The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has forced many companies to adapt, including incorporating remote work into their normal operations. For some companies, this is an easy adjustment due to the popularity of distributed teams and remote work. Many companies, however, are finding it challenging to adjust to a remote environment.

Working from home can also be difficult for workers that are used to the structure and social nature of working in an office. Those not used to working remotely can find it difficult to be productive. Others may even feel isolated and depressed, especially with the continuing news coverage of the outbreak. The Center for Disease Control has offered some guidelines for dealing with the mental stress and anxiety many are feeling.

The following tips can help your company navigate the challenges ahead and adjust to working remotely during the Coronavirus outbreak.

General work from home tips

Create a schedule: A schedule can help maintain a sense of normalcy, which not only improves productivity but reduces stress. Feeling productive can also boost overall morale, making it easier to deal with anxiety. One way you can do this is to go to sleep, wake up, start work and eat lunch at the same time you always have. You should also create a to-do list and use it as your guide each day.  

Create a workspace: Having a workspace at home can help workers feel like they are truly “at work.” You don’t have to have a dedicated office; you just need an area you can make your own. You can use any place that is comfortable, like the dining room table, kitchen island, patio or even just a corner of your living room. Set yourself up with your computer, notepad and anything else you may use during the day.

Dress the part: While you can work in your pajamas, that can make it hard to get into the right mindset for work. This is especially true for workers new to working from home. Combat this by dressing like you normally do for work during business hours. This will also help you maintain a more normal work schedule, even if you’re not leaving the house.

Communicate regularly: Talking to coworkers is a daily part of office life, from meeting and emails to water-cooler chats. When you’re remote, replicate your daily communications as much as possible. This includes not only emails, but chats and phone calls. If possible, use video conferencing for some face time with your co-workers. While non-work talk may be frowned upon normally, it can be essential in reducing the stress and anxiety of a quarantine.

Tips for Managers

Managers overseeing remote teams for the first time may also be struggling to adjust. Keep in mind, the Coronavirus situation has created a great deal of stress and anxiety. This can tax even your most productive staff members. You can help your team manage their stress and their workload by adjusting how you communicate.

  • Ask your team what challenges they face when working at home. This will give you insight into their unique situation so that you can help them overcome obstacles and stay on track.

  • Use “can I help” language when inquiring about projects. So instead of asking “Where are you on Project A,” ask “Is there anything I can do to help with Project A.” 

  • Be careful of using language that may put your team members on the defensive. You’ll inspire confidence and encourage productivity by avoiding phrases that may imply that they are falling behind, not being productive or otherwise not on track.

  • People are often reluctant to admit their struggles openly, so check in on your team members individually. This gives them the opportunity to speak more freely.

  • Encourage some fun team interactions remotely, such as a non-work-related poll or schedule a virtual lunch video chat.

  • Have resources handy and ready to share with your team. If you have IT assistance, HR help or even a medical hotline available, make sure everyone has access. 

Tips for construction companies

For construction companies, remote work may only be an option for administrative staff.  Even though some projects may be temporarily on hold, your company likely still has reporting requirements to comply with. For instance, if you do prevailing wage work, you’re required to submit no work reports on your active projects. These must be submitted weekly, even if your project is halted at the moment.

Above all, remember that this is an unprecedented situation for everyone. Keeping the lines of communication open will help instill confidence, alleviate fear and help your company navigate the weeks ahead.

The material presented here is educational in nature and is not intended to be, nor should be relied upon, as legal or financial advice. Please consult with an attorney or financial professional for advice.