Be Prepared To Work From Home During The Coronavirus Outbreak

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Be Prepared To Work From Home During The Coronavirus Outbreak
Image: Shutterstock

If you woke up tomorrow to an email from your boss, announcing that the office was recommending everyone work from home to protect against coronavirus transmission, how much work would you be able to get done?

Let’s assume you have a laptop or computer that gives you access to documents and files that you’d created on your work computer, whether through a VPN or through tools like Google Docs. Let’s also assume that you can connect with your coworkers via email, phone, or messaging apps like Slack.

What else would you need to effectively work on outstanding tasks and projects—and how much of it did you leave behind at the office?

In my case, I’d need not only my laptop but also the old-school notebook that I use to jot down everything from action items to interview quotes. If I had my laptop but didn’t have my notebook, I’d be able to get some of my work done but would not have the benefit of being able to refer to the physical notes I took to guide me through that work.

Which means that when I pack my “work-from-anywhere” go bag, which has helped me get freelance work done in everything from libraries to bus stations to hospital waiting rooms, the notebook comes with me. So do at least two working pens, noise-cancelling earbuds, and a whole pile of chargers.

When I was an executive assistant, there were even more physical documents that were just as important to my workflow as my email inbox and digital files. Some of these documents, of course, might not be able to travel with you to and from the office; either your boss isn’t going to want you to take the folders and binders with you at the end of each day, or you’re going to worry that you’ll bring them home one night and forget to bring them back the next morning.

So you might want to ask yourself (and/or your boss) whether it’s time to digitise a few of those physical files. You could scan and upload them to your work drive, or—if you want to be quick and dirty about it—you could take a photo of the document on your phone.

Same goes for stuff like physical calendars, whiteboards, the Kanban board you made out of butcher paper and sticky notes (was that just me?) and anything else in your office that doesn’t live on your work computer but is still an essential part of your workflow. Capture that information in a way where it will be accessible no matter where you end up working.

I know that some workplaces might not be super-interested in the idea of you copying company information so that you can access it virtually, even if it’s as simple as you taking a quick photo of your own cubicle wall. Use some discretion, talk to supervisors if necessary, and don’t do anything that’ll get you fired.

But do consider taking some steps that will allow you to access your work from anywhere. Between school closings, offices advising staff to work remotely, and people cancelling or postponing travel, you might find yourself in a situation where you have to work from home whether you like it or not—so make sure you’re prepared.

Comments

    • It’s not hysteria. Government and enterprise across most industries are already reviewing their business continuity plans with consideration to the viral outbreak and impending pandemic (quote the WHO, ‘a matter of when, not if’), and it’s useful to be providing advice to freelancers and SMB owners/employees about what to consider should the requirment arise – as it very well might.

          • Flu kills a bunch of people and infects a bunch of people but a vaccine exists.
            Covid-19 infects less people and kills less but a vaccine does not exist so let’s all panic.
            Good logic.

            We also don’t have commercial television in our house and if we did, it would not be sunrise. That’s straight up offensive.

          • Restricting movement, implementing business continuity plans, and cancelling major events/mass gatherings isn’t panic; it’s responsible measures to restrict the spread of highly-infectious disease to protect vulnerable populations.

            Mass-buying toilet paper is panic, and idiocy, but fortunately it’s only idiot members of the public doing it and the authorities who actually know what the fuck they’re talking about are

            Your flu comparison is irrelevant, because:

            1) Influenza cannot now be contained. We’re so far past that that vaccine and treatment is the only responsible option, and in extreme cases we DO actually activate emergency measures to respond to influenza outbreaks. If we were to see a COVID-19-like strain of influenza that is suitably distinct from A/B/C, isolated in origin, and cannot be vaccinated against, we will probably see similar attempts to try and isolate it. Quarantines in hospitals and other vulnerable areas should absolutely be expected. But Influenza A, B, and C? Those cats are out of the bag.

            2) ‘Infects and kills less people’ is misleading. Has infected and killed less people per year in the two months since it was discovered and spread, all while being highly-contained? You’re not comparing apples with apples, mate.

            IF COVID-19 is allowed to spread unchecked, if we abandon all the containment measures that we currently have in place and let it have a fair fight to compete with the flu, your claim a) won’t hold up, and b) will see hundreds if not thousands die.

  • It’s a fucking shame that it takes an impending pandemic for corporate enterprise to consider mass work-from-home arrangements instead of just being the default.

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