Your Money: Your remote work questions, answered

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Shoreline
FILE PHOTO: A man works from home amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Shoreline, Washington, U.S., March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

April 15, 2020

(This Apr 9 story corrects spelling and title of Joyce Maroney, founder and executive director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos, in paragraphs 16 and 23.)

By Beatrix Lockwood

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Many Americans have found themselves quickly adjusting to new routines, offices and “co-workers” as mass lockdowns keep millions of employees confined to their homes and apartments.

As part of our #AskReuters Twitter chat series, Reuters invited a group of workplace experts to answer readers’ questions and share their best tips for working from home.

Below are some edited highlights.

What tips do you have for working efficiently, productively and comfortably from home (especially if your new “colleagues” are spouses, kids, roommates or pets)?

“We get interrupted in the office. Home is just another ‘office’ with interruptions. Remove wasted work practices like unproductive meetings. Get clear on what the work is, when it is due, and how success is measured. You are in control of the work; it doesn’t control you.” — Jody Thompson, co-creator of the Results-Only Work Environment

“Embrace your kids, pets and spouses as we all try to define a new work etiquette. Do not apologize when your kids enter your Zoom calls — relish their vulnerability and authenticity. Serendipity is appreciated more than ever.” — Jon Penn, CEO at National Research Group

What are the biggest myths about remote work?

“That this is actually ‘remote work.’ I’m not the first to say this, but the current situation is better understood as required working from home while managing the stress of a pandemic, economic meltdown and homeschooling.” — Lindsey Pollak, multigenerational work expert

“Remote workers don’t work as hard and can’t build effective relationships. Office workers are most effective. Because we can’t physically “see” them, our perceptions/assumptions become real: They don’t work as hard, are probably doing laundry, working less than 40 hours.” — Jody Thompson

I really miss the people I work with? How do I casually connect with them?

“First, find out how colleagues prefer to communicate… Then, agree on how you will connect throughout periodically. Set reminders.” — Cali Williams Yost, CEO and founder of Flex+Strategy Group

“Consider establishing a weekly happy hour or a ‘lunch bunch.’ Take a break from work and discuss how you’re really doing in light of social distancing.” — John Seigenthaler, partner at Finn Partners

Too many Zoom and Teams chats these days! How can we communicate better virtually?

“For right now, this is the environment we’re living in. Zoom and Teams are incredible resources that allow us to connect virtually when we must stay home. There are some things we can do to better leverage our resources. Remember your Zoom etiquette – raise the camera so it isn’t looking up at you; light yourself from the front; center yourself in the camera; and wear a headset if you can.” — John Seigenthaler

What are the best ways for managers to engage and motivate people if they can’t see them?

“Now is not the time to start monitoring people just because they are working from home. Now’s the time for trust and giving people leeway to deal with what’s happening to us all.” — Joyce Maroney, founder and executive director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos.

I’m overwhelmed. How can I take care of myself (plus the people I love) while working from home?

“You can’t take care of others if you’re a mess. Put on your own oxygen mask first. Take breaks, exercise and hydrate with the discipline you apply to work. Where it’s safe and legal, get outside. If the news adds to your stress, don’t take in more than you need.” — Ruba Borno, vice president and general manager of Cisco Managed Services.

What is the best way to truly turn off from work and set better boundaries?

“Block off time on your calendar for your family meals, working out, or whatever downtime you wish to preserve. Set an ‘out of office’ message like one of my colleagues: ‘Given school and childcare facility closures until next month … I may be slower to respond to email.” — Bhushan Sethi, joint global leader at PwC

How will work change when things return to “normal”?

“My gut tells me that remote working will be far more common, especially when organizations realize the cost-savings in rental costs.” — Susan McPherson, corporate social responsibility expert

“Truly hope we’ll get sick time for everyone as a nation. It’s crazy the position we’re putting so many workers in right now who have to make the choice between working sick or not getting paid.” — Joyce Maroney

(Editing by Lauren Young and Aurora Ellis)