Working from home due to coronavirus concerns – how to maintain productivity and ensure a respectful conduct

By March 14, 2020 April 22nd, 2020 Business Etiquette

The coronavirus pandemic’s impact on economies and societies around the globe is undeniable. The swift spread of the virus has forced organizations to accommodate novel arrangements to protect the health and safety of their workforce; even the most conservative bosses are rethinking the way they allow teams to work. Those not yet accustomed to telecommuting are faced with the need for a different approach to delivering on their responsibilities; the ones who were already working remotely, on the other hand, have a chance to show how it’s done – or find that not everyone is suited for it. Maintaining employees’ sense of commitment and job satisfaction will require some effort during these times:

For leaders

  • Establish priorities and assign clear roles.  When the team is not gathered as before, it becomes even more important for all to know what is expected of each – what tasks to accomplish and who to go to for additional information.  Efficient communication and information exchange will avoid duplicated efforts and operational gaps
  • Create a routine for your team.  Regular team meetings, as well as individual check-ins with direct reports should be consistently held to help you stay abreast of people’s progress.  Express genuine concern about each team member’s personal situation in light of the virus (and be thankful that videoconferencing is easily available in most parts of the world)
  • Hold people accountable.  Once you have assigned an equitable share of duties among the team, work to ensure goals are timely met
  • Trust your team.  Assuming you work with adults, who are capable and responsible professionals, checking on them every minute of the day will not help them produce more.  Practices such as asking employees to maintain their webcam nonstop during work hours are childish and abusive.  If you don’t trust your team members’ work ethic, or worry they are taking advantage of the current situation, you shouldn’t have hired them in the first place
  • Respect time boundaries.  Refrain from emailing/texting/IM’ing team members outside of the assigned working hours: they will probably feel obligated to answer, which will create undue stress and disrupt their new routine.  For your own sanity and that of your people, unless the communication is REALLY time sensitive, schedule it for the next business day.

For team members

  • Make sure you have everything you need. When starting a remote work routine, be sure to check the equipment you have at your disposal, and communicate potential needs to your employer in a timely fashion – don’t wait for all IT personnel to be sent home before you do so
  • Maintain a separate workspace.  Even if you don’t have a proper home office and are working out of your kitchen counter, keeping it isolated from your personal life, be it for chunks of time, is essential to ensure focus and respects toward your colleagues.  When videoconferencing, use headphones and work to reduce background noise: no one wants to hear your dog barking, or your blender working on a smoothie
  • Keep your appearance professional.  It’s not because you are at home that you should stay in your pj’s all day! Make sure you appear on camera bathed and groomed.  And even when no one is to see you on video, being neatly dressed helps getting into the right frame of mind
  • Try to create a daily routine; if you have other people at home during your work hours, especially children, allocate time to care for them, but block time for meetings and deeply focused work, making it clear to them that you are not to be disturbed during those times.
  • Earn the trust of your leader and colleagues.  Comply with the hours and tasks that were assigned to you, and don’t take advantage of the remote work arrangement to binge on your favorite show when the team is counting on you.  Should you become ill or need to care for someone who is, be clear about it to the team
  • Keep regular mealtimes, stay hydrated and stand up several times a day: maintaining healthy habits will help you get back to the old routine when the time comes.

For all

  • Don’t rely exclusively on email.  Make sure you are interacting with colleagues and clients via other means, to show you are genuinely committed and display the demeanor people are used to – and which cannot always be conveyed in writing
  • It is important to know what work is and what relaxing is
  • Do not take advantage of not being in the same physical space to say things you wouldn’t say face-to-face
  • Unless the communication is extremely time-sensitive, resist this urge. Most messages can easily wait until the next business day. Respect your colleague’s out of office status

These are trying times for all of us.  Maintaining respect and good sense (since “common sense” is not that common) is essential to keep professional relationships positive and mitigate losses.