Is Working from Home the new normal?

Working remotely has become increasingly popular in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. Recently, it is one of the most popular words searched on Google. Will it become the new normal?

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As of 24 March 2020, nine of the top ten Google trends were related to the coronavirus. Although not news to anyone, the rapidly spreading virus has everyone nervous and uncertain of what lies ahead. 

Working remotely has become increasingly popular even before the coronavirus outbreak. We are now conducting a test of the practicality of working from home as we practice social distancing. With the explosion of cloud-based software, employees are no longer tied to their desks. Although some companies have been readying themselves for this test, many are not prepared.

The infrastructure for working from home is not created overnight. Do all employees have the right IT equipment to work from home? Can employees connect to their organization’s network securely? Do they have access to the required software? Do they have adequate bandwidth on their home internet connection? Are there any information security issues to be addressed? Is there a safe place to work at home without distractions or a risk to data security?

After these issues have been addressed and employees are connected, working from home becomes possible.

For some, working from home has already become embedded into their work routine. For others, this will be a new concept. How do they manage the sudden change from being in an office environment to working from their home? Some guidelines should be followed to help those who are new to working from home:

  1. Set routines: Imagine you are still going to the office, and set aside a start time, lunch time, and end time each day. Shower, get dressed, and get ready for work as you normally would.
  2. It may seem obvious, but if you are new to this, setting goals is important. Identify goals with your manager before beginning to work from home. Keep goals S.M.A.R.T. (smart, measurable, achievable, relevant, timebound).
  3. Individuals set daily goals differently. I personally have a weekly ‘to-do’ list which gets ticked off as tasks are performed. This ‘to-do’ list will sync with the overall goals set by you and your manager.
  4. Structure your day as if you were in the office. You can be easily distracted at home: children (especially if schools are closed), television, odd jobs around the house, or wanting to exercise, can all interrupt work. Use simple tools, such as online calendars (Outlook or Google calendar) to schedule meetings and times to perform tasks.
  5. Remember to check in with colleagues and managers. Working from home does not mean complete isolation. It is still possible to work from home and collaborate with colleagues.  
  6. Create a comfortable working environment. This doesn’t mean working in your pyjamas (or pants, depending where you are from). Set out a dedicated working space where there are few distractions, preferably one with some natural light.  

Working from home has great benefits, including increased productivity and time saved commuting to and from the workplace. Using cloud technology has helped make this new normal possible. Amongst many other aspects of our lives, the coronavirus has changed the way we work.

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