How to survive working from home during a pandemic

During this global Coronavirus pandemic a lot of organizations have mandated that their employees work from home. Some people and some organizations routinely work from home but for those of you who are new to managing a team remotely here are a few tips to keep everyone safe, engaged, and productive. 

1.Keep everyone safe! 

According to doctors and epidemiologists the best way to decrease the spread of COVID19 or “flatten the curve” is to keep people away from each other. South by Southwest was cancelled. The NBA season has been suspended. Companies across the globe have cancelled travel in an effort to limit their employee’s exposure. 

At work we spend a lot of time in close contact with people. Sitting next to someone in a cubicle. Sitting in front of someone at a meeting. All of this personal contact puts your workforce at risk of getting sick. A work from home policy is the best social distancing course of action to keep everyone safe. Cancel the in-person meetings, have more conference calls and have non-essential staff work from home. If you are hesitant to have your employees work from home because you don’t think they will work, try these tips. 

2. Keep everyone engaged. 

Engaged employees are motivated. And motivated employees work. In order to keep everyone working, keep them engaged. I don’t know about you but in times of panic and fear, I like to focus on what I have control over.

Everyone has a bunch of back burner projects that they never have time for. Now is an excellent time to dust off that old to-do list and keep busy. Without the distractions in the office employees can focus on creating that spreadsheet, taking the time to think deeply about a problem and work through some issues that have been looming. In order to inspire your employees to do this while they work from home, ask for a list of 5-8 “Back-burner Projects.” Refer to their annual goals for inspiration. Ask them to dig deep and use the quiet time to work on the stuff that requires their full attention. Take advantage of the solitude.

3. Keep up the productivity. 

Productivity is the thing everyone is worried about when employees work from home. There are a few ways you can ensure that your team is productive. Ask your employees to set up a “home office” for themselves. If you have a place to sit (even if it’s your kitchen table) that’s better than propping yourself up on the couch. Ask everyone to send in a photo of their “home office” and make it fun.

Create and maintain a schedule. Know which employees on your team will need more help with this. Some people love the structure of a schedule and orient their day towards obligations. Work closely with those employees to provide the structure that motivates them.

Have daily conference calls with your team and use the video feature so you can see each other. You can continue to feel close by responding to emails in a timely manner and have set check-ins. 

We need each other.

We don’t just work for the money we also work because it’s a social outlet. We are social beings that need people. And if this pandemic teaches us anything it’s that we are so much more connected that we realize. A novel virus that was not known to us 180 days ago spread from a market in China to the courts of the NBA, the concert venues of Austin and living rooms in New Jersey. 

“Social distancing” doesn’t come naturally to humans. We want to be with one another. We want to shake hands, meet with people face-to-face and work together. We feel safe when we are together. Not having a daily commute and co-workers to commiserate with some employees will feel more stressed being alone. Working from home, especially if you are not used to it will feel like you are being forced into isolation. It will feel lonely at a time when a lot of people are afraid and when we are afraid is when we need each other the most. 

Let’s make the effort to stay connected while we are working from home and “socially distancing” ourselves.