As coronavirus continues to spread throughout the US, employees might be asked to work from home.
Schools have already been forced to close over the virus and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said employers should have strategies ready to protect their workforce, too. It also recommended reviewing possible remote working and flexible schedule options.
But not everyone is prepared to get their work done remotely.
Start planning now
Don’t wait until you’re told to stay home to figure out that you don’t have the necessary tools to get your job done outside of the office.
Evaluate what software, information and other resources you will need to access in order to maintain your productivity.
Copy any important bookmarks, phone numbers and other information that might be saved on your work desktop or actual desk that you will need.
Managers should make sure that employees have the necessary tools to continue working from home, and have everyone’s outside-of-work contact information on hand.
Set up a workspace … and boundaries
Working from home can make the separation of work and personal life even more blurry, which is why it’s important to carve out a designated workspace at home.
For some, that might mean an entire room, while other home offices will be a chair at the kitchen table.
“Technically, anywhere with a flat surface and the internet can work, but try and make it as distraction-free as possible to be the most productive,” said Sara Sutton, CEO and Founder of FlexJobs.
To avoid working 12-hour days, be sure to have some way to signify the end of your remote work day, like putting your laptop away, and avoid working once you’ve signed off for the day.
“Turn off notifications during your time off so you aren’t seeing a message that you might be tempted to sneak off to check,” said Teresa Douglas, author of “Working Remotely: Secrets to Success for Employees on Distributed Teams.”
There’s no popping your head into someone’s office or dropping by someone’s desk to check the status of the report you are waiting for when everyone is working from home.
That’s why it’s imperative to set very clear assignment deadlines and give regular progress updates to make sure everyone is staying productive and working as efficiently as possible.
Sending out a daily and weekly agenda that’s constantly being updated can help keep everyone on track.
Be transparent about your schedule
Chances are many workers won’t be home alone if schools also shutter, so keeping everyone working typical business hours might not be feasible.
Workers need to be clear with their schedules and managers should be flexible.
“Managers need to choose their battles,” said Douglas. “Working 9-5 isn’t going to work for everyone, even for clients and customers who are also probably dealing with coronavirus.”
Be sure to communicate with your team members when you will be working and available and be very clear with deadlines so no one is left wondering when something will get done.
Keep detailed notes on your progress with different projects and assignments in a place where others can access it in case you are offline when they need something or you fall ill.
Be prepared for remote meetings
Remote meetings can be just as productive as those with everyone sitting around a conference table, but they take a little more prep work.
Circulate an agenda ahead of the meeting so that everyone knows what will be discussed. To avoid people talking over each other or being shy to speak up, set expectations at the start of the meeting.
“Call on people,” recommended Douglas. “Tell them: ‘I will start on so and so, then I will go to Alex after Mary.”
And if employees aren’t familiar with video conferencing, now might not be the time to have everyone set it up.
“I find phone conferencing to be better in a pinch,” said Sutton. “Keep it simple.”