Kate Keaveney and Cormac O’ Leary provide an in-depth guide on working from home during the COVID-19 outbreak, from setting up your space to data security considerations.
“Successfully working from home is a skill, just like programming, designing or writing. It takes time and commitment to develop that skill, and the traditional office culture doesn’t give us any reason to do that” – Alex Turnbull, CEO of Groove
Remote working has long been the subject of scrutiny in the ever-evolving discussion around the future of office work. There is no shortage of LinkedIn posts extolling the virtues of working from home, signalling a changing wind in corporate culture and an anticipated move in the direction of fluidity and increased trust.
Suddenly, though, we find ourselves in a situation where remote working is just … working. With the global outbreak of the coronavirus – or COVID-19 – companies everywhere are being advised to work from home where possible. What do we do when remote working for all is no longer a distant future, but our lives for the foreseeable future?
“What do we do when remote working for all is no longer a distant possibility, but our lives for the foreseeable future?”
It can be tricky to get it right at the start. Employee safety and societal responsibility is paramount, and as we navigate the current situation it is important that people are able to work as efficiently at home as possible. However, the community spread of coronavirus will inevitably have an impact on productivity, especially in small businesses. With this guide, we hope to help you to mitigate the impact of an absent workforce in the coming weeks and months and get the most out of working from home.
Why remote working?
The purpose of remote working is to support “social-distancing” measures. This tactic is to aid in “flattening the curve”, or slowing the spread of the virus so that fewer people need medical treatment at a given time, ensuring that hospitals and medical services don’t become overloaded.
Responsibility for productivity, outcomes and maintenance of operational communications are a requirement when working from home. Remote working may be new for some, and it is certainly not the ideal situation for everyone. However, we can optimise our time and space to make working from home as comfortable as possible.
Here are some tips to support you whilst working from home during this period:
- Choosing the right location to work from home is critical to the success of remote working. Ideally you will be able to designate a separate work area where you can shut the door and are not visible to others.
- Have you adequate space, is it noise and distraction-free?
- Is it easy to access, is the temperature okay, do you have enough daylight or artificial light?
- Review your ergonomic set up and ensure that you are working safely and comfortably.
- Stick to your Schedule – get up and dressed, ready for work, have your coffee and breakfast as you normally would and work as if you were not at home; if there are things that you don’t do at work, don’t do them at home.
- Set boundaries — explain to people that you are working from home and therefore need not be distracted.
- Get some fresh air! It is important to get out of the house if you can for a change of scenery and to clear your mind. Take a quick walk around the block or in the garden.
- Finish at your finish time – whilst working at home it is important to switch off and start the next day fresh again. Log off at your normal time and recharge ready for the next day.
- Celebrate what you have achieved in the day – you might feel that you have not achieved what you set out to initially. Try taking 5 minutes to jot down the items that you have complete and what you need to get stuck back into tomorrow.
- Use collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams or Slack to keep in touch with colleagues – ongoing communication is vital!
- Use video calling where possible to maintain personal interaction with your team
- Attend meetings on time or try to find a workaround, e.g. if speed of broadband and phone network coverage is an issue.
GDPR and Data Security / Privacy
The management of data is a high priority for any business and, as a rule, no confidential personal or financial material should be taken from your office environment and worked on from home.
Companies should encourage a “clean desk” policy and this is even more critical when working from home. Therefore, any type of work carried out at another location should not include material of a confidential manner. If hard copies of documentation are to be brought out of the office, it should only contain what is absolutely required to ensure business / project continuity.
Any QMS controlled documentation that must be removed, must be controlled under an appropriate QMS record, e.g. fault report, nonconformance, etc.
“Companies should encourage a ‘clean desk’ policy and this is even more critical when working from home”
Individuals working from home must be aware of computer security, in particular:
- There must be appropriate safeguards in relation to confidentiality of any material being worked on.
- The factory username and passwords are sometimes available in the user manual of your home router which are available online. Sadly, many people never change them. It’s always recommended to change these after your internet is set up.
- Using company password policies is good practice even at home. We recommend applying the same level to gain access to your Wifi.
- Speed of broadband and phone network coverage is adequate.
- Be extra vigilant for cybersecurity attacks (hacking, phishing emails). It’s unfortunate but opportunist cyber criminals will use these uncertain times to attack when we are most vulnerable.
- Consider enabling 2FA (multifactor authentication).
- Still lock your machine when you step away from your desk.
These are strange times we’re currently facing. There’s not much we can do except observe the guidelines laid out by the HSE, self-isolate, and stay up to date with news from reliable sources (but not too much – taking a break from the news is just as important!). Working remotely doesn’t have to be seen as something we have to do; it should be seen as an opportunity optimise our time and space and to band together more than ever, even if we’re further apart than usual.