15 Tips for Working from Home During Coronavirus

Ingrid Kessler

Chief People Strategy Officer at Quartet

March 18, 2020

Maintaining and building productivity and culture in a fully remote environment takes extra thought and purposeful actions. Quartet operates remotely every day, with more than half of our nearly 300 employees working remotely across the country. We asked our remote employees to share their favorite ways to stay connected, motivated and effective – as both managers and employees – in this dispersed environment:

As an employee:

  1. Communicate clearly at home: Whether with roommates or a spouse, tell them what your work needs are. Set aside break times. Don’t be afraid to say “I need to work for (amount of time) undisturbed” and/or “when my headphones are on, that means I really can’t stop what I’m doing.”
  2. Over-communicate with colleagues and managers: It is hard to convey tone through emails and text messages. Read things twice, use punctuation and capitals carefully, throw in an emoji or Gif to lighten the tone when appropriate. Provide as much transparency as possible. Over-communicate time frames for deliverables so people know what to expect of you and when.
  3. Try not to work where you relax if you can help it: Create a separate workspace, even if it is one side of your kitchen table or the corner of a room where you can have a clean and professional background behind you, have some privacy (if you can get it) and know that when you end your day, you leave that space and go back to feeling like you are at home.
  4. Get up and move: Stand up once per hour, turn off your camera and walk around your house while on a call, go out for a midday run, take a break to take out your dog and play! Set reminders because it is easy to lose track of time.
  5. Make your environment pleasant: Be creative. Use a heated blanket to save on heating costs instead of heating your house all day! Keep windows open to get fresh air when it is nice outside. Use a room diffuser with a scent you love. Set a favorite playlist up to keep you focused and motivated.
  6. If you have kids at home, consider an alternative work schedule: If you can, work with your manager to establish alternative ways to get your work done as long as you can still meet expectations. For example, shift your schedule earlier or later by a few hours  to accommodate childcare needs, add in breaks for childcare moments throughout the day or work fewer days with longer hours for more days off.
  7. Expense remote allowances: Some companies offer remote stipends, reimbursements or allowances. Be sure to stay on top of them and submit them each week or month so they don’t become administratively burdensome and you don’t miss out on money!
  8. Respect your time: Block breaks on your calendar and log off when you would normally end your day.
  9. Get dressed in the morning: Try to maintain routines like getting dressed in the morning. It is easy to get pulled into emails and calls as soon as you wake up. Setting an alarm in the morning that allows you to have your morning coffee and get ready for work is still important, even if no-one will know whether or not you are in PJs!
  10. Be kind to yourself: Working from home can be an adjustment. Take one day at a time and learn along the way. Be grateful for the little things that go well and forgiving when unexpected or imperfect things inevitably happen.

As a company:

  1. Amplify voices in meetings: It is hard for people to get a word in when everyone is virtual. Assign one person to watch for questions and chats that can be read out loud, create pauses where people can have a moment to take themselves off mute and speak, and use video to see people “face to face” whenever possible.
  2. Understand that working from home and being at home are not the same: Employees working from home still need breaks, food, start and end times, and an understanding that if they aren’t feeling well, they should step away and rest
  3. .Provide calendar transparency: When you can’t just walk up to each other or see if someone is at their desk, it helps to be able to view each other’s calendars. Default calendars to being visible to the rest of the company and just make those private that require it. This gives people an idea of what to expect as far as response time goes for emails and other communication as well so people know they are writing to someone who is busy all day or might be able to be reached within the next hour.
  4. Cover expenses related to working remotely: It is important to ensure employees working remotely have the tools needed to do their best work. That means covering expenses to enable their success and providing extra allowances for holidays and special events. Remote employees don’t get the benefit of happy hours after work, grabbing lunch together in the kitchen, or participating in game nights, so we find other ways to ensure everyone is finding balance and celebrating wins.
  5. Create opportunities for virtual social connections: Slack allows remote employees to chat regularly to create the feeling you get when you run into colleagues in the hall or kitchen within an office. We use questions to get people talking and posting pictures – share what you did this weekend for example – and that creates opportunities for people to connect on a more personal level. We also use a donut to randomly pair employees up for short 1:1 video-chats each week and created Employee Resource Groups where employees who identify similarly can connect regularly, find mentorship and bring their whole authentic selves to the office virtually.

Ingrid Kessler is the Chief People Strategy Officer at Quartet. Ingrid comes to Quartet with over 20 years of experience in the “people” world. Most recently, Ingrid was Head of People at Dataminr, the world’s leading AI information discovery company, and Chief Human Resources Officer at Lab49, a global fintech consulting company. In these roles, she added high performing diverse talent throughout rapid growth phases, while creating and maintaining highly engaged cultures at scale.

Ingrid is passionate about empowering talented individuals to succeed, creating inclusive, motivated cultures, and achieving strategic business results in mission-driven environments.

Quartet brings Ingrid back to her roots in mental health, leveraging her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Psychology from Washington University and NYU, respectively.

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