productivity tips · Mar 25, 2020

Coronavirus Outbreak: How to Work From Home and Still Stay Productive

Coronavirus Outbreak

If you received a message from your supervisor today telling you to start working from home, don’t freak out! Take this as an opportunity to take care of your health, practice social distancing and help slow the spread of coronavirus among society.

Global companies such as Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Apple, Amazon, Spotify, etc. have implemented mandatory work-from-home policies amid the Coronavirus pandemic (yes, WHO has declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic).

First rule to deal with the novel Coronavirus pandemic is to stay calm. Don’t panic even if this is your first work-at-home experience! Don’t freak out if you have to practice social distancing and stop going outside.

Though remote work is a new trend that many big tech firms have already embraced, many employees are still struggling with the whole concept of working while still wearing pajamas. Technology adoption, social isolation, communication glitches, anxiety can all become the challenges from a work-at-home newbie.

Today in this blog post, as a team that already implemented remote working culture for years, we will tell you some of the work-at-home survival guides, from setting up your new office to the way you collaborate with your team from afar.

1. Stick to the same schedule

Coronavirus Social Distance

It’s not because now you’re working from your kitchen, you can wake up at 11am and turn on your laptop after a huge brunch. Many people have fallen into a productivity slump just because they let go of their schedule for “one cheat day”. Of course, your day can start one hour later than the usual schedule since you don’t have to commute to work anymore. However, try to stick to the same routine. Get your morning coffee and start your laptop around 9am. If you’re used to making a to-do list for everyday’s tasks, keep this habit even when you’re not in the office.

🔖 Read more on how to use a to do list app for remote teams

Don’t mix up the chores when you’re working at home. Think of it as a “new office”, but you’re still doing your job from 9-5. If you never vacuum your cubicle or do laundry at 10am on a Monday morning, don’t start doing these houseworks just because you’re working at home. The key is to set boundaries for tasks that you can conveniently do and the tasks that you should not do during your working hours.

2. Invest more on communication skills (or tools!)

Virus outbreak or not, you should always work on your communication skill and have a reliable tool to collaborate with your teams. Many employees might experience anxiety if they cannot have face-to-face meetings or check in with their boss everyday (this anxiety also happens the other way around as well).

Social Distancing

With remote work, both managers and employees are forced to engage in virtual communication. If emails aren’t the best way to communicate with your managers, use a project management software app to record your working progress and keep your team updated as well.

Social isolation can also be a potential threat to your productivity when you are working from home. Even introverts will suffer from loneliness when working alone at home. The best advice is not to wait for others to reach out, when you practice social distancing, you can actually be more active to communicate with your teams and your managers. Don’t isolate yourself in the fortress of solitude, remember everyone is experiencing the same frustration that you’re having now.

Work at home tools

3. Stay away from the distractions

Coronavirus social distance

Working at home means you will be around your television and your fridge a lot. Those distractions can kill your productivity and make you less motivated at your job. Normally we would advise you to go to a coffee shop or a co-working space, but during the coronavirus outbreak, we should all stay inside to the fullest extent instead of wandering on the street.

However, just because you’re trapped at home, it doesn't mean you cannot create your own work space. No matter how tempting it is to stay in the kitchen or in the bedroom, you’re best off setting up a workstation for yourself. You should have a proper desk and bring all of your laptop and documents to your station instead of laying around in bed or on the sofa. Treat your workstation as your real cubicle, turn off your cell phone, sit straight up and have your coffee mug only instead of a huge meal next to your laptop.

Recreating your familiar work space signals your brain and tricks your mind that you’re still working at your usual office. Your mind will be mentally prepared into the “This is my office and I’m at work” mindset. The transition can be made easier and you won’t find it too hard to do your job all alone anymore.

4. Be transparent with the work progress

One of the main obstacles for remote work culture is to build trust between team members. A flexible schedule means everyone has the luxury of working around their own timetables. Nonetheless, how can a manager make sure you’re actually doing your job instead of sipping your Maitai by the pool on a Wednesday afternoon?

Managers of a remote team need to be highly credible in order for the team to function properly. During the time when everyone mandatorily works from home, employees are also required to be honest and open about their shortcomings. As you’re already isolated from your teammates, hiding your problems can only worsen your situation and eventually ruin everyone’s productivity.

Also, since you cannot see your teammates on a daily basis, at least be available when your presence is requested. When face-to-face communication is removed, there will be a lot of emails that need to be RSVP as soon as possible. Check in with your project managers more often, reach out more regularly with your team members via DMs, use the project management software to track the working progress with your team and be transparent about it.

5. Get some fresh air and be positive

Social Distance

It is indeed unfortunate to be forced to work from home and be apart with your boss and co-workers (not sarcastic, I swear!). We never know how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last, unless you’re working in a research lab for the coronavirus vaccine, washing your hands and staying inside are the only things you can do to help stop the virus spreading.

Thousands of businesses all over the world are taking a hit on the revenue and having to lay off hundreds of the employees. Thousands of people are out of job everyday, so if you’re still working even miles away from your office, be thankful that at least you still receive your payslip by the end of the month. Mandatory remote working culture can be a stressor that makes employees sink deep into the anxiety. No one wants to be forced to stay inside, even the most introverted ones.

If you’re a manager, it’s your job to keep the team’s spirit up and assure them about their future. If this is your first time working remotely, take it as an opportunity to work independently without anyone looking over your shoulder. Remember this too shall pass, you will soon be able to join thousands of people in the crowded train on your way to work, the key is to keep your head clear of the negativity until the outbreak is finally over.

Has your company shifted towards home working yet? How are you holding up with all of the remote working trends? There’s more hope than fear in this world. We're all in this together and we will get through this together!

Let us know your stories in the comment section below or tweet us at @quire_io!

Stay healthy and wash your hands more often! 👏

Vicky Pham
Trying not to get lost in the city lights.