Tips for working from home while quarantined.
With the outbreak of COVID-19, many of us will be working from home. Here are tips compiled by our outreach staff.
We all have different lifestyles and habits, but these tips can really help make this new transition time a chance for you to be productive and engaged, even during extended self isolation.
Everyone will be adjusting to new work schedules, procedures, and technological tools to stay connected. Office equipment, software tools, and a healthy schedule can keep you prepared for an extended work from home schedule. Also, especially for those with children, we will need to set up boundaries between work and personal life. Here are our 10 tips for leading a better and more productive remote-work life, based on our experiences and what we’ve learned from others.
- Get your technology in order: Set up all the gadgets and devices you need to remain productive. Don’t forget charging cables, power strips, extra monitors, keyboards, printers, and all of the other hardware necessary to get you through the next few weeks. We will share software tools that can help below, but make sure your internet connectivity has the bandwidth to keep up. Kids streaming videos and playing heavy bandwidth consumption applications can slow you down and throttle your productivity.
- Set up your phone: Forward phone calls from your office to your personal phone. If privacy is an issue, and you want to keep work and home life separated (highly recommended!!) try setting up a free VoIP system such as Skype or Google Voice and get a dedicated private office line wherever you may be.
- Set ground rules: This is for family/people in your living space, and cannot be stressed enough. Kids need to know when they can/cannot interrupt, and others living in your home need to know boundaries of when it is ok to disturb you during your working hours.
- Set up a designated work area: Try to work in a designated work space. A comfortable chair, table, and physical work-station that doesn’t need to be taken down and set up every day can go a long way to creating a balanced work routine. It also helps create boundaries with others at home and signals to others that when you are connected to your computer in your designated work station, that you are busy and not to be disturbed.
- Stick to a schedule: Consistency will be key here and it goes further than trying to maintain scheduled start and stop times. Pre-work routine is also essential. Breakfast, showers, exercise, watching the news, just because you don’t have your usual commute time, try keeping your pre-work rituals. These help you stay focused, healthy, and consistent. Maintain meal times and scheduled breaks. Try not to overload yourself and work through meals and after your designated stop time. This next few weeks is going to be stressful enough, make sure you are doing your part, but at the same time, try to provide a healthy balance to your day. For those of you with children, here is a great article about creating a family schedule.
- Webcams are your friend: Communicate with your team and others through video. It is easy to set up, and a better way to communicate, especially as we progress through the next few weeks. This will help not only office productivity, but personal mental health as well. It can be great to just see someone else’s face.
- Headphones: Especially if you have noise cancelling bluetooth headphones. They can help tone out the distractions in the background like the kids tv, or your partner speaking on a conference call. They provide better sound quality for virtual meetings and free up your hands to type. They can also stream in soothing and relaxing music while you work!
- Over Communicate: This can be challenging for those new to working from home, but really helps you stay engaged with your co-workers. The small conversations, water-cooler chat, and typical office banter are all gone, but they can be replaced with active communication from your team. Whether you use online tools, social media, email, or voice/video calls, stay engaged. Lift others up, be positive, and contribute to a fun and engaged work environment. Your ability to stay positive over the next few weeks will go a long way to increasing your productivity.
- Google everything: IT staff are likely to be overwhelmed assisting everyone through this transition, before you call your help desk, give it a quick google search and see if you can self diagnose your work problems. Chances are, you are not the only one who has tried to figure out your problem. There are millions of online solutions that are a search away that can help you get unstuck, and move forward.
Productivity Software: Here are some suggestions for online software that can really power your productivity and keep you connected to your team
- FreeConferenceCall.com – free dedicated conference call line, complete with dial in instructions, after call reporting, and that jazzy hold music
- Slack – team communication app that makes collaboration a breeze. At its most basic, it looks like a social media-style feed that your work team can all use. It’s true power lies in it’s integrations with other apps and ability to automate through tools like Zapier.
- Microsoft Teams – Microsoft’s take on Slack, fully integrated into Office 365. If you work with Microsoft tools at work, this can be an extremely powerful tool to keep your team together and all working productively.
- Zoom, Skype, Facetime, Hangouts – Video communication software. These can all be used for free to set up communication with customers, your team, as well as family members. During social isolation, these can really help you stay connected to the outside world. The webcam is your friend.
- FaxZero – unable to bring your fax machine home? This is a free online fax service. Just upload your document, and fax it anywhere in the world at the push of a button.
- PDF2GO – trouble accessing pdf files, or need to convert pdf files to other file types? This is a free tool that converts your pdf documents into the file format of your choice.
- Pomodoro Technique – Look into this tomato timer for an excellent time management technique. It seems campy, but time-boxing can really keep you focused and on-track by breaking work into short, manageable intervals, followed by short breaks.
These are all just a few of the tips, tricks, and tools we find useful in working remotely. Please let us know what works for you, and share tools and tips that you have found successful as well. The next few weeks are going to be a difficult transition time for the entire country as we work through this global pandemic. It is important to note, please do your part to keep communities safe. Limit your exposure, don’t go out if you don’t have to, and please wash your hands.
Christopher Miller, Community Outreach Coordinator
March 19, 2020
How to talk to your kids about the coronavirus.
Try to make your children feel safe, but be truthful. It’s ok to say you don’t have the answers, and to let them know it’s ok to be worried or stressed.
Gauge your child’s knowledge level
Try to establish what your children already know about COVID-19. See what their friends are saying, or what they have heard on television or online. For younger kids, see what they have overheard parents or grownups talking about. This is your chance to learn what your kids know, see if they have picked up on any mis-information, or false information, and see if this is a topic that is causing stress for them.
Be honest and caring
Try to make your children feel safe, but be truthful. It’s ok to say you don’t have the answers, and can serve as a fact-finding opportunity for you to find out answers together.
Limit the details to what the kids are interested in, for example, school closings, why we can’t have playdates, or why we can’t go to the park. Keep it relevant, no need to overload your little ones with too much information. Stick to what they are concerned with. Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for up-to-date, reliable information about coronavirus (COVID-19). That way, you have the facts and kids don’t see headlines about deaths and other scary information.
Remain calm. Explain what most people who get sick feel like if they do get sick, but do so in a calm voice. Kids are very good at sensing when parents are worried. Remember that it is natural for kids to worry in these times. Inform them that kids don’t seem to get as sick as adults. Give them the space to talk about what scares them, or any fears they may have. Monitor their news sources and where they get their information, especially kids with online privileges. Direct them to age-appropriate content so they don’t end up finding news media that may scare them or give them incorrect information.
Let your kids feel in control
Keep your kids on a routine, and give them specific things that they can do to feel in control. Teach them that washing hands and performing good hygiene habits can go a long way towards keeping them safe and healthy. Be the example for your kids, make sure they also see you taking proper precautions and performing good hygiene practices.
Talk to them about new developments. It might be pretty soothing for kids to know that scientists and doctors around the world are all working hard to discover a vaccine. Let them know that doctors and nurses are prepared for this, and are working hard to help treat everyone that gets sick.
Contextualize the news. If your children ask about death from the virus, let them know that despite what they may see or hear, death from this virus is still rare. Watch the news together with your kids so you can be a filter for what they are hearing.
Connect with relatives on video chat. Kids may worry about their friends or relatives. A skype call with the grandparents can help assuage their worries.
Let them know that it is ok to be worried or stressed. Stress is normal, and everyone experiences it, especially during times of emergency. Help build emotional resilience in your children by working through tough times like this.
Check in with your kids frequently. Use COVID-19 as a platform to discuss how kids learn about their bodies, and how your body has an amazing immune system designed to fight off diseases. Talk through difficulties your kids are having with processing all of this information. As adults, we are still transitioning and adapting to changes in work schedules, uncertainty about the future, lack of toilet paper etc. Make sure to check in with your kids and see how they are handling this transition.
Christopher Miller, Community Outreach Coordinator
March 19, 2020