With the COVID-10 coronavirus pandemic having spread to most countries around the world, remote working is now a fact of life for tens of millions of people. How does this new reality impact new Canadians or people planning to apply to immigrate, work, or study in Canada?
There are a number of situations where remote working might be the only solution to your situation, including the following:
- You are no longer able to apply on paper for your immigration application and have to apply online because of closed VACs in your country of residence.
- You are in Canada on a temporary work permit and suddenly your workplace has shut down and all work must be done remotely.
- You are a permanent resident of Canada who travelled abroad for business or other reasons and are now stuck overseas unable to return to Canada because of travel bans in place and are obligated to work remotely from your current location.
- You are planning to study in Canada as an international student, but you may not be able to travel to Canada in time for the start of your academic year due to travel bans, meaning you have to study remotely. In other words, you are forced to use what is called distance learning, assuming your Designated Learning Institute will offer or already offers online classes for your program of study.
- You are a proud, new citizen of Canada but a family or business problem in your former home country has forced you to travel abroad to deal with the situation and you now have no choice but to work remotely.
Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
Then it’s time to consider best practices for remote working. Whether one of the above situations applies to you, or even if you’re a Canadian citizen stuck abroad and obligated to work remotely until you can return to the country. Let’s find out what the top 10 tips for working remotely are.
The Top 10 Tips for Working Remotely During the Pandemic
10. Find, buy, and create a workspace
This won’t be easy if you’re stuck overseas in a small rental flat, for example. Wait a minute. It may actually be easier in that hotel room/apart hotel or apartment you’ve been forced to rent compared to your always busy family home.
Start by choosing a functional work space, and remember you will almost certainly be making a number of video conference calls (see below) so turn around and look at what’s behind you. Because that’s what your work colleagues will be seeing every time you video-conference with them. Set up some simple bookshelves if you can with a few books. Or just choose a clean wall with a picture or two.
If you will be working from a busy family home that may be a problem. With more and more states imposing quarantines you may not be able to go to a coffee shop, so you’ll have to ensure your environment is functional and looks reasonably efficient and professional.
You’ll also need a good Wi Fi connection obviously with enough bandwidth for video conferencing. A workable mic headset would be quite helpful and noise-shielding headphones might be the best investment you can make in order to ensure you can be productive and avoid distractions.
One final point about workspaces. The latest ergonomic fix for those of us at a desk is to stand up. A standing desk might not fit with your budget or space but if you can manage to do some of your remote work standing for up to 30 minutes, it is recommended as a healthy counterpoint to sitting at your desk for hours. Maybe a single shelf on a wall where you can place your laptop and work from a standing position for a video conference, for example, could do the trick.
9. Sorry, NO pajamas allowed
While there might be some hilarious videos by remote workers doing silly things in pajamas, this is NOT recommended if you want to be an effective and productive employee working remotely. Get dressed as if you were going to work. It doesn’t have to be a suit, but do NOT work from your bed if you can possibly avoid it. You should have a pre- and post-work routine that helps get you into the right frame of mind.
There will be distractions, inevitably. With a clear but flexible routine you’ll be in better shape to manage them.
8. Communicate constantly unless it’s Don’t Disturb Me time
When we say constantly, we don’t mean to waste half your day chatting meaninglessly. But you need to ensure you are keeping up with whatever project you’re on and that the rest of your team also understand that you are keeping up. That means engaging both professionally with planned and focused question and answer sessions AND also at other times including a little of the silly cooler chat in whatever virtual platform - Google hangouts apparently is popular but a Whatsapp group can do the trick - your colleagues use.
However, there will be times when you wish to do neither. If your team uses Slack (an online platform) you should learn to use its Do Not Disturb function. On the other hand, it can be as easy as changing your status in Skype or doing so in another platform and reminding your colleagues when and if they do interrupt you that you’ll get back to them later. Politely but clearly of course.
7. Create a Not-Doing-That list
Yes. It’s the exact opposite of everyone’s to-do list. And it is often quite helpful because it is a way to avoid wasting time:
- Don’t read every email in your inbox.
- Don’t read every article on your favorite sports team, or entertainment personality.
Yes you likely use your laptop for both personal and professional purposes. If you can have 2 separate ones, that might help, but as long as you make your work hours count by not wasting time you should be fine.
And a Not-Doing-That list helps.
6. Work at your rhythm when and if possible
Depending on what type of remote work you do, you should try to pace your work according to your preferences. This is not always possible, of course. But working in sprints or bursts of work might work for some, while a steady slower pace might suit others.
Nevertheless, your work requirements and schedule will often change as well, and you’ll have to adapt your routine as a result. You won’t always be able to choose your rhythm but enjoy it when you can.
Planning ahead is one way to manage your routine. Whether it’s the calendar on your smart phone or a Google Calendar or just pen and paper, sketch out your week’s goals and deadlines before you dive in. It may take a little time if you’re not used to remote working, but we humans are pretty adaptable, and you will start to settle into the demands and routines of remote working.
5. Get Slack
Ok, there are other communication platforms, but many companies love and use Slack which allows employees to chat with each other across channels which can be public or private. It essentially groups together the functions formerly provided by:
- Text messages, and
- In person meetings.
And it collects them on one shared platform (again with both public and private channels) so endless email threads and missing text messages don’t slow down your work.
Of course, this depends on if your organization is using Slack or some other platform. Regardless, you will most likely have to get used to using a similar shared platform at work when working remotely.
4. Bunch your Meetings if you can
What we mean is you should think about scheduling several meetings one after the other to free up a nice big block of time for you to focus on other parts of your job rather than having little bits of time (30 minutes here and there for example) where it’s hard to get anything done. Including stuff like eating and sleeping.
3. Think about your Health
Make sure you have enough down time (unless you are going through a very busy stretch which happens sometimes) to exercise and rest.
If you are working remotely in an area that is under lockdown, this can be challenge. But there are countless videos on YouTube on everything from Tai Chi to Cross-fit training in small spaces to Yoga or whatever routine you might choose if you can’t get out to a park or sports facility.
Try to find a balance between work, exercise and rest, to ensure you don’t get a cold or flu (never mind COVID-19) which can really throw a wrench into your work plans.
2. Find out when others will be at Work
If you’re remote working from a different time zone than your colleagues, or if your team is scattered across several time zones, you will need to finesse your scheduling to take into account what times exist when everyone (or most of you) are generally available for the important group meetings online.
Use the World Clock or other sites like everytimezone.com and figure out who’s awake and who’s asleep and when to schedule a meeting across time zones.
1. Elvis Has Left the Building
No, I’m not saying you’re the Elvis of remote workers.
What we’re saying is you should have a shutdown routine, a checklist of things you do that then allow you to say I’m done for today and I’m turning off my laptop. It might be nice and brief. It might be a little more elaborate. That’s up to you and the nature of your remote work. You might want to check against your week’s previous schedule and see what you actually got done compared to what you had planned to do. Because that helps you with …
Next day’s work! But you can deal with that tomorrow because now you’re done for the day!