As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) begins to spread in the United States, organizations are now scrambling to make decisions on how to protect their workforce and prevent additional spread of the virus. Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the Center for Disease Control’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, states, “as more areas see community spread, the local community may start employing tools the encourage social distancing.” Social distancing refers to one of the community mitigation measures recommended during a viral outbreak or pandemic. Social distancing intends to decrease the possibility of viral transmission by reducing the frequency of human contact.
The current guidance for employers from the CDC encourages all employees who feel sick to stay home. However, there have been reports of asymptomatic spreaders or spreading the virus before showing symptoms. According to the CDC, the virus is spread mainly from person-to-person such as close contact (within 6 feet) of one another and through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. This means employees within office settings could be a breeding ground for spreading the virus within the company. As a result, many employers such as Twitter and JPMorgan have proactively asked employees to work from home to control the virus spread within their businesses.
Navigating the challenges of remote work
While the Coronavirus is rapidly increasing the rate of employees working from home, a remote worker is not a new concept. Advancements in technology have increased the demand and acceptance for remote workers over the past several years. Remote work boasts significant benefits, such as an increase in productivity and job satisfaction. However, working remotely also presents its own challenges and struggles. According to the State of Remote Work 2019 study by Buffer, they found 36% of workers struggle with feeling lonely and communicating/collaborating with peers. 22% of workers also stated they struggle to unplug after working hours. For a typical office worker, the transition from office to working from home may be difficult, but we have some tips and strategies to help manage productivity as a remote worker.
How to communicate and collaborate as a remote worker
When working from home, it may not be as easy to catch up with a colleague in the break room or walking over to their desk for a discussion. Employees who a new to working remotely may begin to feel lonely or isolated from colleagues. Fortunately, with innovations in cloud-based technologies, employees can remain connected, regardless of physical location, through messaging and online meeting tools. Many cloud technology providers, such as Microsoft, are providing their toolsets for free as a public Coronavirus mitigation plan. Microsoft Teams is an optimal toolset for promoting remote communication and collaboration. Instead of a face to face meeting, employees can have a similar interaction through instant messaging, voice calls, video calls, and collaborating on documents and files in real-time.
Below are a few examples of replacing traditional in-person interactions with Microsoft Teams:
- Weekly check-in meetings with the manager
- Schedule a reoccurring Microsoft Team’s meeting and leverage video calling
- Collaborating on a Team project
- Schedule a Microsoft Team’s online meeting, host files within OneDrive for real-time collaboration and desktop share during the scheduled call.
- Asking a colleague a question
- Using the chat option within Microsoft Teams, send an instant message. Teams will indicate once your colleague has viewed the message.
Stay plugged in during working hours and unplug after hours
Humans are creatures of habit. When working in the office, are you sitting in front of a TV or lounging in your pajamas? If not, then it should stay that way. This also ensures when your manager randomly video calls, you’re prepared to answer. Additionally, sitting at a desk with a clear workspace helps prevent unwanted distractions and allows you to focus on your work-related tasks. This also creates a separation of space between areas of relaxation and areas of work, enabling you to shut down after hours to manage your work/life balance.
Whether you’re new to working from home or a seasoned remote worker, we will all be faced with challenges as society begins to adopt remote working strategies rapidly. By taking advantage of communication and collaboration tools and creating a dedicated workspace, we can prevent some of the woes associated with remote work. Once you have adapted to remote work, you may not want to return to the office in the post-coronavirus era.
Click here to discuss your remote working strategy and to learn more about Wellforce’s remote end-user training and support programs.