INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, countless numbers of people have been asked to work remotely for what could be an extended period of time. This shift can mean extra challenges when trying to balance the demands of work life and home life while COVID-19 remains a concern.
“The challenge in working and learning remotely is ‘Do you have a good supportive environment at home?’” said Jonathan Blake Huer, chief learning officer for Eleven Fifty Academy, a nonprofit specializing in computer coding and technology.
Huer says assuming the Internet works and the technology works, often the hardest part of working at home is having a conducive environment to work, learn and accomplish goals and meet deadlines.
While a growing number of parents, who pay normally work in an office setting, are more familiar with working at home when they have a sick child or weather doesn’t cooperate, Huer expects there may still be a learning curve for people facing an extended time at home due to coronavirus concerns.
Huer recommends parents who work at home to create a routine, including a set schedule.
“When you are working and learning remotely, the routine can be difficult because the dirty dishes are in the sink and they might be just at the edge of your peripheral vision and you may want to take care of them.”
But Huer explained the vice versa may also be true. “You may be cooking dinner and that computer is just as in your peripheral vision and you want to go back to work. So, building a routine is very important.”
At-home workers need to communicate with the family about this work environment and set boundaries for the children.
“When you’re working on learning remotely, tells everyone around you when they can interrupt you and when they can’t, when they might know that you’re on a business phone call and when you’re not,” Huer said. “It also gives you the opportunity to say, ‘Hey, I’m working right now, or I’m in class right now, or I’m in a focus period right now. But at five o’clock, I’m done.’”
For workers who may not have family members at home, it’s important to keep interactions with coworkers since it’s an important communication tool.
“The reality is, there is something lost by not having to walk from one physical place to another (at the office). Having a conversation about something that you just learned or something that you’ve done, are zero when you’re clicking from one room to another,” said Huer. “So that’s one of the things that’s important to understand is that when you work remotely, you have to be more intentional about communication. “
Dr. Huer is an expert on the impact of emerging technologies on management structures. When working remotely, it’s important for everyone to remember these concepts:
- Think about how you look and sound to others when using remote tools. Try to find a well-lit, quiet place so your colleagues can hear and see you as clearly as possible. A messy background, loud noises, or poor lighting can be distracting to both you and your colleagues. (Technically, webcams don’t do well in dim lighting and require more bandwidth to transmit a busy background than just your face).
- Overcommunicate. You won’t accidentally run into colleagues getting a cup of coffee, so reach out to your network, check-in, and see how everyone is doing. Be proactive with your supervisor. Don’t be afraid to set shorter meeting times to chat with more people. Quick chats are a great time to share tips and get advice on how others in your organization are adjusting to working remotely.
- Maintain a schedule. If you can dedicate a physical space to working remotely, do so. When you go there even though you’re still at home, you’re at the office. Make sure others in your home know you are working. It’s very easy to let house chores creep into your work time and to let work time creep into your personal time. This can be a challenging adjustment for everyone including family, kids, and pets!
- Be open to change. The introduction of new technology this rapidly is hard on everyone, but everyone is going through a big change right now. Be nice to your IT staff. Be nice to your colleagues, your clients, and yourself. Technical snafus will happen. Don’t be afraid to change things up once you have the basics down. Look for new ways to do your existing job more efficiently. This is an opportunity to find better ways of doing things instead of just in different ways.