A Beginner's Guide to Working from Home

We’re only four months into the new year, and 2020 will most likely be remembered as the year of the pandemic. The coronavirus is affecting the global economy, daily life and how and where you work.

Recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines recommend limiting large events and gatherings of more than 10 people. Many employers are taking heed by both grounding employees who frequently travel and instituting work-from-home policies for employees who typically work in a centralized business office.

While there is an increase in remote working due to this national emergency, remote work isn’t new. It has been gaining traction as employees increasingly demand greater flexibility with both their hours and working conditions. Five million employees, or 3.6% of the workplace, work from at home half of the time or more, according to Global Workplace Analytics. Regular work-at-home has grown 173% since 2005.

Even with its growing popularity, a sudden shift to working remotely can leave you feeling a bit uneasy. After all, if you’re accustomed to working in an office environment full time, the change to working from home can leave you feeling both excited and discombobulated!

Below are some helpful hints for the work-from-home novice, and some gentle reminders for those road warriors who suddenly find themselves longing for business upgrades.

1) Set boundaries. Work life has a certain cadence to it. You leave the house the same time every day, stop and grab a coffee and a muffin from the same café and arrive at your desk with enough time to send a text to your bestie or partner.

But now that you’re working from home, everyone seems to think your availability is greater and you have nothing to do. Time to set things straight.

It’s important to let people know that, even if you’re working from home, you are still working. You have the same goals and your boss is expecting the same results. Set boundaries around your availability by letting your friends and family know your working hours haven’t changed.

2) Get organized. Not everyone has a dedicated office, so finding workspace can be a challenge. While working at the kitchen table may not be ideal, you can make it work for the short term.

If you expect to be working remotely longer than the next eight weeks, it may make sense to convert a spare room to an office or to find a spot in the house you can use that will be less distracting. Move your charger station close to your workspace, find a comfortable chair and set your table up like you would a desk at the office.

Creating a dedicated, work-friendly space will help you separate your personal and work life and keep you feeling organized during this time of transition.

3) Embrace technology. Working from home has its benefits, like throwing a load of laundry in the wash at lunch or taking a quick walk around the block with your four-legged friend. But remote workers also tend to feel isolated, especially in the early stages of transitioning to working from home.

To prevent that feeling of loneliness, it is important to remain connected. The good news is many businesses already have tools in place like Zoom, Go to Webinar and Skype. These tools help to create a more intimate communication experience between workers and their colleagues and clients. 

For some workers, getting comfortable with the video features can be a little intimidating, but if you focus on the purpose of your communication instead of how you look, you’ll quickly find these tools bring the outside world in and any anxiety you felt about video communication will quickly subside.

A quick word to the road warriors who have been grounded: don’t despair. You’ll be earning hotel points and frequent flyer miles soon enough. Enjoy the extra hour or so in the morning normally set aside for getting to the airport and go for a walk, practice yoga or do an activity with your kids.

This crisis will end soon enough, and you’ll be longing for the green, green grass of home once again.

Susan Toussaint is cofounder and partner at Oceanus Partners, a ReSource Pro company. Oceanus Partners is a firm dedicated to helping insurance professionals working in all lines of business insurance to improve sales and client retention.