The COVID-19 pandemic has required more and more businesses to ask their employees to work from home. That offers challenges for many as some just aren’t accustomed to what it takes to be a remote worker. Many of us are getting adjusted to not only working from home, but doing it while serving as our kids’ new educator.
Diana Ennen of VirtualWordPublishing.com has been working from home since 1985 and is sharing her top tips for working virtually.
13 Tips for Working Virtually:
1. Internet is crucial. Repeat, the internet is crucial. Get it set up and know what to do if it happens to go down. If your company provides tech support, utilize it. However, don’t wait until the last minute. If major companies send everyone home to work, your favorite tech support guy is going to be extremely busy. So get prepared.
2. Test your equipment and work out any bugs. I’d love to say this is going to be a flawless operation, but that’s not necessarily the case. Those who have worked from home for years (I’m at 35 years) know that things happen and how you deal with them is what can save you. Set up your computer, printer, etc., and test all features. Keep in mind, speed is important. Your computer from 2007 might not cut it today so if you have to, get a new one. Often companies are paying for these expenses. Not sure how to do something, a quick Google search or a YouTube video might be just the answer you need. If not, talk with someone with experience and get their recommendations.
3. Supply and Demand – Stock up on business supplies such as paper, ink, etc. Right now you can get plenty, but you never know what will happen so be prepared. Also, if you aren’t used to working at home, you absolutely don’t want to run out of ink … EVER!
4. Back up all work. Your company more than likely had back-ups already in place. But now that you are home it’s imperative that you set this up immediately. A flash drive, cloud storage such as Dropbox, and also Carbonite are good recommendations. I have them all. Also, make sure you have adequate storage.
5. Skype and Zoom will be your best friends. These allow you to have audio and video conferences. Look into them pronto or the video conferencing platform of your choice. Before you have a conference, learn the basics and test that you can be heard and seen. Nothing is more frustrating than someone attending a meeting and you can’t hear or see the person who is there. Valuable time can be wasted here. Also, remember you can often record conferences. That’s beneficial especially in the early days when things are more stressful.
6. Set up your webcam. Invest in a good one too. More importantly, check it out and see how you look. When it’s too close all you can see is your face, and close up that is not always the most flattering. Also review your background. Anything that is in view should be clean. Now is not the time to see your 20 bottles of old Diet Cokes you haven’t thrown away. I mean who does that? (Guilty as charged!)
7. Discuss your needs with your family and friends. Be firm on the fact that you’re working, and being home doesn’t mean you can talk for hours. It is imperative that you set professional boundaries and expectations for everyone in your home.
8. Set up a dedicated area. If you can convert a room or a part of a room to an office, that is the best scenario. Find a place where the interruptions are less frequent including barking dogs and screaming children. Being able to shut the door too is a godsend. However, work with what you have.
9. Have Activities For Your Children Ahead of Time. Occupy small children with a goodie basket of things such as crayons, coloring books, books, etc. This will allow you to take calls and work. All my kids remember times when I threw a basket of fun things to them while on an important call. They loved it. The Dollar Store can make this less expensive or make some of your own by printing out coloring pages. Of course, prepare depending on your child’s age. And no — too many cartoons or Netflix right now is not bad! They have probably heard the news too and this can be relaxing for them.
10. When on important calls or conferences, be sure to turn off any distractions. If you are on Skype, turn your phone off so you can’t hear voicemails. Log out of email programs such as Outlook so all your notifications don’t appear if you have it set up that way. If you have a dog that barks every time someone knocks on the door put a note on the door not to knock. UPS has hurt many a conference call for me so I do this every time now. What else? Review what your needs might be and plan accordingly.
11. Write down all your passwords. I’ll leave it at that. You’ll thank me later for that one! Make sure they are written in a secure place that is not easily accessible. Working at home requires a higher level of cyber security so be sure to take the necessary precautions.
12. Set clear guidelines on how you will be communicating. It’s important to know whether that will be email, calls, etc. If you set clear criteria now, everyone wins as they know what to expect, making communication seamless.
13. Remain calm. This is a situation that is extremely stressful. Then you top that with having to figure out how to work virtually. Try and relax and take it one step at a time. Take frequent breaks and reach out to friends when too stressed.
We will all get through this. Remember you are not in this alone. Give yourself the grace and time you need to adjust to your new normal.
Diana Ennen, President of Virtual Word Publishing, https://virtualwordpublishing.com offers PR and Marketing services, book marketing services, and PR and Virtual Assistant Coaching. She has been featured in USA Weekly, Forbes, Inc. Radio, Fox News, Women’s World, USA Today, CNN, Wall Street Journal, and many more. Follow her on social media at https://www.facebook.com/VirtualWordPublishing