The escalating threat of COVID-19 is not only affecting most of us personally – from school closings to worries about our high-risk family members – it is also affecting our work lives. The Dundee Hills Group has been following the guidance given by the WHO, CDC, and the local jurisdictions where we operate. In some places we’ve seen travel advisories and travel bans, and now some localities are advising or mandating that employees work from home if feasible.
Working from home is something we’re rather expert at, since we’ve been doing it from the company’s start in 1996. We know that some of our customers, partners, and vendors also have experience working remotely, but many don’t. So, for those who might be forced to dive into it for the first time, we’re happy to share the things we’ve learned from 24 years of experience.
Our top 10 pieces of advice for working from home:
Make your own space.
It’s really important to create a workspace separate from your off-duty spaces. We don’t mean a little corner of your living room or kitchen – you need a quiet area designated for work, preferably a separate room with a door that can close. A lot of us have trouble finding that work-life balance even when we work in an office, but when you’re working from home it’s even harder. If you don’t have a room you can dedicate as an office space, then find the best space away from your main living areas.
Connectivity is key.
At the risk of stating the obvious, working from home requires a decent Internet connection. That said, mine has been pretty bad for some time and I’ve managed to muddle through for some years. If you can get email, texts, and instant messages, you can survive for the most part – especially if the situation’s temporary.
It’s important to have a backup plan if your main internet connection suddenly packs it in and you’re on deadline. The first thing to try is connecting with your mobile phone’s hot spot. If that’s not possible, there’s always my emergency go-to: one of the local coffee shops down the road, since they usually have decent internet. But lingering inside probably isn’t advisable at the moment. We all want to support these businesses – and no mistake, they are hurting right now – but a better idea in these days of social distancing might be to use the drive-through and then park out front. Seriously, I’ve actually done this, and been able to pick up the Internet connection from outside, already knowing their password. (And if you don’t go in or use the drive through, you can still support the business by buying gift certificates online for later use.)
Tools to make it work.
Beyond basic phone, internet connection, and email, you’ll need the ability to text, send instant messages, access shared file space (Google Drive, One Drive, Dropbox, etc.) and use conferencing systems like Zoom or GoToMeeting. If your company has not already standardized on these things, then it’s time to do it. We’re happy to help and share our internal guidance on which tools to use when, and how to use them for communicating in remote work environments.
Tune it out.
It’s not easy to manage distraction – spouses, significant others, children at home – in a way that doesn’t affect your job performance and also doesn’t negatively impact your personal relationships. It’s even harder under the current circumstances, where you may have a spouse that’s also now directed to work from home and kids furloughed from local school closures. In normal times, I would say it’s not acceptable to have children yelling in the background while you’re on a conference call with a customer, let alone your boss. But these are not normal times, and chances are the person on the other end of the line is in a similar boat. Just address it head on, and say sorry, we’re all at home because of the coronavirus, I apologize for the noise in the background and I’ll mute when I’m not speaking. Most of the people on the call will understand and appreciate the honesty. You can also try to time your calls with your kids’ (regulated) screen time if you really need quiet.
It may be tempting to stay in your PJs all day, but most of our staff agree that it’s important to dress for work every morning. When you feel professional, you are more productive. Plus, you’re ready in the event a surprise video meeting comes up.
Have a morning routine.
I know, one of the bonuses of working from home is that you don’t always have to get up as early. But resist the urge to roll out of bed and right to the computer. Make time to have breakfast and a cup of tea or coffee first. Have a morning stretching or exercise ritual.
Keep regular hours.
When you go to an office, your day tends to be more defined by a regular work schedule: out of the house by 7:30, at your desk by eight, done and driving home by 5:30. But one of the traps of working from home is that you’ll lose those physical parameters and it gets harder to set a boundary on your day. Don’t become a work-from-home-aholic. Just get up and walk away after a set time every day.
Get out of the house!
Go for a walk or a drive and get some fresh air. It’s amazing how it will clear your mind and help you tackle a challenge that was feeling insurmountable before. And you’ll feel re-energized to finish that project before the day’s done.
Don’t go stir-crazy.
If you have to work from home for a week, it probably won’t be an issue. If it goes past week two and possibly for months, then the isolation, working alone in a little room all day, might start to take a toll and require some type of remedy. We can address that issue later if the need arises : ) But for now, let’s be positive and believe that this will all be over very soon.
Shut it down at the end of the day.
Checking email one more time at 8 p.m. sounds great, but it can also pull you down a rabbit hole and interfere with sleep. Your mind needs a break.