Some day, we’ll be telling future generations how 2020 was the year when working from home was necessary to adapt and keep business going during the global pandemic.
Imagine our “back in my day” stories about how previous to COVID, it was unthinkable that folks in some careers or industries could or would be working from home because that was reserved for creatives, tech types and freelancers.
After all, in just a few short months, we’ve learned some surprising lessons about working remotely and being forced into this reality has debunked several remote work myths. Most notably, that it can work!
So much so that even utility company staff and federal government workers are working from home — and major companies including financial services such as JPMorgan and Capital One have embraced remote work for the long term. Notably employees of tech giants Twitter and Square have been told they can work from home “forever.”
Canadian-based Shopify, Canada’s biggest company, is a global business leader with over a million businesses in nearly 200 countries. On May 21st, CEO Tobi Lutke tweeted:
Some of our clients are more anxious than others at the prospect of working from home indefinitely or for the long-term. It’s not always easy to juggle that work from home life depending on your own personal circumstances.
In our last blog, we talked about some ideas for how leaders can successfully manage remote teams. Today we share some of the practical support people need for a good work-from-home experience.
Claim Your Costs
Much of the much-needed support we list below requires an investment. If your company wants you to work from home, ask them about investing in the space for you. Many organizations have allowed employees to take equipment (chair, laptop, etc) from the office and others are now paying to purchase needed equipment (anywhere from $500 – $1000 each).
If you live in Canada, talk to your HR department about a T2200 form. If you work from home more than 50% of the year you may qualify to claim some of your expenses (that you weren’t reimbursed for) as deductions on your taxes — including rent or mortgage costs, utility costs and office supplies and expenses. Have your employer complete the T2200 form.
Things to consider to keep work-from-home separate from living-at-home:
A dedicated workspace: This is especially important if you need to be able to signal to family that you are working and not to be disturbed! Don’t have a separate room with a door you can shut to use as an office? I heard that some innovative parents use a carpet and a sign as a reminder that, “When I’m on this area rug, I’m working.” Bonus: When they jump off it at the end of the day, it’s the quickest commute ever.
Psychologically, setting up dedicated space for work means that when you walk away from that area, you’re able to “leave work” at the end of the day. As one of my followers on LinkedIn noted this week, for parents of young children, “working from home can feel more like living at work!” A dedicated workspace can go a long way to changing that.
It’s also important to have a place to put things away when you’re not working — a way of “closing the office door” even if you don’t have a door or an office. Maybe a trunk or dedicated cupboard?
Comfortable seating: When working remotely was temporary, many folks made do with the dining room table or a corner of the bedroom. If this is continuing, for health and safety reasons people need to have an ergonomic chair and table or desk so that working on a laptop or desktop computer to telecommute doesn’t lead to body aches.
The new must-haves for video conferencing: Invest in earphones or a headset with a built-in microphone. It improves audio when you’re listening (great bonus if your household includes noisy family members) and when you’re speaking it’s more directional sound. Similarly, if you or some of your team members don’t already have a webcam that’s either built-in or plugged in, that should be a priority.
Connectivity: Is everyone who needs to be set up on the software you used in the office? Additionally, an excellent, high-speed internet connection makes working remotely much more pleasant for everyone. Some people have kept their home internet bill low by opting to have more modest internet plans. It’s time to improve bandwidth and speed! (Apply the savings of not commuting to get better internet!).
Ability to power up: Sometimes the small things count a lot. Like not having to search high and low for a cell phone charger and block (we hear this is a common issue in households!) and laptop charging cords. Get one and a spare, label them if thievery/borrowing is an issue and set them ready for use with a power bar in your work area.
Security: Depending on your role at work, you (or your team members) may require a locked area for documents related to work. Get ahead of security/confidentiality breaches and determine who needs a locking credenza or filing cabinet — or set up a policy and procedure for how folks are to store work-related documents when they’re working from home.
Office basics: Consider what essential office supplies you and everyone on your team require. Perhaps send your team members a care package, give them a budget and a list or let them know which items are now reimbursable as expenses. Does anyone need to print documents? You may also want to consider printers and ink cartridges or how you will reimburse printed copies. Google recently gave remote staff $1,000 each to purchase what they need while a Canadian financial institution gave staff $500 towards setting up to work from home.
Replacement boardroom or break rooms: Okay, not actually a boardroom. But ideally, where is an out of home space you can go with your laptop to work in fresh surroundings when needed? Here are some of our other strategies for working from home to help you stay focused and on track while also taking care of your mental health.
If Work From Home continues, what can you do differently or better to make your own experience and that of your team better going forward?