A total of 22 U.S. states and several major metropolitan areas have issued stay-at-home orders as of March 27, according to Business Insider. These “shelter-in-place” orders effect nearly half of the U.S. population. President Donald Trump said the economy should reopen as soon as Easter Sunday. Some of his advisors disagree, arguing that decisions to lift stay-at-home orders should be on a case-by-case basis. There are many coronavirus conspiracy theories. Regardless of your position, lockdowns and social distancing are the norm for the foreseeable future.
Many companies are forced to shutter operations and adopt work-from-home procedures during the epidemic. Granted telecommuting has been on the rise for the past decade. Data compiled by Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs found that 4.7 million Americans had flexible working schedules in 2019. They either worked remotely full-time or at least two full days per week. But companies must accommodate full-time telecommuting for their entire workforces as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Businesses must bear the brunt of preparatory and execution costs to keeping their operations normal. But 100% remote workforces are uncharted waters for many firms. Individual workers must also make adjustments and create home offices conducive to productivity with minimal distractions. Here are five necessities for both companies and workers.
Email is by far the most frequently-utilized corporate communications platform. However, that doesn’t mean it’s the most efficient or effective form of communication. A 2019 survey by Pollfish found that nearly half (48%) of respondents would experience higher job satisfaction if they received fewer emails. Another 61% said they ignore many emails because its too overwhelming.
Slack is the most popular corporate communications platform. Uber, PayPal and NASA are among Slack’s biggest clients. Asana and Slack are about the same age. Both were introduced around 2012. Each have free versions. The upgrades provide more privacy and customization. Hangout (via G Suite), Chanty and Microsoft Teams are some other options to consider.
Full-time office workers must deal with many logistical issues, including their methods of connectivity. The World Advertising Research Center (WARC) estimates that two billion people globally access the internet solely through smartphones. This obviously won’t suffice for home offices. Prepaid hotspots are the fastest and most efficient solution, particularly for those with credit problems.
Your home office must keep you motivated and distraction free. Workers with children have even more obstacles, with many U.S. public schools closed for the foreseeable future. A comfortable, ergonomically-adjustable office chair is a necessity. Create your own standing desk as well to add variety to your workdays. Plants and natural lighting are also proven productivity enhancers.
Time spent in meetings has increased by at least 10% every year since 2000, according to data compiled by Bain and Co. Top executives spend 28 hours per week in meetings. Mid-level managers spend 21 hours per week in meetings. Cloud communications firm Fuze says American companies waste $37 billion per year on unproductive meetings.
Most people multitask during meetings. Multitasking is even more common for those working from home due to forced lockdowns. Get yourself a good bluetooth headset. You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on one. Just ensure that it has a microphone and decent battery life.
External hard drive
The saying goes “never mix business with pleasure.” Many companies were caught off-guard by coronavirus lockdowns and had to create work-from-home guidelines on the fly. A 2017 Pew survey found that the average U.S. household has multiple smartphones but only one desktop or laptop computer. Those who cannot afford a second laptop must take steps to ensure proprietary information stays that way.
External hard drives are getting bigger, storage-wise, and cheaper by the year. A high-quality, one-terabyte drive goes for under $100 in 2020. Download all work-related apps to the external drive. Save all work documents to said drive as well. Things will ultimately get back to normal and you’ll return to the office. An external drive allows seamless transitioning from one office to the other.
Handling distractions is the most difficult part of being a sole proprietor business owner or a work from home employee. A 2018 survey by homeowner consulting firm Porch found that televisions are the biggest distraction. Taking showers while on the clock, paying bills online and running errands are also named as major distractions for telecommuters.
Those with large homes or apartments can simply designate a specific room as their office. Creativity is necessary for those living in smaller spaces with multiple people. Office partitions are portable walls that separate your office from the rest of the home. Get creative with your partitions. Some use large plants as barriers. Curtains are also effective partitions.
Coronavirus, shelters-in-place, social distancing and all the other nouveau terminology is temporary. The country will ultimately get back to normal. Everyone will fight rush-hour traffic, crowded buses and trains again soon. In the meantime, setting up your home office may also benefit you in the future. It’s an interim office for your employer now. It may well be the headquarters of your own small business in the near future.