Before the COVID-19 outbreak, many roles were considered 100% essential on-site roles–the thought of working from home didn’t seem possible. But as people always do, we’ve learned to adapt and make it work.
Of course, there have been some bumps in the road and difficulties at times, but workers all over the country (and world) are learning together how to best operate from home.
We spoke with Director of Internal Audit, Andrey Dovletov, at a prominent New York City Medical Center and ARRA Healthcare Executive Consultant Sarah Summer about what they’ve learned about working remotely for positions previously in-office.
Andrey has been working from home two days a week and says that, while his commute and parking have been easier, “It’s a new reality we have to get used to.”
It may seem like an obvious rule, but the reality is most professionals are not set up to maintain a regular workday in this new world we’re living in as “work-from-home” employees.
The distractions, the uncomfortable chairs, a laptop screen for 8 hours – to say nothing of the kids, neighbors, or couch calling your name for an afternoon nap.
Planning a workday in an office just “happens”, almost organically, as people wander into your office or stop by your cubicle. A coffee break can turn into an efficient discussion on a budget concern with your boss but, at home; you have to create these events.
As Andrey stated in our interview
I needed to replan my workday to put emphasis on reaching out to people in the earlier part of the day when they’re easier to get ahold of. I also try to bring as much paperwork as I can home to review. Then I can use electronic records and remote access systems.
Andrey’s insights carry this crucial aspect in making a workday from home productive.
Planning your day in a work-from-home environment requires you to think outside of the box and plan a minimum of one day ahead in order to accomplish your goals.
All the planning in the world can’t begin to ease the frustration that the day will probably not go as you planned. You’re in a new working reality that most people are just beginning to understand and learn how to manage.
Some employees may work more efficiently and most importantly, as Andrey answers below, hospitals especially, are in a pace of change that is radically shifting how business is conducted.
One of the challenges is that our hospital has started new reports and procedures since we are at the epicenter of this outbreak, we have 10-12 departments making new reporting procedures, so it’s hard to catch up to people.
Without having that human interaction, and without the face-to-face conversation to give information beyond the spreadsheets, it can be difficult. Some people are busy with life-saving responsibilities so you need to know what’s on their plate.
Plan but remain flexible, patient, and know that processes and workflows will inevitably find the most efficient path forward, it just may not happen tomorrow.
Andrey makes a great point regarding meetings in a virtual world.
Put more emphasis on making the meetings that are on the calendar because it can be hard to get everyone together.
He also added that getting distracted (and maybe not making those meetings) or running behind, can happen as a result of others and even yourself when meeting prioritization becomes a second or third priority in your workday.
I find myself sidetracked if I can’t reach the person I need and I can’t get the data or the response I’m seeking. If I can’t reach that person on the phone because he or she is remote, it usually means it’s going to take at least half a day to get that answer.
Andrey’s experience has been felt by many stay-at-home professionals even before the crisis. His specific point on meetings has been hinted at in many articles regarding work-from-home optimization but it’s often grouped into larger topics like efficiency tips and not emphasized nearly enough.
Many businesses, like hospitals, were never built with the goal of having upwards of 23% of their employees working from home. The rush to get certain staff members up and running, from buying computers and building large scale and secure data structures, has been a financial and logistical battle.
In the midst of tackling these hurdles, it’s easy to overlook details that can stem the gap quicker. Andrey mentions a small but crucial detail we found enlightening in this new environment businesses are facing.
About half the people I’m working with, I can’t reach at their working desk. A few of them, I’m lucky if I have their cell phone number
He continues adding,
We don’t have the benefit of the physical presence to address immediate needs. It would help if everyone working on a team could share calendars. Texting helps, but in a time like this, being connected to someone with a cell phone capability is n added bonus.
A list of all critical email and cell phone numbers would be helpful. While the common expectation is that everyone should be reachable by email, it’s not the reality… it’s necessary to have one alternate channel in addition to email.
If you’re in leadership, perhaps this will help you re-examine your department or organization’s contact details to ensure that timely responses and crucial needs are met.
If you’re working from home and Googled “best chair for working from home,” as we did, you would have seen many articles with tips on helping you remain comfortable and focused on your role and assignments. Andrey had an additional insight to add to the conversation.
Definitely get a semi-private workspace, where conferences can be held without interruption. A laptop with a camera also helps.
We couldn’t agree more with this last point.
Add-on cameras are cheap these days so if your computer is not already equipped with one, there’s no more excuse to show up with the generic silhouette on Google Hangouts.
It’s even more crucial to use the virtual tools you have available to keep open communication alive when you can’t see everyone in the office.
I keep up with my manager, around twice a week I try to give updates of where I am, what I’m working on, and get additional feedback from my supervisor
There are hundreds of free chat tools available that are perfect for quick questions or a simple back-and-forth exchange that can be easier than a long email chain.
Maintaining that human interaction and speaking with our colleagues the way that you do when we are in an office is going to be key to settling into this new reality.
Overall, be sure to give yourself some grace, this is a new normal we’re all getting used to. Trying to work from home and create new routines and processes can be difficult, especially during this already stressful time.
We are all in this together.
Have you been working from home? What other tips have you found helpful? Comment below!