Working “Distantly”

Working “Distantly”

As businesses and organizations across the nation are doing, at Colony Brands, Inc. and our affiliated companies we are making daily efforts to position our workplace in order to help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Strong action plans have been developed to protect the safety and health of our employees with one action being to accommodate as many “work from home” arrangements as possible.

To help everyone adjust to this “working distantly” environment, the Colony Brands Community Relations team worked with Carrie Baumhover, SCDC Administration, for some tips on creating a successful home work environment. Our Safety Department also provided a very helpful remote workspace ergonomics assessment which is linked in the article below.

What are the biggest challenges of remote work?

  • Feeling isolated, lonely, or bored. Limited social interaction.
  • Not having your co-workers around can affect your energy and willpower to stay on task.
  • Distractions at home – children, pets, that load of laundry that needs to be done…
  • Being disciplined about walking away from work at the end of your day.
  • If you are used to working closely with a team, this is harder when you aren’t face-to-face or can’t turn around to talk to co-workers.

What are some of the benefits?

  • It may be easier to focus at home.  There are likely fewer distractions such as people stopping by your desk or having several meetings in a day.
  • Save time and reduce stress since you don’t have to commute to work.
  • You’ll also save money on gas.

What tools have your teams used that you’ve found to be most effective?

  • Microsoft Teams is our first choice. If you haven’t tried it, it’s great. You can easily chat to discuss with your team, “tag” people to catch their attention, share your screen, share and collaborate on documents, hold meetings, and more.
  • Skype also gives you the ability to meet or chat.
  • Talking to someone is better than emailing. A phone call or conference call is simple but very effective.

Where does communication tend to fall short?

When you are not face-to-face, communication can be very hard. You lose the visual cues and often the tone of the message. It’s harder to have a discussion.

The adjacent chart shows different types of communication and how effective these can be. Email is less effective than a phone conversation because you lose tone, can read it differently than the sender intended, and lose the immediate feedback. Whenever possible, talk to someone rather than write.

With that said, there are times when an email is best. Use email when you need a written record or might want to refer back to the information.

In general, a good rule of thumb is to over-communicate. We usually aren’t communicating as well as we think we are. Communicate what you are working on, any challenges, and your wins or successes. Message or call someone when you need help or to talk through a problem. Don’t wait days for the next scheduled meeting.

How often should you be checking in with your leader?

At least say “hi” every day. Talk to your leader about what will work best for you both. A short daily check-in might make sense. Or, you might choose to talk every other day. Do not wait longer than 2-3 days without checking in. It is important that you and your leader stay on the same page. You’ll also want your leader to be aware of what you are working on and possibly adjust priorities as necessary. Over-communicate what you are working on and any challenges.

Tips to stay focused and productive:

  1. Make sure to take lunch and breaks that you are accustomed to so you stay fresh and focused.
  2. Focus during your scheduled work times. During your break times, go for a walk, get a snack, or play with your pet or child. Set an alarm so that your 15-minute break doesn’t turn into 2 hours.
  3. Even though you’re at home, keep a work mindset by dressing for your day. Ditch the pajamas and slippers and dress like you would if you were heading to the office. You’ll feel a difference!
  4. Schedule a short daily meeting to check in with your team and/or manager.
  5. TV and social media can be big distractions during your workday. Avoid these time wasters to stay on task and maintain focus.

What should your “home workspace” look like? 

You don’t need a lot:

  • Your computer (laptop or desktop).
  • Monitor.
  • Keyboard and mouse.
  • Comfortable, ergonomic chair.
  • Consider noise-canceling headphones particularly if other family members or pets will be home with you.

Our Colony Brands Safety Department prepared a home workspace assessment to assist you with making sure that you are practicing ergonomically correct habits at home. Take the Ergonomic Self Assessment here.

Other tips: If possible, choose a wired Internet connection rather than WIFI. WIFI will be less reliable and might “drop” your connection. Identify a quiet space you can use when you are on the phone. If your space allows, have a separate workspace, preferably with a door you can close. Let family or roommates know that when you are there, you are at work.

Working from home will be an adjustment, particularly when collaborating with others. For your safety and the safety of others, however, it’s important that, where possible, we transition to this environment and maintain as much productivity as we can. In that transition, we may learn many new ways to communicate, collaborate, and what tasks are of the highest priority, and what ones don’t make the list. You may find that you can get a lot done. If you have questions, problems, or are just lonely, don’t hesitate to reach out. We are here to make this as positive as possible!


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