As much of the world shifts gears into "self-quarantine" mode to slow the spread of the Coronavirus, more and more people are looking at how they can work remotely.  Approximately 3-4% of the workforce already works virtually, for the rest this will come as a new experience. 

I’ve been a virtual worker for over fifteen years. Today I am responsible for Online’s Risk, Security and Privacy Practice and work closely with over 80 Onliners who are based throughout North America. Our team works in a virtual model every day, with the exception of our Security Operations Center who work together out of a location in Texas, however we have a contingency plan for them to work virtually as well.

As our peers and our Clients throughout North America adopt a virtual model, we wanted to share some useful tips that may come in handy for those who may find themselves feeling uncertain about this mass social distancing effort.

Get the right work environment zen. 

When I first started working out of my home office, I found that it was really important to establish a good work cadence; it didn’t happen immediately, but was something I had to figure out.  One of the most helpful things to start with is to find a comfortable and quiet space to work – it doesn’t even necessarily need to be a desk, but it is important to be in a place where interruptions are kept to a minimum. 

Make sure you have the right amount of zen in your work environment – to some that may mean having a perfectly clean desk, to others it may mean sitting on your favorite chair.  For many, it is important to have a dedicated work space.  For me, I like moving around to different parts of the house so I’m not in one spot all day.  Make sure as you are easing into this virtual life that you are paying attention to what works best for you to be productive and comfortable.

Don’t forget to engage. 

Given that you will not be physically surrounded by co-workers, you should consider other mechanisms to stay engaged. This may include spending more time on emails and collaborative platforms (Slack, Teams, etc.). You should also make the time to have brief touch-bases with your peers, either through direct calls or though collaborative calls/conference calls. 

In fact, this is a good time to over-communicate as you become accustomed to not having a water cooler to gather around. It will be critically important to have more check-ins with your team and co-workers than you would if you were in the same office.

Establish a routine that works for you. 

For some that may mean getting dressed in work clothes, for others it may mean making a coffee and putting on your sweats. Come up with a ritual (note – I consider rituals to be a ‘cool routine’) that works for you as that is important to be able to jump into a productive mode as quickly as you can without spinning your wheels. 

For many folks who are first getting into the virtual mode, it is important to establish a regular schedule.

Stay on task and watch out for distractions

When I first became a remote worker my kids were younger, and it took some explaining to say that when I was in a particular room; it was as if I was away at work. It was also easy to get pulled into various distractions – conversations with friends or neighbors, etc. so make sure that you have a general agenda that allows you to stay on task.

You will invariably encounter many more distractions in your home, even if you’re the only one there,  so try to treat them in a micro-fashion every so often when you get up to move around (i.e. water the plants, feed the dog, etc.)  Make sure you own the distractions and not the other way around.

Be healthy about it. 

It is important to get up and move around a little. It’s also important to not forget to eat – and try to eat as healthily as you can – just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you have to downgrade your diet.  And now that spring is upon us, it’s also a great way to step outside for a little bit, maybe even to take an occasional phone call. 

Speaking of phone calls, those who are relegated to working in less-than-quiet environments (kids, dogs, housemates, etc.), just remember to mute your phone when you’re not talking.

Rejoice in the flexibility. 

One immediate dividend is that you have a time savings associated with your reduced commute.  Another is that you will find that you have some flexibility in your schedule, outside of scheduled meetings or deadlines.  I often joke that I have a 7-day weekend, it’s just that it’s interrupted by work every day.  But it does allow me to move things around when I can for family happenings, to surf, or take care of person things. 

And that freedom is empowering!  

Who knows, when the dust settles, it’s quite possible that companies will realize that there are some pretty strong benefits of having some work done virtually.

If you work remotely, what are some of the benefits you've been able to identify?  Share your success stories with us!