When physical distancing restrictions due to COVID-19 kicked in, many people lost their jobs, as the companies they worked for either lost business and scaled back or closed altogether.

For some people though, work went on as they shifted to working from home. For companies where working from home hasn’t been part of the culture, the transition can be hard.

If you’re still trying to adapt, you’re not alone. A Statistics Canada survey showes that approximately 4.7 million Canadians who do not usually work from home did so starting the week of March 22. 

Here are some tips to help employees and their bosses make the leap more easily.

For employees:

  • Act as if you’re going to work in the morning. Keeping a consistent routine gets your whole day off on the right foot. And change out of your PJs. Even if you don’t have the ever-present possibility of ending up on a Zoom call, dressing in clothes similar to those you’d wear at work can help you get in a productive frame of mind.
  • Remember that when you’re at work, you are at work. It is quite easy to become distracted in your own home. Maybe the kitchen needs tidying, maybe it’s a load of laundry. Or one—just one!—show on Netflix. Don’t give in. Your employer has extended their trust that you’ll continue to work; honour that trust.
  • Take breaks. Getting up every now and then to stretch your legs and taking some time away from your work for lunch are important ways to let your body and brain recharge.
  • Keep track of your results. Be ready to share tangible results of the work you’re doing to let your boss know you’ve still got your eye on the ball.
  • Check in with colleagues. When everyone’s in the office, dozens of conversations happen each day that we take for granted. Sometimes they’re about work, but often they’re just small talk. Social conversations like this build strong working relationships, so keep having them. Whether it’s a phone call, a chat message, or a video hangout, keep in touch with the people you work with.
  • Set a designated work area. Your designated work area could be a guest bedroom, a card table in the corner of the living room, or the dining room table. Ideally it’s someplace removed from distractions and easy to walk away from when it’s time to punch out.

For employers:

  • Extend trust. An employee can tell when you suspect they won’t work as hard from home. If you’ve made the decision to allow remote work, follow through by trusting your team.
  • Make sure expectations are clear. You can’t measure performance at this time just by seeing who’s at work when. Get clear on the results you expect from your employees working from home and ensure they understand those expectations.
  • Stay connected with your team and create opportunities for them to connect with each other. Strong working relationships are the basis of every high-performing team. When everyone’s working remotely, it takes effort to maintain the same kind of social connections that happen naturally in the office. Part of your role as a leader during this time is to make sure that happens.
  • Show appreciation and celebrate wins. Saying please and thank you goes a long way when team members are working at a distance. And everyone can use a morale boost. Celebrating things that are going well is the hit of positivity that we all need.

Hopefully we’ll all be able to be back in the same physical spaces again before too long. Until we are, remote working arrangements could create greater trust and better communication between people and their coworkers and employers, if we stay productive and connected while staying home.

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