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WFH Survival Guide, 2020

Tanya Junell
Mar 9 · 8 min read

For bosses, employees & their families.

By Tanya Junell and Adam Aronson

As companies and schools take proactive measures to prevent the exposure to the Coronavirus by closing up shop for a while, it’s important to be at-the-ready with the skills needed to survive the hazards of Working From Home.

OK, bosses.

Here are our top 3 tips for you as you turn your company office into a remote-1st one (if only for a few weeks)…

1. Flex your flexibility muscles.

You’re about to announce that all employees will be asked to WFH for the next few weeks. There is a good chance some of your employees are parents or care-givers who will be learning about school/daycare/eldercare closings at the same time. They will likely be stressing out about what the *&#% they are going to do. It’s important to be mindful of this possibility, and demonstrate empathy for their situations. Make it easy for your employees to manage their additional care-giving workload. Ask everyone what their care-giving situation looks like and offer to make accommodations for them. This includes moving set meeting times, pushing back any non-essential deliverables, and prioritizing outcomes over on-line availability. Oh, and expect a x10 growth in thank-you notes.

2. Keep team collaboration going.

Nobody should feel that they can’t collaborate effectively unless they are together in person. There are tons of companies whose teams collaborate exclusively online. This is why the market has seen a rise in the use of visual collaboration tools.

If your teams are used to covering whiteboards during in-person meetings, or used to brainstorming with sticky notes, sign your company up on Miro and have the teams collaborate remotely. The teamwork vibes are maintained by using Miro’s shared workspaces everyone can add content to and view together in real-time. Added bonus: No great ideas can be lost by someone accidentally wiping off a board or tidying up stickies at the end of the day ;-)

3. Know it’s a MYTH that working remotely hurts productivity (a.k.a WFH Employees just watch Netflix, nap, and binge eat all day-right?).

One of the common misconceptions regarding remote work is that people are less productive if they work from home. Provided the nature of the work can be done digitally, and the employee wants to stay employed, there is next to no risk of lessened productivity from working from home. In fact, this Stanford University experimental WFH study, led by economist Nick Bloom, demonstrated a 13% increase in employee productivity and a 50% reduction in quit rates for those who were permitted to work solely from home.

Check out Nick Bloom’s Funny Ted Talk as he shares proof of increased productivity from Remote workers.

Need more proof? We’ve gotcha:

Forbes: Here’s why Remote Workers are more productive than In-House Teams

Harvard Business School: How Companies Benefit When Employees Work Remotely

IT World: Study — Managers Say Teleworkers Deliver Better Work

Need more proof? Here is a list of 100 of the top remote-1st companies you’ve probably heard of.

PS. It’s 2020.

If your employees can do their work remotely, you’ll need to get with the WFH program soon anyway.

Here is a great example of tech company leaders not being as enlightened as expected that was highlighted by Justin Jones in this Ted Talk:

“1995: the information superhighway will mean anyone can do anything from anywhere”-

@mountin_ghosts, twitter

2015: “Must be willing to relocate to San Francisco”

-Tech company that builds remote collaboration software, job posting

For further reading check out this comprehensive survey conducted by Buffer that illustrates the The State of Remote work 2020.

For Employees

Here are our top 3 tips for you as you turn your home into an office and change up how you’re working with your team.

1. Have ‘the talk’ with roomies, partners & kids. Heck, it’s worth having one with the dog too.

Now’s a good time to figure out where you are comfortable spending your days working in your home. If you share your house with anyone, it’s time to have a talk about how you’ll be working from home and that you need to set some boundaries. Make sure you carve out a quiet space to yourself so you can focus, undisturbed.

2. Get your wiggles out.

You’ll likely miss all the walking around you did in your commute and at the office. Sitting in your home at a computer all day will have you feeling a bit stiff and cooped up. If you can, make time to go for a breath of fresh air and quick walk whenever you feel the need.

If you are used to going to the gym, and that is no longer possible, you can find substitute workouts online. Youtube has tons of exercise, yoga, and fitness videos. And of course, there’s always an app for that. As you are more autonomous working from home, your schedule can be less rigid. The hours you’d spend getting to and from work can be super-productive working hours. This means you have more flexibility to fit a workout into your schedule. Have you had a chance to do a 10 am weekday workout lately? If not, do that. Just to know what freedom feels like.

3. Keep the co-worker fires burning 🔥🔥🔥

You’ll likely been informed by your company what communication tools you’ll be leveraging during your WFH spell. Use the tools wisely and you will never feel disconnected from your teammates, even when you’re apart.

Tip: Be sure to drop a line to someone just to say “hey” so you and your team don’t feel too isolated.

Tip: Don’t over communicate to the point of being the equivalent of a facebook ‘poker’. You know the type.

Tip: Be sure to leverage Giphy, Emojis or https://slackmojis.com/ to add color to the way you are feeling since people won’t be able to see your animated expressions from across the room.

Tip: Be sure to give shout-outs to co-workers in a channel the whole team can see, if you can. It’s not the same as an in-person high five, but hey, those high fives transfer germs anyway :-)

For Parents

Here are our top 3 tips for you as you turn your home into an office /daycare/classroom and change up how you’re working with your team /parenting your kids.

1. Know the Latest & do some prep

Start the conversation soon to find out what your workplace’s continuity plan is. Do you have the tools and processes needed to be offsite for one week or more? How will mission critical work remain on schedule withstanding the challenges of new work patterns and overlapping family commitments.

Likewise, school curriculum built in some buffer for inevitable annual disruptions, but this would be different if it lasts for more than two weeks. Is your school prepared? Are you receiving all their communications by email, twitter, or handouts? Ensure you have the latest information allowing you the time to successfully anticipate any schedule disruptions. If possible, get a few weeks homework in advance and agree on a communication channel with your child’s teachers.

Tip: If you’re like most of us, and you’ve let your library card lapse, check if they offer online registration like @seattle public library offers, or head over to your nearest branch this week. With your library card you have access to thousands upon thousands of online resources from home. Ever needed a new picture book in a pinch? What about research materials for a Grade 7 history project? You might be about to…

2. Establish expectations & then fly by the seat of your pants.

Your workplace and your family will need you in a classic double-spend. Existing deadlines will need to be reevaluated and flexed where reasonable, and your early elementary kiddos are going to need a fair amount of support getting engaged. Consider introducing this period as a “special assignment” where you and your family get to work together (more closely than usual). Not prepared for this massive shift, children are experiencing loneliness so try to be a pal and a parent for them while they’re home all day.

For very young children, don’t put too much pressure on yourself if they are home all day with you and you need to work. You’ll find that setting up your child in the corner of your home office spot works wonders if you have some new toys to grab their attention. Make sure your employer knows you have temporarily lost child care and ask that non-essential deliverables be placed on the back-burner until child care resumes. Determine what meetings you can be added as “Optional” to, and take the extra time to be 1:1 with your little one instead.

For older kids it’s easier to set some boundaries. You might have a few windows in the day that are “Do not disturb” hours. Offer rewards for respecting your DND time — maybe you’ll bake cookies after the critical call, play a few rounds of Uno if they’ve been quiet the whole time? Whatever gets them excited to help you. It’s a great opportunity to praise them for being so mature in an emergency!

But remember, sometimes no matter how much you plan…

Shit happens!

3. Know what is essential, and give yourself a break.

Workplaces and schools alike by and large are not prepared for a fully remote setup. Offices may have the tools that work for occasional WFH, but that is a far cry from fully remote preparedness. Hopefully your company has provided you with all of the tools and processes that will be in place while the company works remotely. On your end, you have some decisions to make.

You’ll need solid Wifi. Wifi Extenders might be necessary if you need to move your workspace far from the “kid space” for critical meetings. If you decide that an extended set-up is necessary, check out Eero, Nest Wifi, or Google Wifi for reliable connectivity.

You’ll need sure-fire distractions for your kids.You’ll likely need to think about effective ways to keep your kids quiet for about a solid hour in a pinch. It might be a good time to bend any existing TV, iPad & iPhone screen-time rules when you have a presentation to give over Zoom, or if you are in a client-facing call. No shame! This is an emergency, folks!

You’ll need to not stress about not having enough time to clean. Really. Don’t.

We hope these survival tips will help you manage working from home over the next little while. We also hope that you all succeed in making WFH work for your company, yourself, and your family 💪

A recent Bloomberg article entitled Coronavirus Forces World’s Largest Work-From-Home Experiment says it all. We’ll see how bosses, employees and parents like the WFH dynamic.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on working from home! Please share your tips for making it work in the comments below.

This article was written in cahoots with Adam Aronson. He’s a Toronto based product leader adding impact to organizations. Long time EdTech & public library practitioner; always eager for a new challenge.

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