A Practical Guide to Working from Home
I would like to share with you a working from home guide from Microsoft. This document was created to help Microsoft employees globally with guidance, tips, and resources during the COVID-19 outbreak. Rachel Russell, one of the architects of this document and the Flexible Work Lead at Microsoft says, “We designed the document to support our employees working from home during this outbreak, some for the first time and many with others at home as well."
I believe this guide will be helpful to companies in the Philippines in coping with the COVID 19 enhanced community quarantine. Majority of employees are required to work from home. The ability of organizations and its employees to effectively communicate online is crucial during the quarantine period.
Microsoft has earnestly made the effort with this guide to help organizations meet the challenges of working remotely. I used to work for Microsoft across Asia Pacific and can attest to the pragmatic and innovative Work-from-Home practices Microsoft has.
This guide can be used as a starting point or as a baseline template for your organization’s work from home program. Useful general guidance, tips, and resources for employees during the COVID-19 outbreak are highlighted in this work from home guide.
The key areas in the Work from Home Guide by Microsoft are:
1. Workplace Set Up
You have to consider the needs of how you will setup your physical work space. You need to consider to make the workspace safe and comfortable so you can work effectively. You will like your physical workspace to be safe and secure with good ventilation, proper lighting, comfortable furniture, and good ergonomics. These are some suggestions for you to consider and plan for.
- Look for ways to minimize distraction and disruption. Try to find a workspace with minimal distractions (noise or clutter). Avoid areas that are near sources of noise (facing the road, near audio/video appliances, near the kitchen). Furthermore, look for a space that avoids disruption. Being near the main door or the dining room might not be a good place to consider. However, this might be difficult for others as not all homes will have these features during these time.
- Find a secure place for office equipment and materials. Microsoft suggests to have a ‘workbase’ where equipment and materials can remain undisturbed, even if you shift locations during the day. You would also want to avoid other family members using your equipment and materials without your knowledge and not being able to find them when you need them.
You also need to consider the needs of you Virtual workspace. You will need to be productive and be able to communicate and collaborate effectively while working from home.
- Find your best connection for the Internet. A wired Internet connection is best if possible. With a wireless connection consider a spot that gives you a stable and strong signal. Consider the distance to your wireless router and any obstacles that could impact your connectivity quality.
- Think secure and be secure. Use the apps and software recommended by your office. However if there are no standard apps, consider those that are broadly used and supported by reliable companies. To securely access internal resources and work with confidential data, you might need to connect via VPN or remote desktop.
- Mobile when you need it. Installing the apps you need on your phone is a great alternative when your local internet is experiencing high usage that affects your connectivity. Identify the locations in your home that has the strongest mobile signal.
2. Staying Connected to Each Other
Communication is equally a challenge and a necessity while working from home. This guide outlines several ways to stay connected to your team mates, suppliers, and partners. You will need to communicate often. Making it easy to stay connected is vital with your colleagues and stakeholders. Make space fun like using a Microsoft teams channel dedicated to fun—share news, pictures, and stories. Try a GIF, sticker or emoji to express yourself. Establish a virtual “water cooler” or pantry for missing hallway talk by using chat groups or even calling to check in.
- Use technology to connect and collaborate regardless of connection. Develop ideas and improve them in real time. Share the content your audience needs to see with screen sharing, and work to edit in real time. If you need to brainstorm, use Whiteboard in Microsoft Teams as a digital canvas for your ideas to come to life.
- Switch to digital events. Keep your events on everyone’s radar and calendar that allow you to broadcast video and meeting content to large online audiences. Use digital tools for anything from a team all-hands to external forums.
- Virtual ‘huddle’. Quick meetings are effective at getting everyone on the same page quickly. Schedule a quick call with your collaborators to get the same impact of a quick in-person connection.
- Lead inclusive online meetings. As you move your meetings online, take these steps to make them productive and welcoming for everyone.
- Be present and respectful. Limit multitasking during meetings. Turning on your video can show that you are paying attention and allow you to focus on the person or people on your call. Blur your background to reduce distractions.
- Pause for others to speak. It can be hard to find space to speak in a meeting, and even harder when everyone is virtual.
- Monitor meeting chat. People may not feel comfortable breaking into the conversation or may be having technical difficulties.
3. Managing your Time and Well-being
Share your schedule and signal availability. Setting healthy boundaries, managing interruptions, and being clear about when you are available is an important part of managing your time when working from home. You will need to set expectation on your availability. Set expectations with your team (and those you live with) around your availability during the day (or night for BPO employees of Philippine companies).
- Set boundaries. It can be a challenge to switch ‘off’ from work when you don’t leave the office—or switch ‘on’ your workday when you don’t leave the house. If needed, set clear intentions about work time and home time to avoid burnout or being ‘always on’.
- Take care and be mindful. In challenging circumstances, we need to remember to take a step back and focus on our health, wellness, and mindset. Don’t forget to take breaks. Use your calendar to turn meals and breaks into appointments so you get regular reminders. Maintain work-life harmony. Recognize that while working from home you may need to occasionally redirect your time and energy to your loved ones. It’s important to check in with yourself and be mindful of how you are feeling.
4. Role of the manager. Managers play a key role in the success of their teams, especially during times of uncertainty and change.
- Lead by example. Model the work from home habits in this document. Be a positive example of the guidance, and make sure to reinforce inclusion. Check in with your employees, ask for perspectives, and identify any areas for improvement.
- Support in new ways. Help each person create their best and most productive work from home environment. Find ways to recognize their efforts and let them feel your presence. Look for Digital platforms that can help you recognize and reward your team.
- Frequent check-ins. These are unusual times with unanticipated challenges and may require more frequent check-ins. Students may be out of school. Be sure to manage expectations, offer support, and take time to understand the unique needs of every employee.
As a closing note, develop your Virtual workplace to become a Great Place to Work. You need to actively find ways to recognize and motivate your remote team and employees in the Philippines. Actively look for ways to support their efforts and recognize their initiatives. This becomes extremely challenging in a work from home environment. Consider an online recognition and reward platform like CARROTS PH that can help you keep your team motivated. As a digital platform, CARROTS is accessible by remote employees and can deliver physical rewards nationwide to your employee's doorstep.
Please reach out if you would like to learn more how companies with a large remote workforce like Microsoft and Procter&Gamble enable their employees in the Philippines to be effective while working from home.