Telecommuting in Tumultuous Times

Updated: Apr 29, 2020

In the midst of a global pandemic, are you now working from home full time…maybe for the first time ever?! Are the kids at home too? And your spouse or partner? Other family members?

With the crazy chaos, the dog might be the only one happy right now!

Let me try, even if just slightly, to ease your burden and stress about the transition.

I have worked from home off and on for most of my career - sometimes a few days a week and sometimes full time when I'm not traveling. While current times are different than snow days, and whatnot, general themes still apply.

I’ve already seen some posts about telecommuting that offer worthwhile information, and you might even be receiving tip sheets from your own company too.

Find a Space or Spaces that Work for You

It can even be the kitchen table. Seriously. But before you settle in, a few things to consider.

Do you want or need a door? Not everyone has a spare bedroom, a basement, or an area that is completely separate from whatever else is going on in the rest of the house.

Do you need privacy or silence for some/most of the work you do or the calls you will be taking?

Are you more creative in certain spots in the house? I write really well at my kitchen table, but tend to sit at my desk for most of my meetings, calls and webinars. And, where I live, we are weeks, if not months, away from weather warm enough to work outside, but my wifi does work on my porch!

Do you want to sit somewhere with a lot of natural light?

If the kids are home from school, would it be better to be in the middle of the house, or removed a bit from all they are up to (assuming their ages, the job you have, and your patience will play a big part here?!)

It’s okay to try new spots throughout the coming days and weeks. You might want or need the change of scenery…or prefer to pick a spot, plug everything in to charge, and be done with it.

When all else fails and you cannot for the life of you find a quite/alone spot to work...barricade yourself in the laundry room - no one is going to look for you there!

What about Video Calls?

I received a lot of questions this week about video calls specifically. Here are a few tips and reminders.

  • If in-person meetings are being changed to virtual meetings, consider letting your clients decide if the virtual meetings should include video, or simply be conference calls.

  • If you aren’t familiar with the video software your company prefers or mandates, test, test, and test some more…and then ask one of your kids to show you how it works!

  • If you are in charge of leading a call, consider asking another colleague to be a co-host or alternate host so if anything at all happens with your own audio, video or file sharing, someone else can pick up the ball. With so many of us using these conferencing systems, expect a few hiccups.

  • Learn how to “mute all” and “unmute all” and other features to control a lot of background noise.

  • Eliminate any natural and artificial lighting behind you – close the curtains, shut the blinds, turn off accent lights. You will look much better on a video call if you have the natural light in front of you instead of behind.

  • Prop “up” your laptop or camera a bit for a more flattering angle. Not a lot of people out there are even thinking about this, but it will make a big difference if you put a file box or something similar under your laptop to raise its height while you sit at your desk.

  • Keep your power cord handy or even plugged in during video calls. You'll thank me later for this reminder.

Have Patience with Your Company and Your Colleagues

Unless you are personal friends with those you are interacting with from work…remember you have no clue what’s going on in their own home right now.

With schools, restaurants, gyms, and many other establishments closed, some households are in absolute turmoil. These are not normal times. It is not business as usual. We can’t even begin to imagine what someone else, who’s used to coming to the office each and every day, might now be handling in his or her own home during business hours. Have some empathy. Check in on each other. Extend deadlines. Focus on critical and important work only. Lead by example.

And a last little reminder: go switch that load of laundry!