Going Virtual Thanks to Covid-19

5 Tips to Help Transition You to a Virtual Office

With the onslaught of new cases and the rapid spread of the coronavirus, more companies and municipalities are taking precautions to protect their workforce. If you are used to heading into an office every day, working at home could be a nice change! However, some may feel frustrated as they adjust to a new routine with the family around. Others may feel isolated. Here are 5 tips to consider for a smoother transition.

1.     Keep a consistent schedule. One advantage to working from home is reduced commute time and perhaps you discover greater flexibility in your day. A challenge, however, is that you may find yourself working longer. Another is that you may have unexpected childcare or responsibilities for young adults who are home from school. Work with your family to create a schedule that will work for all and communicate with your team that you need to set ‘office hours’ when you can be reached. Perhaps your 8am-5pm day now looks something like 6am-9am, 11am-1pm, 6pm-9pm for example, for a parent who has childcare. 

2.     Set outcomes-based goals. Studies show spending more hours at work doesn’t necessarily equate to more productivity. Why not try an outcomes-based approach? Propose to your boss or consider offering to your teams, a flexible work schedule based on expectations regarding the deliverable or product of work verses how many hours you are working? My own personal experience running teams is that people appreciate when you trust them to get their work done when they can instead of tracking the number of hours worked. Set a due date for key deliverables, schedule check-ins to review progress, keep communication lines open, and let the team rise to meet your expectations.

3.     Establish communication channels. Not everyone is used to working in a virtual environment and even when companies have communication tools implemented, people have varied degrees of comfort using them. If you are new to the virtual world, there are free tools your company and colleagues can experiment with such as Teams,  FacetimeZoomSkype, and Google Hangouts. Nominate someone to dive in and learn about these, select the best option, learn the features, and then bring the team along. Stick with it and have patience!

4.     Reconsider the urgency. Teams need to adjust to working virtually with each other. If you were used to walking down the hall and popping your head in your colleague's office, then you may be tempted to call your colleague or text her when you have a question or need something. Consider how urgent that need is in the moment and could you save you requests, draft and email, and send it later in the day? Conversely, you may be tempted to watch emails come in and answer asap to ‘show you are working’ or just because – it’s a distraction (even when we are in an office setting). According to a Harvard Business Review study on time management, over-checking email wastes 21 minutes per day! Consider checking every couple of hours or at set points vs the average noted in this study which is about every 37 minutes.  

5.     Change it up. Working from home can invite new ways of working to explore: Consider setting scheduled mini-breaks and read a book with the kids. Perhaps take a walk with your dog while on a conference call. Enjoy a sit-down lunch with your family for a change. Invite a young adult to ‘shadow’ you at work. Try working in different rooms for different tasks. I like to do calls and focus on operational tasks in my office but enjoy writing in my living room. The point is, find one thing to do during the workday that makes it more pleasant. Finding a little joy in the journey during these times of uncertainty can help reduce stress and keep things a little lighter.

Authored By: Jennifer Ayres