Posted by Laura Riskus and Grace Park ● April 1, 2020
Adjusting to the New Normal of Working at Home
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home is the new normal for many workers. People are now getting a crash course in adapting to their new working environment. As learning professionals, we have the unique ability to help others adjust with teaching and coaching by doing these behaviors.
Here at Caveo, remote working is our business as usual, because we all work 100% remotely. It’s how we roll, and we’ve been there, and done that. We want to help you get over some of the bumps, and give you some insight, and maybe humor, during this rapidly changing time.
Based on our personal experience, Caveo wants to offer our best tips for making remote working work for you and your colleagues.
Learn the tools you have in your tool belt
Having reliable technology and tools to do your job is crucial. You may find yourself using more features of your existing technology. Now is the time to share any tips or tricks, and encourage others to do the same.
Learn how to communicate your availability, not just for breaks, but to carve out time to plan and get things done without being disturbed. Put some borders around your day—set aside time in the morning to organize and time at the end of the day to wrap up work items.
Rehearsals can save the day
Do a test run if you’re diving into a new meeting experience using technology. Rehearsals give you a safe environment to learn the controls. When I first started working from home, I found out that troubleshooting audio was the first, most important skill to learn. Without sound, your meeting may as well be an email. A lot of things can impact how you sound and what you hear. Learning where the “mute all” feature is in your meeting platform may be the most valuable skill you learn.
You can use your cameras while respecting bandwidth. Turning on your camera during meetings is a great way to get a face-to-face experience. However, if you find that the audio degrades when sharing video AND doing VOIP audio AND sharing your screen, stick to audio only for the remainder of the meeting.
Take extra time in meetings to connect
In lieu of the water cooler conversation that occurs in the office, when working remotely, spending the first 5–10 minutes of a call to check in with everyone on topics that are not work related helps to build stronger bonds.
Because this is new, this may take a bit more of a conscious effort. You’re no longer commuting, so consider it a trade-off for better communication.
Defeat your fear of the webcam
You know when you get the preview to share your webcam, and get that feeling like, “Oh no, that’s not happening.” Well, now is the time to get used to it. We have a few “Caveoites” who are fearless and will have their webcam on when you log into the meeting. These people are our webcam heroes. And in a world where we want to show our best face in meetings, real and authentic has become more important. Start a video cam revolution, even if you just turn it on to say hello, and then turn it off. It’s like waving to someone over the cubicle walls.
Talk about the best way to communicate
If your team doesn’t enjoy the element of surprise, it’s good to align on the best way to catch up. Whether it’s Skype, Slack chats, or even texts via cell phone, discussing the best way to connect can create the best communication experience for your team.
Be mindful of when you are reaching out to other teammates. They may be putting kids down for a nap, or maybe they are in different time zones. Leverage the features in your technology. Delay delivery in Outlook and Tag for Status Change Alerts in Skype are couple of examples.
Set work hours
Identify a way to notify your roommates that you are in work mode so your meeting isn’t interrupted with, “I found toilet paper at the store!” in the background. Let your roommates know that a closed door means you are not available, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll keep their yelling between rooms at a minimum.
Set your work hours as best as you can, and use Outlook to remind you to “shut down”. When you work from home, there is no distinct cut off like getting out of the office and driving home. It’s surprisingly easy to get caught in the “I’ll just finish this one last thing” undercurrent.
Take breaks for physical and mental health
Resist sitting for hours on end. It’s important to get up and get your blood circulating. You can do this while you’re working, and now is the time to use that Bluetooth headset. Pace during meetings, stand instead of sitting, and even do some basic stretching (without the webcam on, of course).
Walk away from your work area for lunch. Lunch breaks are important not only to feed your body, but to keep the crumbs out of your keyboard. It gets hard to ignore email and phones, so be sure to take your mid-day meal away from your desk. Some of us take our coworkers with four legs for a walk during our lunch breaks. If you prefer to exercise, there are a lot of options on the web, and many gyms are offering remote classes.
Breaks don’t have to be long. Rest your eyes, and use the 20/20/20 rule of avoiding eyestrain—every 20 minutes, focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Stretch your muscles, and take a mental break. Go spend 10 minutes on that 1000-piece butterfly puzzle, or catch up with a friend over the phone.
Updating your calendar is going to be even more important. It’s so much easier to schedule time when you know your colleagues’ calendars are updated.
Consider people’s situations when scheduling meetings. With the current situation, organize online meetings at a time when everyone can join easily. For example, parents who have young children at home may not be able to make meetings in the morning.
Ultimately, it’s all about trust
Many companies didn’t move to remote working because they couldn’t see their employees. Now, being able to communicate, meet efficiently, and connect with people is more important than ever. With a focus on the outcome and the contribution you make, instead of being in the office, you’ll find you have more time to get meaningful work done. Through this time, take advantage of this opportunity to increase your skillset, and share the learning love with others.