by Chuck Chapman, Content Strategy Coordinator
If you’re in a certain age range and grew up in the Midwest during the late 1970s, you probably remember the Blizzard of 1978. That’s the winter where midwestern states were literally snowed under, restricting travel and forcing closures of schools and businesses for several weeks until we were able to dig out.
That’s the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to what’s going on now. What I distinctly remember about that time was the initial giddiness as a kid over not having to go to school. I’m sure my parents didn’t share my excitement, and actually, I wasn’t as excited after the novelty of the situation wore off after a few days.
That’s probably where more than a few newly minted remote workers are now. Sure, the initial thought of no commuting and working in your PJs was pretty cool the first week. Now, you’re looking at the reality of how to actually be productive and make this work for the next (????) weeks. We really don’t know how long this will last.
I had the opportunity to talk with Kevin Eikenberry, co-founder of this site and co-author, along with Wayne Turmel of The Long-Distance Leader and the upcoming Long-Distance Teammate. Kevin has been working and leading from a distance for over 20 years, so he has a valuable perspective on what’s happening now.
What can people new to remote work do to “settle in” and be productive?
Number one is you’re going to need to work to establish some new routines. You had a routine about how you got up to go to work. Now you’re going to have to create a new set of routines. Don’t just let that happen. Be intentional.
Do what you need to do to get your day started and to be successful. Don’t immediately dive into your email and your phone just because it’s there. Think about and build routines that will move you toward establishing some sort of momentum to start your day.
The second thing is you need to figure out when you’re going to work and when you’re not going to work. When you worked at the office, when you left, you left work. Now the laptop is going to be sitting somewhere staring at you all the time. So think about what your “on and off” are going to look like.
On that note the people you live with need some expectations about what the boundaries are when you’re working. Is it, “Don’t interrupt me when I’m working”? If you figure out your on and off times, then you need to figure out how you’re going to let people know when you really are on so that they’re not interrupting you. Remote work has its own built-in diversions. Your family shouldn’t become another one.
What long-term impacts should companies be planning for, beyond the health issues and concerns about revenue?
Those are really important issues that are going to need to be addressed in the short term. Long term, I think we’ll look back on this is as a seminal moment. I think that the genie is out of the bottle now and won’t go back in. People are going to figure out that they can do work from home. People are going to figure out that leaders can lead people that way.
We’ve been telling people that’s possible for a long time, and now they’ll see what we’ve been saying. Of course there are things that people are going to have to learn, and we’ll help them learn those things; but once this is over and they realize the work still gets done, it’s going to be pretty hard to go back to the way things were.
Obviously, since we published Long-Distance Leader and we’re already working on the Remote Teammate book, we saw this already happening. But this event is going to accelerate that shift. It’s going to continue to put pressure on organizations to look at the world differently. It’s going to call into great question the assumptions about the costs and benefits of the way we’ve always done work. We are already know it’s going to happen. This will just accelerate it.
Helping you through COVID-19
Many of the changes you’re experiencing now will become new parts of the way we do work. We’re dedicated to helping you successfully transition to working and leading remotely, whether that’s for six weeks or however long it takes. Our COVID 19 website is set up to not only help you deal with immediate needs, but also enable you to be successful in your remote role for the long haul.