Working from home

Part 2: Working Remotely During COVID-19. The Basics

At SDL, nearly all staff across 60 global offices have transitioned to working from home, and with business operations at near-normal, we are sharing some best practices to help individuals and managers from other organizations stay connected and productive.
 
For those who have worked from home for some time, these last few weeks have been a test of best practice. For others who are new to home working, this has come as an involuntary experiment into the unknown.
 
Keep reading to hear what our colleagues across SDL have rated as their top tips for successful home working.

Go to ‘work’

Not everyone has a dedicated home office, so look to carve out a comfortable space in your home where you can ‘go to work’. The sofa may initially look inviting, but to avoid the risk of back-ache, get the best chair you have to set up at your kitchen table. If you don’t have a kitchen table, why not convert an ironing board into a temporary workstation—a quarantine hack that really works! It sounds simple, but establishing and maintaining a basic routine is the cornerstone to productivity, so get up, get dressed, and plan your time effectively. Likewise, have a routine for finishing work—an open laptop is an invitation to work late… Remember that ‘you’, and others with whom you may be at home with, need your attention too. So remember to ‘leave work’—close the laptop, put it away, and do something that marks the start of the evening, like making dinner, Skyping a friend, or playing a game.

One great tip from our PMO colleagues is to share your workspace and your challenges with your colleagues. Sometimes, just being able to talk about the challenges you face and having an empathetic ear of a colleague or manager is enough. Communicate how you’re flexing your time or space to enable your productivity, particularly if you have dependents who also need to maintain their routine. Nobody should feel guilty for keeping the plates spinning at home and at work!

Embrace your distractions

Many of us are now sharing our workspace and work ‘self’. Setting aside time for family and friends who live with us will continue to be an important part of our overall new work/life balance. So, if you are now co-located with your partner or a roommate, decide on work areas, how interruptions will be handled, etc.  If you have young children, take turns with a partner to do the childcare, and flex your working schedule, to fit in with their needs. If your children are older, take time throughout the day to check in with them—even a 5 minute chat about what they did this morning, shows that you are interested.
 
Also, it’s your home! You don’t need to hide the people you live with. In fact, a great tip from our legal team is to introduce these people—your kids, your partner, your roommates—to your work colleagues, bring them into the start of conference calls to say ‘hi’ to everyone.  As we mentioned in our previous blog, bring your whole self to work—it’s not like we have a choice! Also, try to be patient when others cannot give their full attention—they could be living with little Joey, who has decided to use his coloring pens to redecorate the couch, or a partner who is asking a question of them, not realizing they are on a work call.

Match the technology to the task

With a range of different technologies at our finger tips, thinking about which to use for what is key. When someone gets it wrong, conflict and misunderstanding are usually the outcome. It’s always worth remembering to just take a moment to think about what you need to say, and how it is best to say it. Email, Skype, MS Teams, WhatsApp all have their place, but for anything personal, potentially controversial, or complicated, don’t worry about ‘getting your Skype face on’ and use the Webcam. In keeping with coronavirus best practice, wear a mask if it helps!

As with any communication, the barriers of virtual media can lead to misunderstandings, which are more likely to occur when everyone works remotely. Leaders are encouraging team members to extend trust to others, assume good intent and take the time to listen to others. Interestingly, while values underpin cultural behavior, businesses don’t create process maps for social interactions, as the way we work with others is intuitive and instinctive.

Stay connected

Loneliness and feelings of isolation are commonly reported by homeworkers as the biggest challenge that they face when new to homeworking. At SDL, with nearly all employees now virtual, we recognized that to maintain productivity, it was vital to keep everyone engaged and connected. We have encouraged leaders and team members to have a conscious and intentional action plan to stay proactively connected, including virtual ‘tea, biscuit & a natter’ sessions (all work talk prohibited!), encouraging social connection on team calls and taking virtual lunch breaks.

There are many ways that virtual teams can also connect through continuing to recognize birthdays and anniversaries, sharing recipes, group exercise classes, and using appropriate humor (a best/worst dressed colleague competition) to reinforce team bonds. If all else fails, do what the Brits do and talk about the weather!

Be productive

It’s worth noting that for many, this is one of the biggest challenges our teams have faced, both personally and professionally. Motivation can be difficult to find in the face of uncertainty, so share tips to stay focused and productive. Try kicking off new ways to exercise (within guidelines), check out a mindfulness app, read a book, or just take a moment to be alone. When all of our basic liberties and structure have been upended, it is okay and normal to feel unsure or anxious.

In challenging times people look for security and continuity, and for anyone who is feeling overwhelmed, don’t go a whole day without speaking to someone. Keep talking and remind others that no one needs to suffer alone. Turn off the news, connect with a colleague and maybe try some meditation or self-reflection. Remember to stay positive and keep the situation, which is temporary, in perspective. Personal well-being is paramount, and mental health is as important as physical health. Above, all stay safe!

Catch up on part 1 for more top tips for successful home working during COVID-19.