4 Ways to Make Working From Home Easier (and Safer) for the Long Haul

working from home

Sep 16, 2020

When COVID-19 first hit back in March, and the country went into shut-down mode, many who were previously accustomed to commuting to the office had to pivot to working from home. And many businesses needed to create remote protocols and procedures that simply weren’t part of the company fabric before. 

In July, we took you through some best practices for making your working environment more secure. But now that we’ve got about six months into this “new normal” (to the point where even saying “new normal” no longer feels new), how can we continue to make sure we’re staying on top of everything? What are the practices we need to continue to adapt and evolve?

With a growing list of major corporate companies announcing that their employees will be working offsite for the foreseeable future -- including Google, Facebook, Twitter, REI, Zillow, Salesforce, and others -- it looks like remote or blended work environments may be here to stay. So, here’s a refresher on the various ways you can ensure success while working from home over the long-term.

1. Proactively Stay Connected to Your Team

Just because you’re not getting to pass by your coworkers’ desks anymore, don’t forget to check in on each other. 

According to a December 2019 survey of 200 business executives at a variety of multinational companies, conducted by Harvard Business Review, even before the pandemic, a full “76% reported having difficulty feeling connected to their teammates, with cited reasons ranging from perceived differences in personality to the strain of working across time zones.”

Obviously the stressful circumstances of the global health and economic crises wrought by COVID-19 have not helped matters. Thankfully, we’ve got more tools than ever to help you stay connected - whether that’s Microsoft Teams or any of a long and growing list of options (you can find some great suggestions here).

Also, keep in mind that right now, what our country is going through is anxiety-inducing. The Centers for Disease Control offers some helpful coping strategies and resources for mental health care during the difficult time we’re in here.

2. Secure Your Systems

IT experts have sounded the alarm bells since the beginning of the pandemic that with more and more people working from home, the security concerns have also grown exponentially. Among security considerations:

  • Router password and set-up
  • Handling sensitive data
  • Safe document disposal
  • Preventing data loss
  • Video and phone conference considerations

In our next post this month, we’ll explore cybersecurity, managed security, and managed IT at greater length. Still, in the meantime, it bears mentioning that here at Milner, our IT specialists frequently partner with organizations to make sure they’re using the latest technology to aid in their productivity and peace of mind. 

This includes cloud migration, employee security training, security assessments, antivirus, and network design and architecture that’s fast and reliable. We can also analyze your network (including how you’re set up right now with remote work) to identify vulnerabilities that could put your company at risk.

3. Keep Up a Sanitation Routine

Now that we’re into September and colder weather is looming, it’s not just COVID-19 that we’ll need to watch out for but also the flu and the common cold and other germs waiting to pounce. Therefore, even if you’re spending the bulk of your time indoors, public health experts advise that you should keep washing your hands frequently. 

And, not to get too gross, but your phone surfaces, laptop keyboards, and even your printers (we’ve got special tips to clean your MFD’s here) are especially are breeding grounds for bacteria and viruses. Be sure to clean your computer, your phone, and your desk regularly. Yes, this may seem redundant when you’re not regularly coming into contact with colleagues anymore (unless you consider your family or your pets “coworkers” - which one could argue they are!). 

According to a March Wired article, when sanitizing your smartphone, avoid abrasive solutions, which can eat away and smudge your display. 

“Before you start, power down the device, remove any cases, and unplug any accessories so you've got full access to the phone. Your main cleaning tool should be a microfiber cloth. Anything that's soft and that won't scratch your phone will do, though Apple specifically recommends a camera lens cloth, if you want to follow its advice.”

UV light wands have also been suggested as an effective means of killing off potentially harmful bacteria lurking on the surfaces of your various devices. However, it’s vital to familiarize yourself with the science so that you don’t fall prey to multiple companies that overpromise or outright lie about what their products can do. 

This recent piece in Discover Magazine offers a helpful dive into what Ultraviolet light can and cannot do, as well as what you need to know about the products currently on the market. They also offer some fascinating insights into the history of this method when it comes to battling infection.

“During the H1N1 influence pandemic of 2009, microbiologists warned that the distance and duration that a wand is held from an infected surface are both critical,” the article says. “But the surface itself matters, too. Smooth surfaces like marble and glass are easier to disinfect than wood or cloth.”

4. Act Like You’re Still Going Into the Office

Bear with us on this one. Here’s what a lot of longtime self-employed freelancers, consultants, and contractors will tell you, i.e., those who’ve been in the trenches of working from home this whole time: You need to get out of your pajamas and actually dress the part. This doesn’t necessarily have to entail wearing a freshly pressed suit every day, but simply putting on a nice outfit that makes you feel empowered can have a real psychological impact on how you own your day.

Structure your day, and be sure to schedule a real lunch break -- step away from your computer! -- so that you’re not constantly hunched over your screen eating throughout the day. Take regular intervals and walk around and stretch. 

As businesses everywhere enter this “new normal”, it's important to adopt strategies that keep your company afloat by streamlining workflows and sustaining employee’s productivity.

For more, please get in touch -- or just reach out to let us know how you’re coping with these days of working from home!