s remote security practices for connecting, accessing data and collaborating with clients and colleagues. If you have no process in place, reach out to your management team on best practices. Always use a secure VPN connection (if provided) and take advantage of multi-factor authentication any chance you can. Many companies are now looking at additional security and cloud services to enhance their remote workforce security posture.
While it may now be easy to do a load of laundry, some yard work or run that quick errand, it is important to set dedicated working hours and stick to them! If any other family members will be home during the work day, set some boundaries and let them know your plans. You certainly don’t want someone popping in the door on your video conference or the sound of a vacuum cleaner in the background during a big sales presentation.
There can often be hesitation around flexible work arrangements and productivity, with managers unduly worried that performance will suffer if their employees aren’t closely monitored. Good managers trust their employees and provide them the space and tools to be successful. If your manager is one to “micromanage” during this time, put some concrete KPI’s in place and regular check-ins with them to ensure results.
Being active is so critical to your overall health and attitude while working from home. With the office just a few feet away down the hall and the refrigerator and pantry always open, it’s easy to stay complacent (and as I may confess, do a bit of over-snacking.) And don’t get me started on DoorDash, GrubHub, Postmates and Uber Eats options. Set some time aside to get up and get out of your office! Take a walk, run, bike ride or try an at-home workout. I have found that making this a habit (for me in the morning) gives me more energy and focus throughout the day.
None of us can truly predict what the future holds as we face this international crisis together. I am confident that we will prevail and come out stronger and more prepared than ever. Once the dust settles and we maintain a sense of normalcy, I am interested to see how many now remote employees continue their work from home and who will return to a traditional office environment. For those in “essential industries,” such as healthcare workers, law enforcement, transportation, grocery and food services, utilities, infrastructure, child care and many others, we thank you for your strength and helping the rest of us navigate through these unprecedented times.
Stay safe, stay healthy and happy remote working!