It’s not often that a current event sweeps global society off its feet. But this is what we’ve seen in the past couple weeks. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a frenzy in headlines, markets, governments, and organizations around the world. It’s rough, and it will get worse before it gets any better. But the good news is we are all in it together.
The first piece of sage advice we should all embrace is that we should not panic. Instead, we must stay vigilant, aware, and realistic about what we are facing – even in the face of uncertainty.
While it may be a grim outlook for the short-term, we will get through this. But in the meantime, you should expect to make some required lifestyle changes. Events are being cancelled, nations and cities are declaring emergencies, and travel bans are rapidly being deployed.
Among the most immediate lifestyle changes you’ll likely be forced to make is working from home – something with which you may or may not have experience. Hundreds of companies have already enacted remote work policies as a first measure in combating the spread of coronavirus, and we don’t expect this trend to slow down anytime soon.
Some early adopters of remote work are way ahead of the curve because they’ve built cultures and systems to support such a dynamic. But the vast majority are playing catch up.
In this post, we’ll cover a handful of WFH tips that we hope will come in handy as we wait for the coronavirus storm to subside.
Why We Are Writing This
We work very closely with quite a number of folks who are experts in working remotely. Our business matches freelance tech talent with companies in need of on-demand, expert assistance. Roughly 85% of the engagements our freelancers work on are carried out remotely. In other words, physical location rarely matters for our clients who consistently deliver top notch work.
This is all to say that we are familiar with the topic. We live and breathe the WFH mentality every day with our clients. In learning from them and forming our own perspective on how to effectively work from home, we felt compelled to share some tips.
3 Expert Tips on Working from Home
Fortunately, working from home was already more common today than ever before (even before the coronavirus outbreak). Lots of people have already cracked the code on how to stay sane and productive (often even more productive) from within the confines of their own room, home, apartment, etc.
We recognize that none of these tips are groundbreaking, but keep in mind they are effective for some of the most experienced remote professionals, like those with whom we work at 10x.
1. Hold Yourself Accountable to Online Hours
For many of those who work onsite everyday, the office provides somewhat of a safe haven. When you’re there, you’re working. When you’re home, you’re off. It’s ritualistic, and in many ways symbolic.
This system that keeps many of us in check is lost when working from home. If your apartment becomes your new office space, then you’re technically always in the office. The loss of boundaries here can make it much more difficult to compartmentalize. You might catch yourself answering emails late at night, or checking Slack when you normally wouldn’t.
Of course, if you’re working on an important, time sensitive project, it might make sense to ignore boundaries temporarily. Or maybe you want to make up for waking up late by putting in some work at night. Various nuances here will promote behavior counter to our main point.
And that main point is to define your online hours, make them known to your team, and do your best to stay true to them. Separating work and leisure (aka work-life balance) remains important, even when you lose the ritualized act of commuting to and from the office.
2. Get Some Fresh Air
Cabin fever can be real, and if you’re not used to spending prolonged time indoors, taking a step outside is important. For many, there’s no better way to reset and take a mental break from work.
Of course, in the wake of coronavirus, leaving your home may get a bit complicated. At the time of writing this, no areas of the US are quarantined, although the CDC and other health organizations note that we must practice social distancing, where possible, to mitigate the spread of the virus.
While we are not health professionals, here’s our take: Limit the amount of time you spend in public areas, as it’s better to play it safe than sorry (especially while we don’t yet know just how bad this outbreak might get). If you have a yard, balcony, roof deck, etc., those are great places to get some fresh air without exposing yourself to others. If and when you do venture out, practice social distancing and wash hands as soon as you get home.
The main takeaway here is that you should build in breaks where you walk around and clear your head so that when you come back to “work” you can bring your full focus.
3. Reevaluate Your Top Priorities
This final tip is very much coronavirus-related. Recognize that we are living in a unique time. Because of this, the priority list you formed one month ago might not make as much sense today.
Take this WFH time to consider shifting around your priorities. This is a time to be strategic about where you and your team focus attention in isolation. Does an economic slowdown present reason to halt funding of certain projects? Does it offer an opportunity to buckle down on other areas of focus?
For example, maybe your sales team should focus more on delighting existing business instead of prospecting for new business. Or maybe your marketing team should pause spending on certain campaigns you suspect will be hurt by (temporary) slowed interest in business.
From here, consider the ways in which you can make progress from a remote workspace. Some work is best done in isolation with little to no team distractions – allowing you to get into a flow state. Use this WFH period as an opportunity to chip away at those tasks.
The Bigger Covid-19 Picture & Conclusion
While we err on the side of caution when speculating about the unknown, we defer to the experts and authorities. The ground beneath us is shifting so quickly, it’s hard to know where we will be in a week, a month, a year, etc. While we hope things resolve soon, it certainly feels like most businesses and industries will be impacted.
Hiring freezes and layoffs will happen, as is the case in any typical economic downturn. There’s no denying how scary and difficult that can be. The good news for both companies and contractors is we live in a time where temporary work is widely accepted and utilized, even in the wake of a recession.
As we wrote about in early February, when employees are let go, the work still needs to be done. And a downsized staff rarely can manage it all. This likely means freelance talent will remain in demand throughout a recession, and companies like ours are working hard to keep the gigs coming.
No matter if you’re a W2 employee or an independent contractor (or someone poised to make a switch), we’re all connected by a weird, uncontrollable situation right now. Some are learning how to cope with big lifestyle change, while others are already semi-used to it.
Our view is that figuring out a WFH routine that works can only serve you well, whether it be during this global pandemic or sometime in the future. In a lot of ways, this forced WFH period is teaching us all how to be effective freelancers – a skill that will only become more and more valuable as time goes on.
One final thing to note is that the same tools that allow you to be productive and connect with your colleagues can also be used to connect with friends and family. They should be used frequently to create connection. Humans don’t do well in social isolation and we can mitigate that by staying connected virtually when we cannot be connected in reality.
Stay healthy and we wish you and your company/clients the best as we work through this uncharted terrain.