Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, many employees are suddenly working from home for the first time. Not sure how to make telework work for you? Check out our top tips for success at remote work, plus learn about tools that can empower your team to work well at a distance.
Making Telework Work for You
As the current, governments around the world are instituting strict social distancing measures and even quarantines to try to flatten the curve. One byproduct of these moves is that just about everyone who could possibly work from home is doing so.
Included in this very sudden transition are thousands of first-time remote workers. Many of them work for companies who’ve not embraced remote work before and haven’t developed thorough telework guidelines. When it comes to flexibility, their work environments have very little. Workplace readiness for remote work in these businesses is low, to put it mildly. And in manufacturing and industry, many jobs deal with physical objects and processes and can’t be sent home in any fashion.
The result? Many people are engaged in remote work with little practical guidance on how to do so, and they’re struggling to interface well with the staff that can’t transition home.
At Algorithm, Inc., we’ve been supporting companies’ IT departments remotely for years. We’ve learned many lessons about what does and doesn’t work remotely, and we’re well-positioned to help those of you who are just now—and very suddenly—figuring out telework.
We want to help you navigate this sudden transition to remote work (or telework—for our purposes the terms are interchangeable) as smoothly as possible. So, here’s a Q&A style post from John Jones, our IT department head.
What are your favorite tools for TELEWORK?
John: The good news for those just beginning their remote work journey is that you don’t have to break new ground. Remote work has been around for longer than you might think, and there are a ton of great tools available that help with flexibility in work environments. By using a few of the following tools, businesses can instantly improve their workplace readiness.
Below is a quick list of my favorite tools for telework.
Microsoft Teams: Microsoft’s high-powered chat and collaborative workspace tool are free for most Office users.
Video conferencing apps: You’ll need a strong video conferencing solution, and there are plenty available. Any of these should work well and many are being offered at deep discounts or even free right now
TeamViewer: Screen-sharing tool useful for remote IT support. Your remote IT team can pop in from anywhere and help you solve your IT issues.
Soapbox: A great tool for remote presentations and training.
Cloud Storage: Easy-to-use cloud storage for sharing files too big to email.
How can I remove distractions at home?
John: Many people have transitioned to working from home with no difficulty. Some enjoy the flexibility to be near family, and just about everyone enjoys skipping the commute both ways.
But distraction can be a real issue for some, especially when first getting acclimated to remote work.
If at all possible, you want to set up your home office somewhere that’s out of the way or isolated. If you have a spare bedroom or a home office, use it. If there’s no option that allows you real privacy and focus, then at least choose a space that’s facing a wall or corner to minimize visual distractions.
If you have kids at home, we recommend getting some over-the-ear noise-canceling headphones (I use Not only do they help drown out the noise, but they also serve as a visual indicator that mommy or daddy is working, lessening interruptions (we hope!).
If you find yourself getting distracted by social media, there are browser extensions that can help, like News Feed Eradicator. You can also check out some focus-boosting apps like Focus Keeper (iOS, Android). This app breaks down work into manageable, focused chunks of time, followed by a short unfocused time using something called the Pomodoro method.
What does good telework etiquette look like?
John: We have been working using remote work for years now, and let me tell you, we’ve seen some stuff. There’s a lot of room for improvement in the realm of etiquette. If you or your staff is new to telework, it’s important to set some etiquette ground rules.
Mind the Noise
First, consider the noise level of your working space. As much as possible, locate your workspace in a part of the home that’s free from noise. You don’t want your co-workers to hear your dogs or your kids.
Remember that when participating in conference sessions, you should always mute your microphone when you’re not actively speaking. (But remember to unmute it when you have something to say!)
Consider the Visuals
If you’re expected to have a video presence while teleworking, consider the visual you’re creating. Take a look in the mirror before jumping on a video call. Also, consider what’s in the frame. Do what you can to create a tidy background. And whatever you do, don’t take video calls in your bedroom or kitchen table. It’s awkward and unprofessional.
Keep Security in Mind
In general, you want to follow the same sorts of security protocols at home that you do at work. If you wouldn’t email that sensitive file in the office, don’t email it from home. Make sure your home Wi-Fi network has a strong password on it and is using WPA2 encryption..
Of course, it’s easier to say what not to do than to craft a plan for what you should do. You may need to work with your IT department to develop a security plan. If you don’t have in-house IT support, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll help you through this difficult time.
What are some strategies for maintaining trust at a distance?
John: When suddenly faced with remote work, many managers are concerned that employees won’t work as well. Trust can be strained. Here are a few tips for maintaining trust at a distance.
Keep your stand-up meetings. It’s tempting to let meetings go. This is a mistake. Keep up your regular stand-up meetings over video conference to continue building trust and camaraderie.
Stick to your routine. If your normal practice is to take a 30-minute lunch, stick to that now that you’re at home. Don’t abuse the flexibility and disappear for odd increments of time.
Understand and use status indicators. Teams, Skype and other similar apps have “stoplight” indicators that indicate if you’re available, busy or away. Your team should understand that you can see if they’ve been away for a long time. And remember that they can see the same about you.
Proactively communicate changes. Given the pandemic that’s sent many of us home, there are bound to be changes happening right and left. Communicate quickly and openly, and you’ll build trust with your team.
How can I keep my team calm?
John: Well, I’m no pandemic expert, but use some common sense strategies like constantly pointing your team back to factual, official reporting. There are unfortunately a lot of misleading memes and conspiracy theories floating around about this outbreak, plus false rumors of new cases nearby are inevitable. Constantly point your team back to the CDC and WHO reporting on the outbreak. Consider as well encouraging the use of something like Calm App to help your team’s mental health.
Remote Work Worries? Algorithm Is Here for You
The sudden transition to remote work is putting a strain on many companies’ workplace readiness for going digital. At Algorithm, we understand the complexities of remote work, both on its own and in combination with a remaining in-house workforce. We can help you empower employees with flexibility and increase the efficiency of operations.
If you’re struggling to navigate the transition, let us help. Who knows – you might discover that your team’s productivity soars with the newfound freedom to work remotely!