Yet another definitive guide to starting remote work amid COVID-19 Coronavirus

Remote working has become increasingly popular in recent years due to the numerous personal and professional benefits for both employers and employees. Both parties gain from increased productivity, lower costs and more freedom. But the COVID-19 (formerly commonly known as Novel Coronavirus) outbreak has thrust many companies into unplanned remote working arrangements in an attempt to reduce risk of exposure to their employees and to limit transmission of this illness.

While workers in the manufacturing and service industries do not have the same amount of freedom to switch to remote work arrangements, knowledge workers are perfectly suited to depart the confines of the cubical. This opportunity puts many employees in a new environment that they are not accustomed to. Before, they may have had access to a number of resources, both human and non-human, that help them achieve their daily work objectives. With an abrupt shift to working remotely, your company will need to plan accordingly to make this transition as seamless as possible.

Do you have the right tools?

Being able to work remotely requires a number of cloud-based tools that enable communication, collaboration and security. You likely already use Slack or Teams for internal messaging, and of course, email for everything else. But those two technologies cannot replace all communication entirely. Teleconferencing software, like Zoom, Google Hangouts or Skype, will help transition from environments where in-person meetings are common. If you are looking for ways to deliver messages without having to type long-winded messages, whether for customer service issues, product updates, meeting updates or otherwise, try Loom for sending video explainers. Speaking of meetings, to effectively communicate project status, you’ll need a planning tool that is as simple and flexible as Trello, or maybe something more robust like Jira or Asana. To store and share your work, you’ll need a storage solution like Google Drive, Dropbox or Box. Finally, since you’re going to be spending more time in coffee shops, you’re going to need to secure your internet connection with a VPN. There are many solutions out there to choose from – pick the one that works best for your team’s needs.

There many workplace specific tools that you might need to do your job effectively, but these cover the basics.

Of course, the most difficult thing to replace for remote workers is the instant access to co-workers and the knowledge they share amongst themselves. Having access to a cloud-based knowledge base solution will be your best bet for the limitations that remote distance imposes on your team dynamic.

Do you look the part?

Now that you’ve got your cloud-based tech stack ready for remote work, let’s take a look at how to improve your surroundings so that you are fully ready for remote work success.

Dress for Succ… whatever!

Everyone has a different outlook on how what you wear impacts your productivity. We don’t have a strong opinion on one extreme or the other, but we suggest mixing your wardrobe up. Pajamas some days, hoodies and jeans another and the occasional midtown uniform to keep things mildly professional.

While at home

Pet me, human.

For the home office, arguably the most critical item is a good office chair. Having a standing-desk option will help reduce the amount of time you spend sitting in a day. Make sure you are choosing healthy snacks to have around the house since you’re likely to take more trips to the kitchen than when you’re at the office. Having a desk plant brings some much needed fresh air inside. Succulents have a spa-like zen about them and are small enough to keep your desk’s real estate free. They’re also low maintenance so you don’t need to have a green thumb. And of course, being at home means you can get regular visits from your pets.

When on the road

laptop stickers

Because of all of the distractions, a solid pair of noise-cancelling headphones is going to be near the top of your priority list. Some people love AirPods, others like Bose or Sennheiser. That’s just one side of the noise cancelling equation though. A really neat tool that cancels ambient coffee shop noise for the person receiving the call from you is Krisp. Instead of always visiting the same Starbucks, make sure you scope your neighborhood for a few different options including patios, parks or libraries.

One last hot tip for people who are new to remote: load up on laptop stickers. When you’re a remote worker, your laptop is your office. There’s no more motivational posters, Dilbert clips, Far Side calendars or any of that other nonsense. The only real estate you have is the lid of your laptop. So, show everyone at Starbucks how many remote miles you’ve logged with your laptop sticker flair. Our friends at Sticker Mule can help you level-up your sticker game.

The Full Tool List

Cloud-based tools

Home-Office Essentials

  • Office chair
  • Stand-up desk or laptop booster
  • Healthy snacks
  • Succulent plant

Out-of-the-Home-Office Essentials

  • Noise-cancelling headphones
  • Ambient noise cancelling – Krisp
  • A list of places to work (coffee shops, parks, libraries)
  • Laptop stickers

While the COVID-19 epidemic is unfortunate, it is providing an opportunity for workplaces to test the effectiveness of remote working arrangements. This will also push companies to ensure that improve their IT infrastructure to be more adaptable and up to date. Best of luck on your remote working journey. We’ll see you around town!