How to Make Remote Work During the Coronavirus Outbreak

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Many companies are struggling to operate during the Coronavirus outbreak. For some, this means adapting to remote work for the first time. This can be a difficult transition for some companies and employees, especially those that are not used working in a remote environment. But as we all look to do our parts to halt the spread of Coronavirus, many more companies are likely to adopt a work-from-home model.

As members of the business community, we want to do our part to help you weather this storm. We created these tips aimed at helping companies new to remote work stay efficient and effective until the Coronavirus situation resolves.

The work-from-home challenge

Under good circumstances, working from home can lead to higher levels of productivity. In fact, a two-year study by Stanford showed a large leap in productivity when comparing remote workers to their office counterparts. This is good news for managers concerned that work will come to a halt if their employees aren’t sitting at their desks each day. 

However, it’s important to realize that we’re facing an unprecedented situation. Some people may feel isolated and depressed, especially with constant news coverage. This impacts even your most productive staff members, so be mindful when checking in with remote workers. You can also share these guidelines for dealing with mental stress and anxiety issued by the Center for Disease Control.

Work-at-home tips 

  • Create a workspace: Having a designated work area helps workers feel like they are really at work. It doesn’t have to be an official office with a door that closes, it just needs to be a space they make their own. Any place that’s comfortable will work, like the dining room table, kitchen island, or corner of the living room. Start by setting your computer, notepad, and anything else you may use during the day.
  • Follow a schedule: Few things help maintain a sense of normalcy like a schedule. For those new to working remotely, this is especially important in both improving productivity and reducing stress. As a bonus, feeling productive boosts overall morale and reduces anxiety. The easiest way to do this is to go to sleep, wake up, start work, and eat lunch at the same time you always have.
  • Dress for work: We’ve all heard the jokes about working from home in your pajamas, but many people find it hard to get in the right mindset for work without dressing the part. This is easily fixed by simply dressing like you typically do for work during “business hours.” If you work in a very formal environment, then you may want to tone it down to business casual. Either way, skipping the PJs can help you feel like you’re at work, even if you’re not leaving the house. 
  • Ramp up the communication: When you’re in the office, talking to coworkers is a natural part of everyday life. From meetings and lunches to watercooler chats, office workers are in constant communication. You can replicate this in a remote environment through emails, chats, and phone calls.  Video conferencing is a good way to get some face time with your co-workers. Keep in mind that non-work-related talk can be helpful in reducing the stress and anxiety of a quarantine.

Tips for Managers

If you’re new to managing a remote team, then you may also be struggling to adjust. It’s important to remember that the Coronavirus situation has created a great deal of stress and anxiety. This can even impact your most productive staff members. 

By adjusting how you communicate and operate, you can actually help your team manage their stress and their workload. This will keep your projects moving forward without overly taxing your team.

  • It’s important that you ask your team what challenges they face when working at home. For instance, do they have the right equipment? Are their kids also home? Knowing their challenges gives you insight into their situation so that you can help them stay on track.

  • Avoid language that puts your team on the defensive when you check in on their status or the status of a project. You can inspire confidence and encourage productivity by skipping phrases that imply they are falling behind, not being productive, or otherwise not on track.

  • Use “Can I help?” language when you inquire about projects. This is a simple switch that can have a big impact on your team. So, instead of asking “Where are you on Project A?” ask, “Is there anything I can do to help with Project A?”

  • Check-in on your team members individually.  It can be hard for people to admit their challenges in front of the team, so give them a little one-on-one time so they can speak freely.

  • Create opportunities for regular fun team interactions, like a virtual lunch chat. This is an easy way to have face time with the team and blow off some steam.

  • Have resources available to help your team overcome any issues they may be facing, like IT assistance, HR help, or other support as available in your company.   

Keep in mind, this coronavirus outbreak is an unprecedented situation for everyone.  By encouraging communication, understanding challenges, and working together to stay on track, you can help your company navigate the weeks ahead.