Five Tips for Work-from-Home

Five Tips for Work-from-Home

The current Covid-19 pandemic has caused a rapid shift to work-from-home.  This accelerated trend creates challenges and opportunities for employees, IT, and management, all of whom must work together to ensure success.

As a virtual company since our inception in 2002, Nemertes has learned a lot of lessons as to what it takes to succeed when employees rarely if ever see each other in person.  From an IT perspective, key requirements are to ensure access to current applications with acceptable performance, as well as the ability to virtually collaborate.  HR and management teams must ensure that work-at-home employees still engage, and are able to overcome concerns about work not being noticed, or potential for loneliness.  Workers themselves must take proactive action to establish a comfortable working environment, along with a routine, that ensures that they are able to achieve proper work-life balance.  With that in mind, here are 5 tips to ensure success:

  1. Start with the foundation – The Network. Ensure that your employees have access to acceptable broadband connectivity, and that home wireless networks are up to the task of supporting applications like video conferencing.  This means IT must take ownership of performing home network assessments and establish the ability to manage network performance into the home.  Gone are the days where employees are solely responsible for buying broadband and configuring their home routers, they will need help from IT support to optimize the home network to support work while at the same time, in many cases, not constricting the ability of children or spouses to also work or play.  IT will also have to ensure rapid scale-up of VPN services to support custom applications or for security needs.  If extending the corporate phone system to the home, ensure that 911 call routing and location management recognizes the proper location of the business phone
  2. Create a good physical workspace. Work-at-home success requires a work location that is free from noise and distractions, and that facilitates work.  Consider trying to mimic your in-office location (if you have an office or cube).  Key requirements are a door that closes (if noise at home is an issue), a desk, dual monitors, a speaker phone or good quality headset, a white board, and knick-knacks or other features that make the home office an enjoyable place to work
  3. Ensure collaboration tools support virtual work. The baseline requirements are a company-wide team app to enable work in context, and a meeting platform that supports video. Team collaboration apps enable easy, informal sharing of ideas, access to business data, and virtual engagement whereas video provides for a much richer human-to-human experience, something that’s especially critical when isolated for long periods at home.  Ensure that your home office environment has proper front lighting and a dark background to optimize the video experience, and make use of fun capabilities (if available) such as virtual backgrounds, games and polling to make meetings more interactive.  Approach video conferencing informally, it’s ok to walk around and take a break from the camera when on long calls (just remember to wear pants!)
  4. Strive to stay engaged with your work-mates. Work-from-home can be incredibly isolating. Employees may not feel like their efforts are noticed, they may get easily distracted, and they may struggle to set up a routine that involves consistent work hours, breaks, and even exercise. If you are a manager, make sure you are routinely checking in with your team, perhaps scheduling end of day or morning calls as well as 1:1 check-ins. Consider informal meetings such as family introductions, games, or happy hours to allow for informal team engagement.
  5. Step away from the desk. Working at home means no lunch breaks, conversations in the break room, or in-person meetings. It can be difficult to stay focused, engaged and motivated when being alone all day. Consider trying to follow a routine – get up in the morning at the same time as you normally do for work.  Block time to work out. Get dressed for work, and end at the same time every day.  Or, if it works better for you, consider flex-work to free up time for other activities.  Consider trying to avoid social media during the day to keep from being distracted. Have virtual lunches with coworkers, or live lunches with family.  Companies may even want to consider experimenting with a four-day work week if feasible.

These are trying times.  None of us in our lifetimes have ever experienced such as massive, and quick, global disruption or shift in work patterns.  If you are new to work from home, either personally or from an organizational perspective, ensure that you build the proper foundation through physical space and network connectivity, employee the means for effective virtual collaboration, and establish a sense of community that incorporates the virtual workplace.

Stay safe everyone.

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