Published April 10, 2020, at 5:04 p.m.
by Charlotte Arnold.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people, whether they like it or not, are getting a taste of working remotely. Many state governments have enacted mandates to close nonessential businesses. For these nonessential employees, that means that they are either not working or are working from home.
From 2005 to 2017, there was a 159% increase in remote workers. Technology has allowed people to create their own offices anywhere. Many people enjoy the flexibility that working remotely offers; however, communication can be more difficult. Without face-to-face contact, remote workers must be intentional about communicating with co-workers, bosses, employees and others. Remote workers must also navigate the mixing of home life and professional life.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a communication exercise for everyone. Both an experienced remote worker and new remote worker recently shared their perspectives on the importance of and best practices for effective communication while working from home.
Joseph Rix is the lead decision science analyst at USAA and an experienced remote worker. After 10 years in the United States Marine Corps, Rix has been working for USAA from home for seven years. Over the years, he has collected tips and tricks to be an efficient and productive employee from home.
As an experienced remote worker, Rix follows practices such as sticking to a schedule and having a set workspace. However, he noted that working from home on a typical workday and working from home during a pandemic are entirely different entities.
He pointed out that people from work are not the only relationships to juggle. Normally, he would have a quiet space with monitors, but working from home during the pandemic means that his kids and spouse are home as well.
He and his wife have had to be intentional and direct about their communication of sharing the duties of home-schooling their children while they are both working from home.“There’s a reason why people can’t be a full-time employee, full-time parent and home-school teacher,” he noted.
Even if you do not have kids who were sent home from school due to the coronavirus, this principle can apply to anyone. It may be difficult to find a quiet space, because your kids, spouse or roommate are home. Rix explained that to combat these distractions, it is important to have an open line of communication with those that you live with.
Rix noted that people should not formulate their opinion on working remotely from these past few weeks of the coronavirus pandemic. These are strange circumstances that do not accurately portray typical work conditions.
She said that working remotely was a difficult adjustment at first because her job is events-based. She is still planning events but changing the format of in-person events to virtual platforms.
Barton explained the importance of strong communication while working out of the office. “One of the hardest adjustments is that we used to be able to go to someone’s office and get a response quickly,” she said. One of the ways that Barton’s team combats the communication barrier is to have daily, virtual meetings with her team. She said that these meetings are a good way to touch base with her co-workers and stay connected.
Barton’s advice to those working at home is to be patient and proactive. She also said that strong communication from leadership is “extremely important in navigating these circumstances.”
There is a learning curve when you transition your work to a virtual platform. The transition may warrant a change in communication channels, but effective communication is just as, if not more, important than ever. We must remind ourselves of that importance and proceed with intentionality.