Businesses globally—including the United States—are urging, and in some cases mandating, employees to work from home to help block the escalation of the coronavirus.
The choice to work from home since the outbreak has occurred has shifted from a perk at many businesses to a necessity in many cases given the severity and concern of the disease. A rising number of companies are applying new policies to halt potential infections from spreading at work.
For instance, multiple big U.S.-based companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, Twitter, Google, Facebook, and Lyft, as well as other global companies, have reportedly requested that workers in particular areas remain home. Tech giant Apple is among the most recent large company to join that list.
Some companies are implementing telework options to allow employees to work from home and perform their jobs while the coronavirus crisis continues.
Black Enterprise reported U.S. companies are reviewing sick-leave policies due to the increasing number of workers who have to do their jobs from home or are being forced to self-quarantine.
Many companies can accommodate part-time remote work temporarily, but any long-term arrangements will be far more difficult, Nicholas Bloom, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, told Market Watch this month. Bloom studied a Chinese travel agency’s 2010 experiment letting some employees work from home four out of five days. His research discovered that it led to a 13% performance increase for the remote workers.
But that study was done under different circumstances, without the coronavirus emerging. If workers need to do all their work from home for lengthy amounts of time, Bloom said, “the long-run impact would be large — typically motivation, creativity, and new ideas come from group involvement.” An extended period of more than one or two weeks of working from home could be damaging for economic growth,” he stated.
Older workers and those with families were usually happy to work from home, Bloom’s research found, but it was a tougher experience for young and single workers. “Full-time working from home is very isolating, so we could potentially see a rise of mental health issues around depression if large number of employees are forced to work from home for extended periods, particularly single and younger employees,” he said.
Isolation can be a problem for some workers, Raj Choudhury, a Harvard Business School professor, told Market Watch. But he added it can be averted with some planning and pairing with mentors who will check-in. Choudhury is known for his work on remote workplace issues.
“Given the latent demand for” the ability to work from home, Choudhury said remote work caused by the coronavirus “might be a game-changer.” He noted, “Many companies will be forced to do this and will discover the benefit of this, both for the company and the worker.”
COVID-19 is causing more people to work from home daily. If you will be working from home for a short or extended period, here are tips to make that process more efficient and productive:
Set an alarm
Have a routine in the morning, recommends Chelsea Rivera, head of Content of Honest Paws, a 100% remote firm. Use that time to take care of yourself, whether it’s exercise, cooking a breakfast that you can sit down and enjoy, or meditation to get you focused for the day.
Act like you’re going to work
That might include putting on makeup or fixing your hair for instance. Anything that gives you the sense that you are not home in your pajamas.
Create a home office if you don’t have one
Develop a dedicated work area free from distraction and noises in your household. Mark sure to look at if the chair and desk you’ll be working from are comfortable enough to use for multiple hours.
Stay in touch with your company’s IT staff
An extended period of telework will require more than just the laptop you bring home now and then. Check to see if you need to add other computer accessories as well. That might mean a headset for videoconferencing for example. Ask your company’s IT team in advance precisely what gadgets, cords and other equipment you will need at home. Find out from the IT team how to install software on your computer when you’re outside the office. Check how to access your company’s virtual private network (VPN) if one exists. Be sure to learn if you have the correct laptops, access to key networks, passcodes, and instructions for remote login.
Use digital tools to reach out to colleagues. Consider scheduling group meetings by videoconference and setting up group chats via programs such as Slack or Microsoft Teams. If email messaging is causing a mix-up, have a phone conversation.
Many schools across the country have closed due to the coronavirus, meaning younger kids might be there with you while you’re working from home. One solution might be asking a family member to assist with watching the children, allowing you to get much of your work done. If you have a spouse, take turns working and watching the kids. Also, be open to asking others with experience working from home how they juggle the demands of doing their jobs and watching their kids, to get their suggestions.
Don’t fall into the isolation trap
Working from home can get lonely and affect your mental health. You can counter that by calling someone on the phone or video chat. Be nice to yourself and take a moment to so something like exercise to split up the day. Some firms provide online resilience training to help tackle obstacles of working from home during the outbreak.
Establish working hours and stick to them
Working from home can lead to longer hours than what you typically work in the office, limiting your personal and family time.