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The COVID-19 Work From Home Guide

thelighthouse.us
Mar 16 · 13 min read

The number of ‘WFH how-to’ guides has surged, yet most of them are written for clicks, not impact. They link through to dozens of other articles meaning that getting substantial advice requires opening 10+ tabs on your computer and further distracting yourself from the important work you need to get done.

This guide is taking a different approach. We have read through all those wordy and clickbait-y articles and combined the best resources, tips, tricks, and practices to successfully work from home in one place. We’ll continue updating this guide as we collect additional resources, tips, tricks, and best practices. Know one we should add? Reply in the comments or email us at yourfriends@thelighthouse.us

This guide now includes:

  • Remote Work: The Good & Bad
  • The Best Practices: Staying Productive & Focused
  • Online Meetings
  • Working Parents
  • Career Growth
  • New Job Postings
  • The Best All-in-One Guides
  • The Tools
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Remote Work: The Good & Bad

The upside:

The downside:

  • Less work/life balance & more stress: “Remote workers report higher degrees of stress, as they seek to balance personal and professional needs.”
  • Less engagement & more turnover: Remote workers “feel less engaged with their work, and express a higher likelihood of wanting to leave their jobs.”

The neutral:

The Best Practices:

  • Stick to your morning routine: Shower, get dressed (in real clothes), put on shoes, brush your hair. If you can, go for a walk around the block to wake yourself up and to simulate your morning commute. This will tell your body and mind that you’re now in ‘work mode’.
  • Stick to normal working hours and set a clear ‘end’ time: Turning your home into a workspace can make it easy to never turn your ‘work mode’ off, but setting those boundaries is important to being your most productive self. Block out time on your calendar to take a lunch break. Try to stick to normal working hours and when your workday is over, put your computer away so it is out of sight. Go for a short walk to simulate your ‘commute home’ and clear your mind so it’s ready to relax.
  • Take lunch and coffee breaks: Try to change your environment when you’re eating lunch to break up the day. We also recommend setting up virtual video ‘coffee/lunch breaks’ with your colleagues so you’re still getting the social intersections and relationship building time that you get in a normal day at the office.
  • Create a designated workspace: Whether that means designating a specific chair at your kitchen table as your ‘workspace’ or ordering a cheap pop-up desk online and putting it in the corner of your bedroom, creating a designated workspace will help you transition in and out of work mode as you need. For working parents, this will also show your kids when you’re working and when not to interrupt you.
  • Create quiet space: If you have roommates (friends or family) that are also working from home, it can get loud as everyone dials in to their meetings. This might be the time to invest in noise canceling headphones. If you don’t have them yet, you can silence outside noises by listening to music or other sounds — here are the best playlists that improve focus and productivity: classical music, peaceful piano, jazz, nature sounds, white noise, other ambient soundtracks, epic music (try this or this if you need more of a beat). You can also try functional music to improve focus on Brain.fm.
  • Time box your news intake: Hearing the ‘breaking news’ on your TV or getting the notifications on your phone or computer can be distracting. We recommend time-boxing your news-checking time (for example, 15 minutes at 9am, 12pm, and 6pm) and making sure you’re getting the best information from CDC’s site.

Structure your day:

  • See an example from Hannah Bronfman.
  • Remove your phone from your line of sight because having it in sight can reduce your ability to focus.
  • Switch your environment especially for different activities (move from the kitchen table, to your couch, to your desk — depending on the activity).
  • Try the “Time Blockingapproach.
  • Test out the Pomodoro Technique: “When faced with any large task or series of tasks, break the work down into short, timed intervals (called “Pomodoros”) that are spaced out by short breaks. This trains your brain to focus for short periods and helps you stay on top of deadlines or constantly-refilling inboxes. With time it can even help improve your attention span and concentration.”
  • Take breaks: the Founder of Caveday suggests taking a 4–5 minute break every hour as studies show that your brain can’t focus more than 52 minutes at a time.
  • Try monotasking — aka doing one thing at a time for a specific period of time.
  • Give your eyes a break by trying the 20–20–20 rule where you take a 20 second break from looking at your screen every 20 minutes — during this break you should focus on an object that is 20 feet away to relax your eyes muscles.
  • For more productivity techniques, read this article.

The Best Resources

  • Accountability clubs: Caveday, Slash, Work Club help you battle loneliness and stay productive by facilitating group working sessions — in person and remote!

For effective WFH:

For the online meetings:

  • Check out this General Assembly Webinar on Maximizing Productivity of Remote Teams for leading powerful remote meetings, maintain productivity, and more.
  • Read Meetup’s best practices for Hosting an Online Meetup Event, and watch this recorded webinar on Bringing Events Online, to keep your group engaged and growing.
  • Share notes. Fairygodboss advises to follow-up at the end of the virtual meeting by revising the notes from the previous step and sending them via email so members can use them as a reference point.
  • For the engineers, check out this webinar where engineering leaders from GitHub and Andela will share best practices for creating and sustaining high-performing, distributed engineering teams.
  • For the tech-folks, Rebekah Monson made a Slackbot for standups that they have adapted over time to understand the basic daily check-in items: What did you do today? What are your next steps? Are you blocked on any work? Check out her article here, and how to make a bot of your own here.

For the leaders managing teams from afar:

  • Spend more time with your team on prioritization
  • Be crystal clear about your expectations around start and end time, expected response time, and preferred channels of communication
  • Help drive meaning and purpose in your team’s work by having weekly 1-on-1s and tying their work back to the big picture
  • Schedule weekly team meetings
  • Monday.com has great templates for structuring your and your team’s day
  • Ask what they need to be productive and impactful and secure the resources they need
  • Try to respect boundaries and not send emails/Slack messages outside of working hours — Gmail has a great tool where you can “schedule send” for the next day. Boomerang can also add this feature to most email providers.
  • Create a handbook and standardize tools. Collect all the processes, procedures, tools and other company-related information in a single handbook. “You want to make sure that there’s one place where people are collaborating and documenting,” Mr. Sijbrandij said to the WSJ. You can also do this by “[dedicating] “Super Users” for the new tools being integrated into the companies day to day. This individual will be responsible for learning the ins and outs of the tool and can develop a structure for how individuals should be utilizing it,” says Laurel Woerner and the RRE Team in this guide.
  • Continue building your team culture and reduce loneliness by scheduling virtual happy hours and team lunches. A great idea that came from the Sana team is to have a “Team Chat Roulette” where every week after their team all-hands, every team member is assigned a random partner to have a 20 minute video chat with. Everyone is emailed a few icebreaker prompts so they have something to work off of, but conversations often take off, making this is a great way to encourage team bonding.
  • If you have the budget, you can also give each team member a $500 work from home stipend that they can use to buy whatever will make them feel more comfortable and productive at home — whether that’s an ergonomic chair or noise-cancelling headphones.
  • Watch this webinar for a A Crash Course in Remote Management
  • If all else fails, return back to this fishing village metaphor for the virtual organization. “Every morning before dawn, [the fishermen] head out to sea alone in their individual small fishing boats. They can stay in radio contact with each other, but each fisherman is on his own. There is little direct help they can offer each other. There is no coming back until enough fish have been caught. But once they get back, they are together having fun again. The all-remote organization is like this. Each employee is alone in their boat, working until the work is done. Every now and then, the company brings everyone together to one place and there is time to be social and share fishing stories.”

Health: For those looking to stay healthy

  • Keep exercising your body: For virtual workouts, including outdoor running, HIIT, yoga, pilates, and more, check out this online calendar. Additionally, check out Youtube (starting at $0), Classpass (starting at $0), Downdog (free till April 1st, then $19.99/year), Peloton (free for 90 days, then $12.99/month), Beachbody ($14.99/month), Glo (9 free classes for yoga and meditation), CorePower On Demand and Live Yoga(free), Wellbeats (free until April 30th), PVolve (free for 30 days), and this community-led Fairygodboss thread. Check out your local studio as many in-person studios are now offering virtual classes as well.
  • Keep exercising your mind: Journey is offering free meditation classes for the next few weeks. Headspace is offering a suite of free meditations and movement exercises. Download the Headspace app (free), then navigate to their “Weathering the storm” category. Virus Anxiety has great resources for anxiety and mental health.
  • Read Thrive Global’s Methods for Thriving in Uncertainty to navigate the unknown with mental vigilance, patience, and presence, or read Fear and the Coronavirus: Why You Should not be Afraid, because keeping our stress levels at bay will come down to the small, intentional ways we react to the news around us.
  • Reach out for the support that you need in this group Navigating the New Normal.
  • New York State is now offering free mental health support to address the mental health toll of the virus outbreak. Read this article, or call +1 (844) 863–9314

Working Parents — For those working at home with little ones

  • Get all the latest school closure information for free here.
  • Have a full house of working parents and kids at home? Stagger your meetings so you can alternate childcare and work. Your partner takes morning meetings, you take afternoon meetings, that way you can worry less about being distracted while on important calls.
  • Simulate school and create a structure day for your kids outlining how each hour will be spent between your activities and theirs, for example “Mom will be working from 10–11am while you will be coloring, then at 11am we will have a snack together.” Check out a sample schedule for kids here.
  • One great activity is daily “Lunch Doodles” drawing class hosted by The Kennedy Center. Another is Cosmic Kids Yoga, for free yoga for kids centered around their favorite topics (Moana, Frozen, Dogs, Harry Potter and more)! For a full list of activities for kids, check out Justworks’ guide here.
  • Read the Muse’s tips for Working From Home With Kids When Coronavirus Has Shut Everything Down.
  • Check out these resources for how to handle your new home school environment.
  • “Plan high intense work around nap time or schedule shifts with your partner.” — Christine Ntim shared via LinkedIn
  • Stick to what’s essential (we highly recommend reading Essentialism if you need help doing this). See below for a great quote from Forbes:

Source: Forbes

Career Growth — For the ambitious who still want to grow:

  • Swap your content consumption for constructive learning: There are over 450 Ivy League courses you can take online right now for free, and over 35 Tech Conferences that are now online and/or free. Code Academy has coding classes, check out Duolingo to learn a new language, learn design skills with Adobe Live. Linkedin Learning also has a massive library of online learnings.
  • For the ambitious who are worried about how working remotely will affect your career growth, remember that this is temporary, everyone is in the same boat and that, “remote workers see the same number of raises and promotions as onsite workers.”
  • For the ones looking for work amidst these uncertain times, “You need to ensure the hiring team knows you are flexible (the way you work, where you perform your work, your ideas and solutions, etc.),” says Charlette Beasely. “It’s a good idea to describe specific situations in which your flexibility led to results in past positions. You’ll be seen as a valuable asset who can help navigate the company’s decisions during this time versus just an employee who can just do the job.” Anh Trinh adds that “You’ll ideally have less competition right now. People are more concerned about staying healthy rather than finding a job”
  • Use this as a time to shine: In fact, remote workers “experience a higher degree of self-efficacy than onsite workers” on tough days. “Self-efficacy is our confidence that we can achieve our own goals …and successfully navigate challenges.” Why is that a good thing? Because self-efficacy is one of the greatest predictors of growth so showing you have this skill will demonstrate to your boss that you’re ready for the next level.

The Best All-In-One Guides

  • For a complete guide on company response plans, NYC and federal government resources, member company resources, employer updates and more, check out Tech:NYC here. (They also have a daily newsletter with the updates on the number of cases, policy updates, upcoming events, employer updates, and more. Subscribe to the COVID-19 DIGEST here.)
  • Remote Daily features a resource list with WFH best practices, self-care and support tips here.
  • If you’re looking for answers to specific questions on getting medical care, staying healthy, employer/employee requirements, business loans & relief and more, check out JustWorks’ guide here.
  • For health-related questions, answers and more, check out Sequoia’s Resources for Employees and Employers.
  • For alternatives to hand sanitizer, company policy updates, physical and mental health resources and more, check out Life Labs Learning’s guide here.

If You’re Looking for a Job or Have a Job Opening

There are many community initiatives that track new job postings even during the crisis. Check them out below:

  • This spreadsheet is an online community initiative to connect talent with employers during the virus outbreak. They have an official website coming soon as well.
  • Here is one that’s focused on the creative community for full-time, freelance and internship roles.
  • This is a list of industries that are still hiring during the crisis.
  • If you lost your job, know someone who has, or know of a company that laid off many of their employees, check out this guide. They also have a sheet of companies that are still hiring!
  • Check out this Muse article here for some tips on how to navigate your urgent job hunt during the crisis.

The Tools

Below we will cover the best tools for video, chat, document sharing & storage, and project management. Our recommendation: invest in the best tools for collaboration to reduce frustration and friction.

Video

Chat

Document sharing & storage

Project management


As mentioned above, we’ll continue updating this guide as we collect additional resources, tips, tricks, and best practices. Know one we should add? Reply in the comments or email us at yourfriends@thelighthouse.us

Stay well!

-thelighthouse team

P.S. Need a WFH pick-up and/or anthem? Watch below:

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