Over the past decade, there has been a tremendous increase in remote workers – both the self-employed and independent contractors, as well as many white-collar workers. Thanks to improvements in cloud computing, Internet infrastructure, and remote collaboration tools, remote working has been an upswing megatrend for years now.
With the widespread corporate and government response from the devastating spread of COVID-19 throughout the world, many companies are experiencing firsthand the impact of a predominantly remote workforce on business operations. With much of their staff now working from home, some organizations may opt for employees to continue to work remotely well beyond the current crises.
If you’ve worked from home on occasion in the past, remote work has been a fairly easy adjustment to manage yourself through. Most people can pretty much get by with their mobile phone, their laptop, and a reasonably comfortable chair at their kitchen table. But given that many expect we may be facing longer work from home mandates, the transition will require some serious adaptation on the part of both organizations and employees alike.
Following adjustment to this new-normal, many employers may come to realize that a substantial portion of their staff can and should work from home because it would save the business considerable sums. This may be a major factor in the decision to continue work-from-home at a time when companies may need as much cash as possible to recover their balance sheets after an extended economic shutdown.
All things considered, it’s probably a good idea that every employee who can work remotely be prepared for an extended stay, and that organizations are prepared to support them securely. Many of us, primarily white-collar creative, communication, and information professionals, have been working from home for decades now. This post is designed to help those who are new to remote work make the transition from short term to long term work-from-home productivity.
Here’s some things to keep in mind as you make the journey:
Keeping in Touch with Your Team
Some team members are well equipped to work remotely and have no trouble collaborating as needed. They may even appreciate being away from the office and what they see as distractions associated with hallway and water cooler social chat. Perhaps they have jobs that lend themselves to thinking and working independently, or perhaps their personalities are built that way.
For other staff members, this will not be the case, and the lack of social interaction may present a significant challenge. Some personality types tend to thrive on the interaction and being around others because they feed off the energy of the team. When working from home for extended periods, some people may be tempted to hold too many meetings or need to touch base with the team frequently throughout the day.
To keep morale up, consider holding regularly scheduled video meetings with the team so that people can see one another and feel connected. In addition to regular team meetings, consider setting up an activity using a water-cooler channel via a direct messaging platform if you don’t already have one. If you do already have one, consider staying in contact a little bit more, and making communications as fun as possible.
Maintaining Your Sanity Over the Long Term
Part of maintaining sanity at home will be about having the right workspace, and cohabitants who can respect your work boundaries. But your sanity will also depend on you maintaining good habits throughout the day.
For your mental health, consider not eating at your work area and actually taking lunch breaks as you have been accustomed to in the past. Take care of yourself with short walk breaks during the day and brief virtual social breaks with coworkers on video chat or through messaging. This will allow you to get back to focusing on work all the better.
It's also essential to maintain a regular schedule. Try to keep your old routines in place. When we go to work every day, we wake up and shower, run our errands or hit the gym – typically at some point right before or after work. It's crucial to keep these activities up and maintain your routine to help maintain a sense of normalcy when working from home for an extended period.
Your App and Data Security
Of course, working from home means working outside the enterprise network securely – so your decisions will go a long way in keeping data and devices secure. Your decisions on what links to click and apps to install can place sensitive corporate data at considerable risk. You can do your part by making sure only to use applications and tools that have been vetted and approved by the IT and security departments.
It's also crucial that you practice good security hygiene, such as not using public Wi-Fi when traveling and always keeping any mobile device with confidential data encrypted and on your person. Never click on links that can’t be trusted.
The number of employees who previously worked at the office but will continue to work from home after the COVID-19 crisis is over (and it will pass, just hang in there) is anyone’s guess. But given the current trend, it is likely that there will be many more remote workers a year from now than before the pandemic started – and this may include you. Take the steps now to get yourself better equipped for an extended work-from-home experience.
For organizations, maintaining a seamless workflow for remote workers will require IT and cybersecurity teams to implement Zero Trust strategies to securely support the collaboration and productivity tools that assure continuity for critical business operations. The white paper Seven Strategies to Securely Enable Remote Workers provides insights on key areas of focus and advice for organizations when considering the best solution options to support a secure remote-only workforce.