My, how things can change in a week. In the past seven days or so the vast majority of us have gone from watching the clock at work wondering when we will be able to go home, to sitting in our house staring at the front door wondering when we will be able to return to the office. In just a week or more, we've seen a complete revolution in the way many of us now perform our jobs. All thanks to COVID-19, otherwise known as Coronavirus or that %^%$#%@$@*#%#$ crap that is ruining our 401k's.
Of course, those of us with jobs are the lucky ones.
An Amtrust Blog post, republished in our site yesterday, tells us that between 2016 and 2017, remote work in the United States increased 7.9%. That is impressive until you realize that between last Tuesday and today, it increased 87,463%. All this might be a bit sudden for people who may ultimately prove to be no good on their own. Therefore, it was unavoidable that some excellent “work at home” advice would start propagating on the web.
Tammy Boyd offered excellent guidance yesterday in our Experts' View area with the article Working from Home? Twenty Fast Tips. Frankly I am not sure how Tammy became such an expert regarding home-based work. In all the time I've known her I don't think she has ever actually been home. A quintessential road warrior, Tammy lives on airplanes and in hotels. And Facebook. I do see her on Facebook occasionally.
Joe Paduda also weighed in yesterday on his Managed Care Matters blog with useful tips on working from home. I thought his points were quite cogent, and frankly more detailed than I expected. As a consultant, I thought his advice would largely consist of:
1) Listen to what they have to say (by phone) 2) Tell them what they said (by phone) 3) Send them an invoice (by email)
But no, he was far more generous with his contributions.
Now, not to be outdone, I thought I would weigh in with my most pertinent tips on how to work at home successfully. I have, after all, mastered it through extensive experience gained since we closed the office last Thursday.
I did have a home-office based job in the 90's, when the technological high point was buying a new fax machine. I didn't think that period was entirely relevant.
So, without further ado, these are my time-tested recommendations:
Keep your routine to whatever extent possible – It has been customary for years that I kiss my wife and tell her I love her as I leave for work in the morning. I still do that; but the fact that the desk is 5 feet away and I am still in my underwear might cheapen the effort a tad.
Dress for success – especially if the camera is going to be on for that upcoming web meeting you've got. Don't wear a sleeveless T-shirt, otherwise known as a wife beater. Pants are optional, but don't stand up during any video call.
Limit your distractions – Turn off the radio and TV. Keep the pets and kids away from your work area. Turn off your email. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb. Turn the computer off. You won't get any work done, but you will have minimized distractions, and nothing will interfere with your nap.
Keep a normal schedule – If you used to get to the office by 8:30, start your workday at 8:30. If you were normally lounging around the employee break area gossiping with co-workers until around 10, you can now do that in your kitchen (Hint: Your spouse may tire of this quickly, and home based work means less people to gossip with. Try striking up a conversation with the cat).
Use the opportunity to set an example – If you still have a Millennial living in your basement, this is a good opportunity to show them what work looks like. They should try it sometime. The good part is they generally won't be up until after you are done gossiping in the kitchen, so you can still set a good example.
Keep in contact with your co-workers – This is critical. The biggest problem with social distancing is that it interferes with social interaction. Keeping in contact with your associates will help normalize your day and keep you connected to a larger purpose. And if you are a supervisor, this is also helpful to make sure the slackers aren't just goofing off on your dime.
Finally, recognize that this too shall pass – Every crisis ultimately proves to be fleeting in memory, and as serious as this one can be in the moment, we will see a return to normalcy - probably sooner than many experts are predicting. Before you know it, you'll be back in your office, staring at the clock waiting to go home, but perhaps with a bit more appreciation for the opportunity to have been there to begin with.
And there you have it. Simple tips for surviving the home-based office. I hope it helps, especially when working remotely may not seem like it will be remotely working out.
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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