Nearly a year after the first COVID-19 case came to light in the U.S., the world has changed for most people to some degree. Business leaders have made changes to comply with mask mandates, social distancing, and lockdowns in order to keep their employees, customers and the public safe. In the early stages of the pandemic, many employers had to let workers go, resulting in last spring’s massive 14.7% unemployment rate. The U.S. has not experienced such a high unemployment level since the Great Depression in the 1930s.
Fortunately, employers shifted gears quickly to allow and encourage employees to work from home. This has helped in the ongoing employment recovery since the spring of 2020. In fact, working remotely has been a major factor in economic recovery, allowing employees to avoid layoffs, and employers to continue their operations.
As an HR professional navigating and facilitating this new professional reality for your organization and employees, you’ve probably seen some of your valued staff struggle with the concept of working remotely for the first time. Some of your employees might need extra help figuring out how to be productive while working from home. Many professionals could use and would appreciate some gentle guidance.
Here are nine essential tips for working remotely you can pass along to your employees.
1. Set and Commit to Regular Work Hours
It’s easy to give in to the temptation to sleep in later in the mornings, especially when your desk is mere moments away from your cozy bed. However, it’s best to create a typical on-site work experience as much as possible. Set your alarm clock to allow yourself enough time to get up, exercise, take a shower, dress for work and stop by the kitchen for a healthy breakfast on the way to your “office.”
When it’s time for a break or lunch, step away from your workstation as you would at the office. When the workday is over, shut down your home office. Establishing and abiding by these set work hours is one of the top tips for working from home effectively. It can help you stay productive while at work and enable you to maintain a healthy work-life balance under such unusual work conditions.
2. Establish Clear-Cut Work Boundaries With Family, Housemates and Friends
Long-time independent freelancers can tell you plenty of stories of friends, family and housemates who often think that since you are home, you are available to them during work hours. It’s understandable to a degree, especially if you have not clearly let them know that you have set work hours, productivity and deadline requirements, and professional goals.
To help limit distractions, let everyone know as soon as you have received your employer’s remote work order that you are setting strict boundaries. This can help avoid confusion and reduce the need to repeatedly explain your professional circumstances.
3. Take Breaks Outside Your Home
One way that remote workers can quickly learn how to stay motivated while working from home is to take frequent breaks from your work and desk. Standing up and stretching is a great technique to reset your body and kickstart your brain. A trip to a local café or co-working station or a walk in the neighborhood with a friend could boost your energy and help you finish the day strong.
4. Set Up an Ergonomically Friendly Workstation
Work with your employer to ensure you have everything you need to work in a safe and healthy environment. One way to do that is to request ergonomic equipment, such as a chair, keyboard and mouse. If you already have those items at home and don’t mind using them for work, by all means, use them in your workspace. They might be better or more comfortable than what your employer can provide.
5. Invest in a Hands-Free Headset
While you want to set up and spend the bulk of your professional time at your designated workstation, you may also need to get up for leg stretches, coffee and restroom breaks. A hands-free headset can help. If you are in the middle of a conference call and need a breath of fresh air, you can conveniently get up and step outside without interrupting the call or missing any valuable information.
6. Shut Out Ambient Sounds
If you’ve spent most of your adult life at school or in the workforce, you might have forgotten the daily sounds of life in your neighborhood. Many employees struggle with how to stay focused while working from home, especially when experiencing a symphony of sounds. You might find yourself distracted by barking dogs, garbage pickup trucks, lawnmowers and weed eaters to the point that you can no longer focus on your tasks or crucial phone calls.
When working on your own, turn on a white noise channel or mobile app to minimize ambient sounds. For important phone calls, find the quietest space in your home or take a drive, and park in a nearby lot or park for temporary silence.
7. Protect Your Home Technology
You will likely work with your employer to protect your computer and company data, but if not, you need to make sure to create strong passwords for your wireless connection. Additionally, invest in a virtual private network (VPN) — especially if you are connected to a network you do not control, such as one at a co-working space, café or library. Here are some more ideas to secure your home technology operations:
- Set up firewalls
- Use an antivirus software program
- Secure your home router
- Use encrypted communications
- Lock your device
- Install updates regularly
- Back up your data
- Stay alert regarding phishing emails and questionable websites
8. Stay Social With Colleagues
One thing you don’t get when working from home is the camaraderie that comes with working in an office. At home, you won’t bump into co-workers in the cafeteria and casually catch up. Aside from standard work-related emails, texts and phone calls, it’s important to schedule calls with a work friend or two. Employee engagement is more important than ever, reinforcing strong company culture and teamwork when people are working from different locations.
9. Adopt HR-friendly Solutions to Enhance Your Remote Work Experience
Your organization needs purposefully designed solutions to support HR. The Humantelligence Employee Engagement Suite and EQ Everywhere plug-in allows organizations to align and motivate employees around strategic goals, tasks and actions. Employers can infuse emotional intelligence into daily work processes to help employees better connect and collaborate more effectively in teams
If you’re going remote-first or hybrid this year and beyond, Humantelligence can help you reset your culture and support your employees in staying engaged, connected, and productive. Contact us to request a demo for a more effective work-from-home experience for everyone.