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.