Almost 2 million people have contracted the novel Coronavirus to date and unless you’ve been under a Karoo bush watching the Riverine rabbit reproduce, it’s no longer news that the global COVID-19 pandemic has SA on lockdown.
Everything but essential services has been closed. Don’t worry, dotsure.co.za is open, and like thousands of professionals across Mzansi, is now working from home. If you recently began working remotely, too, or are living with someone who is, we know it’s quite an adjustment. So, we’ve gathered a few tips to help you keep it professional from the comforts of your ‘crib’.
Six ways to rock at remote work
1. Treat it like the real thing… because it is.
Yes, you are nearer the fridge, now, or have your dog at your feet full time, but wow, you are so not neglecting your colleagues or your KPIs, are you? No way. You know your team needs you, maybe now even more than ever.
Always ahead of the game, The Daily Maverick points out that the new lockdown professionalism starts with structure. Its recent article on home office life looks to Google for guidance.
“When you work in an office,” it quotes from Google At Work’s website, “the daily routine of getting ready and commuting helps your brain get ready for the day.”
It goes on to suggest that if you’re telecommuting, starting the day the way you would at your business premises, or place of employment, can help you maintain a professional mindset. If your start to the day could do with some tweaks, check out other professionals’ morning routines for inspiration here.
So maybe avoid sleeping in till five minutes before the workday official starts, do have a good breakfast and dress the part. You could even prepare your workout clothes the way you usually would, even if the workout is in the next room with any of Down Dog’s exercise apps (free for April). Next, we’ll explore more about separating work from home when you’re working at home.
2. Create clear boundaries.
Juggling your work and home life can be difficult when they suddenly take place at the same location.
“Once you’re at home,” The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants® (CIMA) ￼, “if you don’t have clear boundaries it’s easy to become overwhelmed from both sides.”
To avoid confusion and frustration, create clear separations between your at-home work and home life, and communicate them to the other household members.
This might mean letting flatmates know where your workstation is or being clear with your partner about when you are (un)unavailable to do household chores. This might also mean negotiating with your cat who has long held sway on the much-neglected work desk you’ve just appropriated from under her paws. Be kind and provide a lap as consolation; change is challenging for others, too. Communication can go a long way to making the transition to this temporary structure easier for all. Which brings us to the next point.
3. Communicate (more) frequently and kindly.
You may not be able to turn around to ask your boss something the way you usually would at your place of work. It helps to touch base digitally.
“Have really clear-set expectations for communications day to day,” Barbara Larson tells the BBC . She‘s a professor of management at Northeastern University in Boston who studies remote working.
“Ask [your manager] if they don’t mind having a 10-minute call to kick off the day and wrap up the day,” she advises.
Think of it as the daily sit-down with a screen, rather than the daily stand-up. Wait, screen? Yes, face time is part of the process!
4. Get video calling… with the correct email address
As 4 billion people across the earth self-isolate and shelter in place, even doctors and nurses are using video calls to do business ￼.
A video conference call happens on a digital device like a laptop or a mobile phone and has multiple people live on screen. That might be your teammates and line manager, or all the HODs and the Dean.
Zoom is an audio-visual software service that has quickly become the global go to. There’s a catch, though. ￼
Zoom’s “Company Directory” setting, which automatically adds other people to a user’s lists of contacts if they signed up with an email address that shares the same domain. This can make it easier to find a specific colleague to call when the domain belongs to an individual company. If you use yahoo mail, however, you could be exposed to others who also signed up with one.
The oversight appears to be unintentional and is being addressed by the company. Still, be careful which email address you sign up to Zoom with to ensure professional privacy. Maybe not firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want a way to communicate with less noise (and less broadband), try Microsoft Teams. It neatly integrates Zoom conference calls.
5. On a video call or on a deadline? Tell the others to pipe down.
Offices are notoriously noisy places, but the home space can be even more so. The problem is, you might be having the morning catchup with colleagues and need quiet, or bandwidth.
A simple WhatsApp reminder can help, asking others to jump off the Wi-Fi can help, a paper-and-pen “on air” sign on the fridge (and toilet and back door and all bedroom doors and on the dog’s collar) is great; anything to save you hitting mute mid-meeting and hissing threateningly at the nearest person. Wait, what mute button?
6. Ah yes, know thy mute button.
The mute button silences any sound going into your device microphone. Any digital device you can call or send voice notes with generally has one. And different apps and programmes tend to leave them on, by default.
While we’re concerned about the broader privacy issue (of companies listening in on your messages and calls without your permission) we’re specifically concerned about the ways this could complicate your already-complicated, remote-work life.
Explore Check your default microphone settings on any software that does video calling or voice calls. Memorise and use the keyboard shortcut to mute your whole device in one frantic slam of buttons. Even easier, get an app that does it for you. Basically, do anything you can to avoid the unthinkable moment when you end a video call with a colleague, and say, “well, I’m glad that’s over” because you’re hanging for a coffee rather than anything at all related to her or to work, and realise she’s still on the line.
With these six sexy ways to make telecommuting work for you, you’re good to go, but we bet you’ve got a home office tip to top these! Spread the love, not the anxiety, by sharing your wisdom over on our Facebook page. We know you’re on Facebook all the time now… Doing research, yes. 😉