Over the last few days, a growing number of organizations have shut down their offices and told employees to work from home in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Here at Creative Commons (CC), we’ve also taken necessary precautions such as postponing all work-related travel and canceling the in-person component of the annual CC Global Summit in May.
Fortunately, however, our daily operations haven’t been disrupted to the same extent as other organizations because CC has been a global, fully remote nonprofit since 2015. Our staff is spread across Europe, North America, and South America; and although this working environment presents incredible benefits, like flexibility and rich cultural exchanges, it also presents unique challenges. For example, staff on the west coast of North America are often just waking up as staff in Europe are signing off!
In the spirit of open access and promoting good health, we’d like to share some tips for both organizations and individuals on the subject of remote work.
- Create clear policies and guidelines that are accessible to all staff. Make sure to anticipate questions and/or concerns that your staff may have, and include answers in a FAQ.
- Craft an internal communications strategy that maintains clear, reliable, and regular communication across the organization and within teams. In fact, don’t be afraid of “overcommunication.”
- Schedule video conferencing—encourage leadership and/or management to schedule informal video conferencing with their team members to maintain team morale and cohesiveness.
- Don’t assume all staff has access to the latest technology—in particular, don’t assume all staff members have access to high-speed internet. If they don’t, work with them to figure out alternatives or to set expectations.
- Ensure contact information is up-to-date—for emergency purposes, ensure that all staff’s contact information is correct.
- Assess and adjust expectations and deadlines on projects that may be impacted by the lack of in-person engagement or by a disruption in schedules due to schools closing, individuals becoming ill, etc.
- Provide mental health resources—it’s important to provide staff with appropriate resources in case they begin to feel isolated and/or depressed while working remotely.
- Showcase flexibility, patience, and empathy—leadership and/or management should showcase these qualities in order to reduce employee anxiety and stress under challenging circumstances.
- Give regular updates, either via email or through video check-ins, on the status of COVID-19.
- Don’t micromanage your staff’s activities—instead, set realistic goals and trust they’ll get their work done.
- Keep your normal workday morning routine—this includes brushing your teeth, changing your clothes, eating breakfast, etc.
- Do work in another room, not in your bedroom—if you live in a small apartment, try to create a space that you can designate as your “office.”
- Take breaks throughout the day—make some coffee, go for a walk, read a book, or stretch.
- Keep in touch with coworkers outside of formal meetings—this can help prevent social isolation, anxiety, or depression. CC staff, for example, schedule “lunches” over video or take “walks” together while talking over the phone.
- Create boundaries between your life and your work—stick to your regular work hours and set expectations about email response times. This is often one of the biggest challenges of working from home!
- Find other remote workers in your town—schedule coworking days with them or meet up for lunch (if it’s safe)!
- Don’t buy (only) unhealthy snacks—you will eat them! Make sure you buy healthy snacks that will keep you energized throughout the day.
- Be wary of your tone—especially when communicating through messaging applications (e.g. Slack) because these forms of communication can feel impersonal and cold.
- Log off distracting websites—social media sites are especially distracting, so either log off of them or use a browser plugin to help you stay focused.
- Be proud of working from home—just because you don’t go to an office doesn’t mean your work is less important or you’re less productive.
Here’s the gist: On an individual level, try to create a routine that makes you feel productive, included, and motivated. On an organizational level, actively listen to and check in with staff to ensure everyone feels supported and included. Most importantly, as the World Health Organization (WHO) says, “Be safe. Be smart. Be kind.”
For more insights on remote working that our staff has found helpful, check out this article from Deekit, this guide from Trello, this guide from GitLab, and this podcast from Remoter. Also, this post is licensed CC BY, so please remix and reshare it!