Work from Home COVID-19 Survival Guide

homeoffice scaled
homeoffice scaled

If you think that providing your employees with a laptop, Office 365 and Zoom accounts are the only thing to consider in this new WFH normal, then I’ll tell you to go rethink many points.  If you’ve also been brainwashed by the “work from home coronavirus” and “work from home covid” mantras of late, then this read is for you.

While the need to quickly enable your work force to invoice, fulfill sales orders, ship product, and invoice will be what may determine whether a long-established company makes or breaks its future, much of the recent innovation to get products and services delivered falls largely on employees’ shoulders.

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, I’ve put together a survival guide. Hopefully, both employees and employers can use this to get the most productivity from their home-based employees.

For the IT professional, setting up employees to work from home isn’t anything new.  I recall setting up key employees in very short time for the Great Ice Storm of 1998, Y2K, H1N1 outbreak, and COVID-19.  I’ve also set up individuals to work from home due to complicated pregnancy, employees who insisted to work while they received chemotherapy, who were too nauseous to come to work, and other paraplegic employees who worked call centers from the comfort of their electric wheelchair.

Is Your Job Compatible with Working from Home?

Liam Neeson’s portrayal of Oskar Schindler in Steven Spielberg’s riveting Schindler’s List conveys how many employers try valiantly. Sometimes it is to the detriment of others, to keep all employees occupied and with a steady salary.

But does this make sense if you operate a warehouse?  Can you ship large boxes from home?  Will your dentist fill a cavity over the phone?  Does Zoom or Microsoft Teams offer a virtual haircut feature?  Can you repair a flat tire remotely?

There comes a time for the corporate leadership team to evaluate whether there should be temporary layoffs.  This at the cost of all other contributors who can outperform both employer and customer expectations measurably.  Trying to follow in Oskar Schindler’s lead may cause much resentment and mistrust among employees. These employees have bestowed trust upon their supervisor and ultimately their leadership team.

Setting Up a Home Office

Fortunately, at this stage of my career that I have a dedicated home office with a door that may be closed for important phone calls or video conferencing.  Actually, my guest room is what I call my home office.  On a video conference, you may see a Nirvana poster above my multi-function HP scanner printer, the edge of a bed, or even a laundry basket.  At first, I was somewhat embarrassed by this and I struggled to tidy the guest room to give it the semblance of a professional office.  Until I noticed other colleagues’ home workspaces.

I’ve realized that many of my colleagues set up their home office at the dining room table.  Why? This is the only central location in their home where they can, all the while keeping an eye on a child or an elderly parent watching TV with the sound blaring.

It’s very normal for employees to want to separate work from their home life.  Not everyone wants to show their tacky wallpaper to their colleagues or show their shower-towels hanging to dry behind their bedroom doors.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some I’ve spoken with were at first shocked to see their top-performing inside sales manager’s wife preparing dinner in the background or their children playing Call of Duty to the side.  I’ve heard comments like, “I didn’t realize Bob’s wife was so fat” or “I wish Pat would call in a babysitter or stuff his boy’s mouth to keep him from crying on our calls.”

Whatever Happened to Work-Life Balance?

In the nineties and early two-thousands, the Lominger Competencies and Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs were all the buzz.  I was overwhelmed by our company’s HR team ensuring I kept a work-life balance. 

Personal Challenges with Work from Home (How to Bend a Bamboo Stick Until it Almost Snaps!)

Lately, so many companies are touting how much more productive they have been and that they never needed an office in the first place.  Frivolous now are office expenses such as feeding the candy dish and snack bar to keep employees coming for more. I’ve read a great article about “work from anywhere” on techcrunch.

Now we all seem more effective working from home and many employers are now considering ending their commercial leases or even trying to modify them.

At first, the Zoom calls were fun.  Many of us were already having regular Zoom calls.  As COVID-19 got a grip on us and forced many companies to send their employees home at various times in March, we were all amused to have Zooms with our colleagues with laundry basket backdrops.  The occasional child would run in the background.  “Bob, was that your daughter?”  “Pat, I don’t have a daughter, that was my niece.” 

We have seen our colleagues’ stress expressed in their faces.  I’m sure a physiognomist would say that our stressed-out colleagues are frustrated or disappointed.

I keep reading about of several employers in various industries that have succeeded in saving jobs (i.e. avoiding temporary layoffs) or avoiding furloughs that posit that employees should be grateful for not being temporarily sacked.  I think in some cases these employers have forgotten about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Let’s keep in mind that many employees come (or go) to work to get their regular pay also relish the idea of not being at home for most of the day to have to deal with a feverish child, angry spouse, or entitled in-laws.  This situation is usually exacerbated by a morning-filled home-schooling session and juggling Skype or Zoom calls with a vendor, or even worse, an upset customer. 

Corporate Social Events on Zoom

Did your HR to organize Zoom cook-offs every Thursday at 4:00pm presenting your favorite brownie or cheesecake recipes. Now those Zooms seem annoying. The fun has worn off. Fewer are participating because they are just tired of looking at the same bunch from one virtual meeting to the next.

To promote employees working together, have an introduction to cycling on Zoom or even offer free guitar lessons.  Why not propose to your Human Resources (HR) team that you’ve got a great Webinar about coin collecting or numismatics?

I’d rather see these online presentations with more a corporate objective. How about brainstorming easy solutions to reducing call times in the call center wait times or lowering call abandon rates

Wrapping Things Up

I feel that the main goal to get everybody WFH-ready is to evaluate the results of their contribution.  Forget about the crazy hairdos and eclectic wardrobes you see your colleagues wearing on a Zoom call.  I haven’t even commented on how my friends in Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia are dealing with WFH.

Has your company encouraged your employees to innovate during these trying times, which will become the new normal?

Come back in a few days to download the Complete Working from Home Checklist.

Bookmark this page to stay informed abut about the new challenges presented with remote onboarding and offboarding. Why don’t you also check out my Remote Onboarding article.

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