A typical “day at the office” has been fundamentally redefined over the past two weeks as communities across the country hunker down at home in an attempt to slow the spreading of the novel coronavirus. Over the past two weeks, 32 states, 80 counties, 17 cities and a number of U.S. territories have issued stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders. Those numbers cover about 265 million people, or about 80% of the total U.S. population — as of this posting.
Along the way, businesses deemed non-essential by those local and state governments have been asked to shift to entirely remote work — if possible — while federal guidelines around social distancing were recently extended until the end of April.
To say that it’s been challenging for the typical employee might be the understatement of the century. Spouses have essentially become co-workers, and many parents are now doubling as teachers.
Working from home is not a new concept by any stretch. More than 5% of American employees worked remotely in 2017, according to U.S. Census data. And an IWG study published in 2018 found that 70% of the global workforce works remotely at least once a week. It’s a trend that is clearly on the rise. But being forced into a work-from-home situation like so many have been over the past several weeks doesn’t exactly make things easy.
If you’ve been looking for tips and tricks to make the work-from-home life a simpler one, you’ve probably seen some of the standard recommendations: get ready for the workday like you typically would, create a clean and defined space for your “work,” limit distractions and the like. Those are great recommendations, but here are a few other things that business owners and their employees can do to make the most of this new working situation.
Utilize a team collaboration tool
There are countless options out there for inter-team collaboration. At Nationwide Marketing Group, we use Microsoft Teams, but there are other options like Slack, Google’s G Suite products, HeySpace and more. These kinds of tools are a great way to stay connected with your team, share documents, keep track of employees’ progress on projects and the like.
Additionally, video chat functionality makes it so you can still talk “face to face.”. While employees are under shelter-in-place orders, the simple interaction of seeing a coworker on a video call could help them maintain a sense of engagement with their work and their fellow team members.
Host video “happy hours”
Along the lines of the video chatting, not all video calls have to be work-related. Schedule some time during the week to hop on a call and blow off some steam by doing something fun. During our second week of remote work, the Nationwide team hosted three different types of these events: a kids and pets call, a musical jam session, and a literal happy hour.
They may seem silly or insignificant, but breaking up the monotonous workday and creating that minor distraction from being stuck at home can truly boost an employee’s morale. We’ve noticed it internally, and we’ve received tremendously positive feedback from participants — many of whom have asked for other similarly themed events for future weeks.
Focus on professional/business development
For many business owners and employees — particularly in the retail sector — the order to work from home means the workday is a lot less busy than it typically would be caring for astorefront and the customers who walk through the door. With more downtime than normal, there may be no better time than the present to allow your employees to focus on professional development.
Encourage sales staff to seek out continuing education opportunities or courses to further their knowledge and understanding of the product categories they specialize in. Marketing professionals could use this time to catch a few webinars that add new tools to their repertoire.
This is also a great time for business owners to take a 30,000-foot-view of their operation and see what areas they can improve upon. In particular, take stock of your website, social media and other digital properties. Honestly, when’s the last time you went through the exercise of reviewing your store’s website or considered refreshing and updating the look? Use this “free time” to consider making upgrades, adding chat functionality and improving the digital shopping experience for your customers — who, by the way, are at home and spending more time shopping online.
Invest in some solid headphones
This one is a bit of a personal touch from yours truly. Though it piggybacks off of the idea of “limiting distractions,” headphones are the perfect way to truly lock one’s self in on the task at hand. There’s no better working experience — personally speaking — than cranking away at some task, email, article (like this one) or what have you than by doing so while listening to your favorite tunes with a high-end set of cans.
You don’t have to go over the top with some $1,000-plus, diamond-plated headphones or anything like that. But go for the $300 Beats Studio Wireless headphones that you’ve been eyeing up in your favorite color. Or, if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path suggestion, I — a former product reviewer — am happy to make a few recommendations. Look to brands like:
- Steelseries (great mic-integrated options for video conferencing)
If you’re going to spend some time working from home, you might as well enjoy it, right?
What other work from home strategies have you found, during this transition time, that have worked for you? Share them with us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rob is the corporate communications manager for Nationwide Marketing Group.