COVID-19 And The New Remote Work Community

Supporting communities as we adapt to new working environments.

Table of Contents

With the World Health Organisations (WHO) announcement that COVID-19 is now characterised as a pandemic, we need to consider the longer-term impact of our work environment. WP&UP supports many people that currently fit the Remote Work model. With the increased likelihood that individuals who are used to working in a more traditional office environment are to be asked to work remotely, we plan to build in additional support.

The change of working environment can be challenging, for many reasons. A loss of structure, increased isolation, a feeling of uncertainty, the need to learn new tools are just a few of the issues we can face. There are steps that can be taken to help in this period of transition.

We also recognise that company owners are facing potentially huge challenges in the coming weeks. Those that have opted for a traditional office-based environment may find themselves needing to adapt quickly and into unknown territories. Again through this document, we intend to provide useful and encouraging information.

General Notes

As COVID-19 continues to impact the working environment, we need to evolve how we work and how we communicate, to ensure economies remain healthy. This may be an entirely new experience for you and your team, so we’re compiling some of our experience in either delivering successful remote teams or being part of one.

Combating Isolation

If you are transitioning from a work environment that enables you to have regular in-person contact to a remote situation, then the feeling of isolation can become an issue. There are ways to overcome this; making a conscious effort to keep in contact with others is important.

Opening up a call on Zoom, Skype, Facetime or whatever platform you prefer with friends or colleagues whilst you work can help to reduce the feeling of isolation.

Here at WP&UP, we run a weekly #OpenChat session at 15:00 GMT every Friday. The session is free, inclusive and open to all. We use Zoom and you can join here: https://zoom.us/j/568459747. Our #OpenChat is exactly as the name implies, an open chat. Intended for anyone that wants to connect with likeminded people. You don’t even need to participate in the chat itself, you can simply join the call and have the hustle and bustle of the call on in the background whilst you continue to work.

Create a Structure

This can be particularly important if you are not used to remote working. When working from home there can be lots of distractions and temptations longing for your attention. With the potential for other people – significant others, family, housemates to also be in the environment due to the situation, this can be especially challenging.

Whilst working from home, try to structure your day as you would in the office. Give yourself a start and end time, these are important. It can be easy for your workday to merge into your personal time when at home.

There is nothing wrong with working in your PJs but for some, this can lead to a negative mindset. Consider getting dressed as if you were heading to the office. Keeping to your regular routines can help keep a balanced mindset towards work.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Eat healthily
    • It’s easy to graze when your structure changes. Taking the time to prepare proper meals in a regular routine will help keep your body and mind healthy.
      Remember to eat, too – perhaps set alarms to remind you as there won’t be colleagues next to you reminding of “lunchtime”.
  • Get dressed
    • Maybe it’s nice for the first few days to turn up to work in your comfy PJs and for some this works, but be mindful that things like our appearance can have a big impact on our mindset, even subconsciously.
  • Set a start time
    • It’s easy for your morning to slip when you don’t have a routine. Time has a way of disappearing, so make sure to give yourself a start time.
  • Commute to work
    • If it is safe for you to do so consider walking out of your front door in the morning, around the block, and “enter” work. If you have to travel to your office, try and replicate the time you would be physically moving, under your own power, in that journey.
  • Take breaks
    • Taking regular breaks is essential for both physical and mental health. For every thirty minutes of work take a few minutes away from your work-station. Grab a glass of water while you’re up.
  • Connect with friends and colleagues
    • Although you may now be remote, there are many ways to keep connected with others. The use of video conferencing software is a simple solution to keep a level of connectivity open.
  • Have lunch away from your workstation
    • Don’t be tempted to stay at your work-station and eat your lunch. Taking the time to be present when you eat has a multitude of physical and mental health benefits. Taking your lunch whilst continuing to work is not conducive to being in the moment.
  • Set a finish time
    • Like your start time, finish times are also essential. In some respects more important. If you are not used to working remotely, it can be easy for your work-life and personal-life to start to merge and that’s not a healthy lifestyle.
  • Turn off work-related notifications when not working
    • Taking time for yourself is important for your health. Continual invasions of this time in the form of notifications on your mobile device can be an anxiety-inducing experience.

Maintain Your Health

Working from home, particularly if you are the only person in the building, can enable you to become quite sedentary, sometimes without realising it. Ensure you take regular breaks, step away from your workstation and physically move. If you are stationary to work, it is recommended you make a conscious effort to move every 30 minutes.

Why not set yourself regular reminders to keep you motivated and moving. Have you considered using your Alexa or Google Home to remind you when it’s time to take on a task?

Physical exercise is important to maintain and whilst in a period of potential isolation, this might become more challenging.

Notes for Employees

As we transition into, potentially, unknown territory as an employee, it’s important to approach it with an open mind. Your working environment could be changing drastically and your support network will evolve. A move to remote work can be rewarding and offer new levels of flexibility if managed well.

Open Communication

The world of remote working may be new to you as an employee, it may also be new to your employer. So in this transition period communication is essential. Any successful remote working team will rely on communication.

Whilst in an office environment it’s easier for people to pick up on body language, and other unspoken messages that disappear when you are not physically in the same space. A good leader can pick up on these unspoken messages and either discuss any apparent issue or make adjustments, potentially without you needing to directly communicate them. But in a remote environment, there is the potential for greater communication via mediums that do not allow for these unspoken nuances to be shared.

Text communication can lead to misunderstanding through an inability to gauge the tone in which the message was delivered. The use of emojis (if appropriate) can be a useful way to portray sentiment in a text conversation.

Try not to assume your direct lead understands how to manage in this new work environment. You may be working from home for the first time, as your direct lead may be trying to manage others in a remote capacity for the first time.

Your Environment

When it comes to remote working your environment is an essential piece of the puzzle. You may need to consider distractions and challenges that would never have been a consideration in the office. Your personal health needs attention too.

Creating a work-station is important, a space that becomes known to you as “my workspace”. It’s very easy to take a laptop and sit in your personal space, whether that’s your sofa or on your bed and think to yourself “I’ll just do…” and before you realise it you’re undertaking work activities. The problem with this is the blur between work and personal space. You can create a situation where you are unable to turn off from work because there are no boundaries.

Not everyone has the ability to use a dedicated room as an office. In these situations, it’s advisable to find a well-lit area, preferably away from distractions such as TVs, that offers you the option to sit at a chair with sensible back support and a table at a comfortable height to work from. Make this a dedicated space and inform yourself (and others, if there are others in the property) that whilst you are at this station, you are working.

Reduce Distractions

You may be more susceptible to distractions whilst you work from home, this is only natural. If you have transitioned from an office to remote working in your house, this is a big change. Your house is your home after all, not your place of work.

Children can be one of the biggest distractions and there are a number of unique challenges they can present if you need time and space to concentrate on work-related tasks. With the continual evolvement of the situation in relation to COVID-19, we may also find ourselves in a situation that requires school-age children to be at home, whilst we work.

The team at Buffer knows a thing or two about remote work, with team members spanning 15 countries, so they shared some great tips on working remotely with kids.

Sometimes we need very dedicated time to concentrate on a task, in these moments the use of noise-cancelling headphones can be very beneficial. The question is… what do you listen to? Music might be just as much of a distraction. There are services like Brain.fm that offer dedicated music and more importantly noise that can help the brain concentrate. The use of white noise, rolling thunder or waves lashing the shore can be very beneficial when the brain needs to hunker down and get through that task.

Notes for Employers

What does your team need in order to work effectively, in relation to not only hardware/software/systems but also for their mental health? Not everyone enjoys working alone, or they may not have the room to set aside for such. Consider these things, ask them what they need, then set out a plan, a guide specific to your company.

Open Communication

This may be a difficult time for you, and hard to choose the best way forward both for your staff and for your business. You both have to consider the health and well-being of your employees while maintaining your business to weather this period of uncertainty.

If this is the first time you are managing a team remotely, then communication is key.

An important issue to overcome as an employer of remote workers is the need for water-cooler moments. In the office environment, your team will have moments of unprompted discussion, often leading to cross-pollination between teams. In a remote environment, the ability for your team to stumble into each other in the hallway and have a chat is removed. If you are using a team chat solution such as Slack, consider creating a channel that enables team members to chat about non-work related items. Let the cat gifs be shared, it will help keep a healthier team.

Empower Teams with the Right Tools

The working environment has been evolving for many years in relation to the technology that supports remote working. Taking some time as an employer to research and understand these tools will pay a dividend in the long run. Here are some common tools used:

Video Conferencing

 

Team Chat

 

Appointment Scheduling

 

File Storage

 

Project Management

 

Other Productivity

Look At Existing Teams

Remote working is not a new concept, it’s been undertaken by teams for many years. And lots of these teams are open about how they support their staff. Take advantage of this learned knowledge, you’re not alone in this.

Some companies are open about how they support their remote teams and have compiled Information openly about how they achieve success:

 

There are also companies that have provided dedicated guidance for their teams in relation to COVID-19 and have made the guidance openly available:

Financial Support

What financial support options are available to your business? This will become more clear as the situation continues but governments are aware and many putting into place ways to support you. Sick pay provisions, softening of business loans, for instance, are all things to consider and keep aware of. Know that you are not alone, that many companies and clients are in a similar place to you.

Useful Links

What does your team need in order to work effectively, in relation to not only hardware/software/systems but also for their mental health? Not everyone enjoys working alone, or they may not have the room to set aside for such. Consider these things, ask them what they need, then set out a plan, a guide specific to your company.

The disclaimer provides that such medical information is merely information – not advice. If users need medical advice, they should consult a doctor or other appropriate medical professional.  For any enquires please contact us.