Lessons Learned from a Part-Time Teleworker in Quarantine

5 min read
March 31, 2020 at 1:00 PM

If you read our blog on a regular basis, you have seen more than one excellent discussion on pandemic planning and how to set up remote workers with proper policies, process, hardware, and software to ensure secure and compliant ways to keep working from home.

Luckily for me, Compass IT Compliance has always been a virtual-first company. We have a wonderful office, but for the most part the company is either in the field with clients or working from home, occasionally hitting the office for collaboration. I typically visited the office 2-3 days a week to meet with staff or because quite honestly, with a quiet office I got a lot of work done.

Two weeks ago, I went into quarantine at my house, where I live alone (I was not and am not sick, but I did come into contact with people that were). Suddenly my part-time telework became full-time. Unfortunately, it looks like it will be this way for a while longer and everyone in my company (and a lot of other companies) will be doing the same thing now.

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So this week, rather than go for a hard look into security settings and policy sections, I thought I might provide a few tips that come from what I’ve learned over the last two weeks, and how important it is to take a look at what is in place to help workers cope as much as protect them with policy and technology.

  1. Find an office – While this isn’t always feasible, I learned this one early. I used to spend a lot of time in the living room typing away on the coffee table with the TV on. From this, I found myself less productive and the victim of a sore back. In addition to that, it contributes in a big way to blurring the lines between home and work. Find a spare bedroom, or the kitchen table, somewhere that you have a fairly comfortable chair (more important than you might think) and can spread out a little. Make sure that isn’t where you spend most of your non-work time (usually living room and bedroom). If you live with people than a place with a door is better, but if not, at least investigate using headphones. Not everyone wants to hear your work conversations, and it helps with privacy and confidentiality as well! You wouldn’t be watching 8 hours of local news telling you all the horrible things going on with the Coronavirus at work, right? Don’t do it at home either.
  2. Set a schedule – You had a schedule at the office. You had meetings, things you did when you came in, things you did before you left, time dedicated to certain tasks. Set up the same thing at home. Having a little structure can go a long way to making the day go faster.
  3. Don’t expect to sit there for 8 hours working – You don’t do that at the office, so why would you do it at your house? While soaking in the tub with a glass of wine for two hours at 12:30 isn’t a responsible idea, I learned that putting the clothes in the dryer or emptying the dishwasher is a nice short break. Also, if you usually have lunch with a co-worker or take a walking break, do it virtually. Which leads into:
  4. Try to have regular check-ins with your staff and co-workers – I communicate virtually a lot. However, most of it is around work. The social interactions seemed to drop off when I stopped going to the office. I can say that everyone is feeling a little trapped, with nowhere to go. People are celebrating birthdays solo, not enjoying a lunch out, and now your office is your house, blurring those lines even more. Most workers have group chats and video of some kind (Jabber, WebEx, Skype, Teams, Slack, and many more). Take those tools and reach out if not daily, at least several times a week. Talk about work of course, but also talk about the other stuff you would talk about with them too. Remember, in a lot of cases you spend more time with these people than you do your family, and you just cut them out cold turkey. And as much as I hate to admit it, use the camera option whenever possible. It is going to brighten your day to see your CFO in that old Metallica shirt, or what that funny thing is on the desk.
  5. Your boss is just as stressed as you are – For those of you that are not teleworkers normally, and your business has been forced to adapt, many managers and owners are having to make some hard choices. People are being let go, working for less money, and the higher up you are, the more you’re worrying about the bottom line and suddenly looking at things like cash-flow and accounts receivable. So, in the event your bosses seem harder to connect with, it isn’t you. In a lot of cases they are going through things they can’t even share until decisions have been made.
  6. Be careful that work and home doesn’t blur too much – With work and home being the same place, it can be very easy to forget to separate the two and walk away like you would when you leave work. Setting a schedule from tip #2 will help with this, as will having a separate workspace. Remember that just because you have the ability to get work done at all hours doesn’t mean that you should. You can easily burn yourself out.
  7. Don’t be afraid to modify any of these! – With less structure, you’re going to take a little bit of time to find out what works best for you. You might find that you no longer have an 8-5 job, but 7-4 or 6-3, or even 11-7. You might find yourself scheduling time to make sure kids are fed and taken care of because they aren’t in school or need to address things that were never an issue when no one was home all day. A good company will set you up not only with the necessary tools (hardware and software) to work from home but will also assist you with things like scheduling and structure. However, in many cases you’re going to find you have more management over your time than ever before.
  8. Be patient – For those companies that are already telecommuting, many of these tips have already been thought of and addressed. But for companies going through this for the first time, there are going to be growing pains. Support might be lacking, and connection might not work reliably. Dozens of things might not have been considered in the rush to allow people to access systems and work remotely. Be patient, document any issues, and report them quickly and with as little frustration as possible. Your company wants to succeed at this as much as you do!

Even with my job allowing me to work remote, I was not prepared for the difference in working quarantined for a few weeks. And since the social distancing was just extended through the end of April, many businesses will be continuing this trend for at least another month. With the additional time that you may now be spending working from home, now is the time to review your home setup to ensure you a mentally prepared for a longer engagement as well as prepared technologically.

If you haven’t worked from home much yet, that could quickly change based on the social distancing extension. If you have questions about best practices on how to set up remote machines and how to ensure they are secure, compliant, and using best practices, please do not hesitate to contact us!

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