4 essential tips for working remotely
By: Alexandra Dunsford-White
30 Mar 2020
In the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, many companies around the world are implementing mandatory work-from-home policies in a bid to prioritise the safety of their workforce and flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases.
While remote working may not be a new concept for many organisations and employees, the sudden shift to doing so on a full-time basis for an extended period of time is an unusual challenge for most. Fortunately, modern technology is on your side - fast, reliable broadband opens up the door for remote working on a global scale, allowing you to stay connected at a time when communication is more important than ever.
Navigating this brave new work-from-home world comes with a number of obstacles on both an individual and company-wide level - some employees may face feelings of isolation while businesses must overcome increasing cybersecurity threats to their networks.
Until the pandemic is under control, the benefits of working remotely far outweigh the inconvenience. And if handled the right way, you and your organisation can be as effective as ever.
Here are our four tips to help you succeed in securing your at-home work environment, and maximise your levels of productivity and wellbeing.
1. Make a daily routine
Developing a routine for yourself can help you better adjust to this new reality. This includes setting the parameters for how your work day will be structured, the hours you’ll work and where in your home you'll be conducting business.
How do you usually start your weekday? If it’s making your bed, having a cup of coffee and putting your work clothes on before setting off - do just that. Your new ‘office’ may only be a few meters away, but these steps will help trigger your brain into shifting into work mode.
The mental association you make between work and the office can make you more productive, and there’s no need for that feeling to be lost when working remotely.
Ensure your home work space mirrors your office environment as much as possible, especially in terms of the equipment you need to effectively get the job done - think computer monitors, keyboard, mouse, a comfortable desk and chair, and a good set of headphones to block out any familial background noise that could distract you.
It’s likely that other members of your family will be housebound during this period too, which may lead to further negotiations and a bit of creativity in terms of creating ‘work zones’ within your home.
2. Collaborate while working remotely
If you don’t usually work from home, chances are there will be a few bumps in the road when first going fully remote. The key to steering through these bumps is communication.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of remote working is that there is technology available to keep you in constant contact with your wider team and stakeholders, allowing you to overcome the boundaries of social distancing.
When text or email communication won’t do, pick up the phone or hop on a video call to have a face-to-face chat. With fibre broadband, you can enjoy uninterrupted video conferences with multiple colleagues at once, just as if you were in the office together.
Collaboration is important during this time and you may consider setting up team check-ins more frequently to update project statuses, receive feedback, discuss roadblocks, manage expectations and just generally talk about team wellbeing and morale. There’s no reason you and your team shouldn’t take your usual watercooler chat online either, and this will also help ease feelings of isolation.
It’s smart to stay on top of your organisation’s communications too - with the changing circumstances in the outside world, your employer will update you on coronavirus-related matters and remote working policies on a regular basis, most likely via email or your Intranet. And if there’s any confusion around this, it’s important that you reach out and ask any questions you may have.
3. Prioritise security
Working from home means maintaining the same level of security hygiene you would usually employ in the workplace, in terms of protecting your devices and your data.
Your company-issued laptop and mobile will most likely have already been installed with antivirus software and firewall protection to keep you cybersafe when conducting your work from home. But it’s important that you work using these devices only - avoid dealing with any business-related matters on your personal electronics as these will not necessarily be as protected.
Have you been ignoring that update reminder that keeps popping up? Don’t. If you get a reminder that software updates are available for your work computer, phone or tablet, make sure to update them as soon as possible - or set them to do so automatically. These will help patch security flaws, and ensure new features are added to your devices and older ones removed.
You should always keep your VPN (virtual private network) turned on when working from home. A VPN provides a secure link between businesses and their employees accessing their networks. It ensures that all data is encrypted and therefore less vulnerable to cyberattacks, and scans any device that connects to ensure there is no malicious software.
Be aware that cybercriminals have been exploiting the virus outbreak by sending fake emails (also known as a phishing attack) to employees - the messages appear to come from your organisation and may ask you to click on a link related to the company’s policy on the COVID-19 situation. Clicking on these unsafe links could result in you unwittingly downloading malware on to your device. If in any doubt, contact your IT department immediately before opening any links.
4. Keep a work-life balance
Maintaining a good work-life balance is possibly the most important aspect of navigating these uncertain times. Your work life may have infiltrated your home life more than usual, but that doesn’t mean it needs to take over.
Just as you try to separate your physical workspace, you should be clear about when you’re working and when you’re not. Sticking to regular hours will allow you to get your best work done at home as well as help you ease back into office life when the time comes.
Building transitions into and out of your work day will help with this separation. The morning and evening commutes not only get you to and from work, but give your brain time to prepare for work and decompress after a long day. Allow time for activities at the start and end of each day that signal to you that you’re off the clock - this could be anything from taking the dog for a walk, enjoying a nice cuppa while catching up on the news of the day or spending some time playing in the garden with your kids.
Communication outside of work hours is as important as it is in. You’re not able to socialise with all your friends and family in person, but that shouldn’t stop you from regularly reaching out over the phone or chatting over a video call. They’ll be dealing with the same issues as you. Pooling together ideas and sharing stories about coping in the current climate is a great way to blow off steam and find solutions to problems you may be experiencing. We’re all in this together.