New to working from home full-time? Here’s how to stay productive

As the coronavirus pandemic threatens public health and the U.S. economy, more people are working from home on a regular basis. The move follows social distancing guidelines as an attempt to slow the outbreak, but keeping scattered workforces connected and productive can be challenging for managers and employees.

This is new terrain for all involved, but employees and their companies can come out of this stronger by learning how to work together even better while they’re physically apart.

 Optimally, working remotely can sharpen the skills you have and open new avenues of training that broaden skill-sets and increase results. But technology alone can’t smooth the transition to remote working, and both employees and business leaders must learn how to implement new structures and some new or tweaked processes.

 Here are some tips for both managers and associates to make working from home work out well for their companies:

 For employees:

  • Get started early. When going to the office, you normally get up and out the door early. At home, this is more difficult. Get up, take a shower, and get started.
  • Create a dedicated work space. People who haven’t worked remotely may need to experiment with different approaches to find what setting works best for them. Just because you’re not going to the office doesn’t mean you can’t have an office. Dedicate a specific room or surface in your home to work. You should associate your home office with your actual office. This creates the correct mindset for being productive.
  • Structure your day like you would in the office. Workers need to adopt exceptional conscientiousness when it comes to dividing their day into intensive work, communications, personal time and family life. Have an agenda. Schedule meetings and project time and stay on schedule.

For managers: 

  • Set expectations. It is vital that employees know what is expected of them. When will you be available? How long will it take to get back to someone?
  • Create a cadence of communication. Without daily face-to-face interaction, there’s more importance on communication. A rhythm of communication is vital – daily check-ins, weekly one-on-ones, weekly team meetings, etc.
  • Take a video-first approach. Video, with all the current technology, is the most effective means of remote communication. Invest in reliable tools.
  • Maintain company social bonds. One drawback of working remotely is the potential breaking of social bonds that are necessary for productive teamwork. Video conferencing or a quick Google chat with a colleague is vital to keep relationships strong. Employees miss face-to-face banter and impromptu discussions in the physical office, so seeing faces on the screen daily is optimal for morale and a sense of normalcy.

Employees and employers can take this unprecedented time as a time to improve individually and as a company. Working from home and working well together can go hand-in-hand when everyone is pulling even harder in the same direction.

Jim Guilkey, PhD is the author of M-Pact Learning: The New Competitive Advantage — What All Executives Need To Know. He is the president of S4 NetQuest and a nationally recognized expert in instructional design and learning strategy, with extensive experience in leading the design, development, and implementation of innovative, highly effective learning solutions.

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