How to Set Up for Temporary Telecommuting

Bostonians were just settling back to work after the holiday break when news of the pending storm hit hard. Weather forecasters were throwing around big words like bombogenesis and bomb cyclones. School children rejoiced at the prospect of more days off while employers let out a collective groan. It was clear even before the first snowflake fell that the entire state would be shut down to all but emergency crews.

Companies were faced with the prospect of getting nothing done or letting people work from home. But only those companies that planned for it and invested time ahead of the storm had the infrastructure in place to execute it effectively.

Inevitably, things will come up to mess up a commute. As Minneapolis prepares to host Super Bowl LII, for instance, officials are recommending that companies let workers telecommute up to ten days before the game. Setting up policies and procedures in advance can help when there is a crisis. Besides, it’s good for other situations such as when employee needs to care for a sick child or has an injury that makes travel difficult.

Whether you’re gearing up for a day or a week of telecommuting, here are some insights we’ve gained from long-term remote work situations that can be adapted for a short-term set-up.

Put the basic infrastructure in place ahead of time:

For the company:

  1. Think ahead. What policies, procedures and equipment need to be in place before you deploy your remote work plan?
  2. Enable access. It may seem like such an obvious thing, working from home means remote access through a computer. Ensuring your people have access to a device, the internet and their work systems from home is a basic, yet necessary step to remote productivity. Set up audio conference call numbers, video chat tools, remote desktop options and shared file systems to ensure people can collaborate and share stuff if they need to do so.
  3. Do a dry run. If your team is unfamiliar with remote work, it will be awkward at first. Implementing some flexible work options, gives people a taste of remote work and allows them to practice in advance.
  4. Prepare for the event. Make sure people bring what they need with them so they continue working at home without interruption.

For the supervisor:

  1. Set expectations. Whether your team works from the office for a day or a week, it’s important for everyone to know what everyone is working on. You could do this before closing the office or with a morning check in. It helps to have things in writing as a quick reference.
  2. Encourage your team to set up a schedule for their remote work days. While you don’t need to micromanage the day, it’s useful for the team to know when everyone will be available. This saves time in making it easier to connect with people.
  3. Keep open lines of communication. Find out from team members the best way to stay in touch. For some, it may be by email, but others may do better with texting or phone. Decide ahead of time how and when you will be in touch. You could set up a morning check in meeting and then catch up at the end of the day.
  4. Make sure your team will have the equipment and tools they need to get their work done and stay in touch. These days, most people can easily access everything they need with a laptop, but some companies have security systems that require special access codes or software. It’s frustrating to spend half of the day trying to get set up from a distance.
  5. Think through your team procedures for tracking projects and working together. There may be things you can do that will make things more efficient when you are all in the same building as well as enabling you to work offsite more easily.

For the worker:

  1. Figure out where you want to work. You may not have a home office since this is temporary, but it helps to have a designated area where you can keep your things and spread out. An added advantage is that family members will know when you are there that you are working and will be more inclined to leave you be.
  2. Not having to go to in to work means being able to stay in your pajamas, but you may find it easier to get work done if you dress for it. Plus, then you can change when you’re done.
  3. Set boundaries on your time. Let you family and friends know when you are working and need to be able to concentrate. And, let your managers know when you’re working and available. Set up a schedule for yourself so you know when to start and stop working.
  4. Take breaks. Yes, you want to be productive, but It’s important to step away from the computer every now and then. The advantage of being at home is that you can throw in a load of laundry or play with your kids during the down time.
  5. Consider your work style. If you are someone who works best with others around, consider finding a nearby work buddy. If you need chunks of uninterrupted time, let your manager and others know when you don’t want to be disturbed.

Photo by Fabian Mardi