What I learned in the first 24 hours of working from home during the coronavirus

You may need to work from home (WFH) occasionally. Some people view working it as a day to avoid a long commute and stay in comfy clothes. But working remotely can be less convenient if you are part of a collaborative team or, if you’re lucky like me, you consider interacting with your co-workers as one of the best parts of your day. 

Whether you need to frequently connect with co-workers or you work in a primarily solitary field, we can all agree that working from home requires an extra effort to maintain focus and productivity. 

Last week, in light of the ever-changing developments from the spread of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, we had a company-wide WFH trial run. Here’s what I learned in those first 24 hours and how it can help you. 

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Working from home, day one

Waking up, 7:30 a.m.

Keeping my morning routine as normal as possible was crucial for getting in my work mindset. I didn’t have to factor in an extra 45 minutes for my commute, so I put that time toward my normal shower, coffee and breakfast routine. 

Getting started, 9 a.m.

Tip #1: Have a workstation in mind. I have an office that accommodates one person. My husband was working from home as well, which made things a bit trickier. So, for this day, he took the office desk and I used the kitchen table. I liked this setup because I had a great view of the backyard that was bustling with birds and squirrels. 

Consider what you need in terms of your setup. My office has an extra computer monitor that I use when I need two full screens at once. Other times, I can get by with just my laptop. 

Items you may need:

  • An ample desk or work space
  • A supportive chair
  • Monitor, mousepad or other office accessories
  • Extra lighting

Whether you are planning to work from home permanently, or for just a couple of days, set up your workspace similar to an actual office. And do this before you start.

“Find the new normal quickly.”

Andy Hartman, Head of Product at MYMOVE, has experience in unforeseen working from home circumstances. He said, “In 2012, I was working in NYC and we got hit by Hurricane Sandy. Our company went to a WFH policy for an unknown amount of time.” 

His advice? “Find the new normal quickly. Set the new normal for remote processes quickly.  Delaying makes working remotely harder and our businesses less effective.”

Lunch and other distractions, 11:30 a.m.

Tip #2: Take mindful breaks. Schedule regular breaks for yourself and use them appropriately. It’s easy to think that one of the benefits of working from home is the ability to get some chores done. But I would advise against getting caught up with household tasks. It’s one thing to start the dishwasher, it’s quite another to decide to deep-clean your bathroom on a break. 

How to maximize your break time:

DO:

  • Take regular breaks.
  • Go outside or take a walk.
  • Enjoy your pet if you have one.

DON’T:

  • Have too many distractions, such as TV, loud music, etc. 
  • Start household tasks. If necessary, make a to-do list to tackle after you’ve “clocked out” for the day.

The afternoon stretch, 2:30 p.m.

By mid-afternoon, I was feeling a little antsy. If you are used to working in an office with an open floor plan, being suddenly solitary takes some getting used to. The good news is, there are ways to combat any temporary cabin fever.

When you are in remote meetings, “don’t be afraid to speak up,” said Hartman. “Collaboration and feedback is even more important when remote. Make sure to be present in meetings, have a voice, share your opinion and outwardly collaborate.”  

Tip #3: Reach out to your co-workers. Whether you use Slack, email or another tool to communicate with your team, it’s a good idea to have a daily check-in. Not to be confused with a meeting, a check-in makes sure everyone is in good spirits and engaged with each other. You can set up a “hang-out” room via video-conferencing tools, such as Zoom, for remote “water-cooler” chit-chat. 

Even more vital, Hartman said, “Care for yourself and your team. Beyond our daily work we are all one team, each person will be impacted differently by this, and it is important to be there for your teammates.” 

Wrapping up and going home, 6 p.m.

The end of the workday arrived faster than I expected. After an hour-long commute home for the last seven years, it was magnificent to be able to switch right into relaxation mode. Since this was a trial run of working from home, I decided to jot down what I needed to make the next remote day even better. 

Tip #4: Know what’s important to you. Take stock of what you need to be productive, comfortable, efficient and happy. There is tons of WFH advice that says you must have a state-of-the-art office and put on a professional outfit. If those things work for you, great. 

But keep your own preferences in mind. For example, you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars renovating an office. I bought a $20 solid wood desk at the Habitat for Humanity Restore, and an extra computer monitor from my neighborhood marketplace. I painted the walls, put in a new floor lamp and — presto! — the perfect office for me. Plus, I like to take advantage of other spaces in my home. If I’m feeling distracted at my desk, I’ll work in the kitchen or outside at the patio table. 

Internet speed, security and other considerations

Figuring out what speeds you need when working from home is vital, and it may not be the same for everyone. For example, if you’re connecting to a virtual private network (VPN), take into consideration that it will slow down your internet connection. The average VPN slows down your speed by 10%-30%. Not sure what speed you’re currently getting? Use our speed test tool below to find out. 

Here’s the three main factors to consider when selecting an internet speed for working remotely:

  1. Are you connected to a VPN?
  2. Are you connecting more than one computer, or do you have more than one person working at home in your household?
  3. Will you be uploading large files, participating in video conference calls or performing other tasks that require more data and speed capabilities?

Internet security when working from home

Your company may already have stringent security features in place, such as a VPN with two-factor authentication. If not, make sure you are set up for success by checking out these articles about keeping your internet connection secure. 

Keep in mind, IT may be harder to reach if you are working from home and troubleshooting internet issues will be up to you. Do you know what to do if your internet stops working? Do you know how to reset your router or how to reach your internet service provider (ISP) for assistance if you need it? Here’s customer service contacts for the top ISPs in the U.S.:

My last piece of advice

Because you are at home, you may feel that you are going to be super-productive. Don’t be surprised or discouraged if you get the same amount done as you would in the office. There’s still only eight hours in a workday. 

Have you done your WFH trial run? If you need to check out faster internet in your area, or just want to see what your options are, click below. 

For more telecommuting content, keep an eye on our Resource Center and follow our experts on Facebook and Twitter

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