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Working remotely during a pandemic 

 April 3, 2020

By  Nils Rebehn

First of all, I’ve been working from home or remotely for almost three years now. For a time I worked as digital nomad, working form various places and countries. But I learned that I prefer a regular place to stay rather than packing up every other week or so. Also, I started my company as a remote-first company (where working outside an office is the default). Everyone in our team can work from where they want. But how is working remotely during a pandemic different?

But now this seems to be the new norm because of the situation caused by COVID-19. You might even feel a bit like in this imaginary emergency call

Working remotely during a pandemic is different

Planned work from home (part 1) is different to a pandemic-forced working from home situation (part 2). The latter is less planned and new to some. When it’s planned you ideally have a place to work from in your home, are usually undisturbed and have a routine.

But now you might have your partner or spouse with you at home. Or other family members that normally have a job away from home. And out of a sudden they are in your home (office) all the time. Let me give you some tips of how to work from home, working during a pandemic and finally some specific tips for your Zendesk-Setup (part 3).

Content of this post

Part 1 How to work from home

Most importantly, I hope everyone is well, everything is under control and you have enough supplies (and left some behind for other shoppers). We have been in community quarantine, which is another way to say lockdown, since March 15th. You are either in a similar position or it will affect your life soon. 

If you are new to working from home I can recommend you these things to start out with. They worked great for me and I still do them today:

A) Have morning routine

This is super helpful. You already might have something you do every morning. Continue doing it! If not, pick something up! It helps you to set a rhythm, to “get into” the day, to “start the day right”.

It can be before your breakfast, after your breakfast or breakfast can be a part of your routine. Important is, that this routine sets your mind for the morning to get into working mood. The perfect routine ends in picking up your first item on your list for the day. This is also a great tipp to beat procrastination – experts say that getting started is one of the best ways to get over it.

B) Dress for success

You might have heard this before. But it’s usually underestimated, that’s why I want to highlight it. It’s also important for later (Part 2A and B). Dress like you mean it. Like you are going to work. Something professional

Do you remember how good it feels to dress up for a date? Apart from all the (hopefully) good vibes during the date, part of the success are you clothes. The effort boosts your confidence and helps you to get into the mood.

C) Pick your spot

You will need a quiet and comfortable place where you can work from at home. Ideally a separate room. Maybe with a desk and a good chair. If that’s not possible it should at least be away from the place where you usually relax. And the further it is away from daily chores and other distractions the better.

Another benefit from having a workplace in your home is that you will have it easier to transition into work – and away from it. If you have a dedicated spot for work your mind knows what do expect. And if you want to relax and do something else you move away from that workspace to go for a break or end the workday. I found it helps a lot.

Now those are very basic and fundamental steps for a good WFH setup. But to me they are essential. Let’s move to part 2, Working remotely during a pandemic.

Part 2 Working from home during a pandemic

A) Be ready for a video call – anytime

We’ve noticed an increase in video calls since the quarantine. No big deal. It’s actually a great way to stay connected during these times. However, this also means you should dress appropriately (as pointed out in Part 1B). Because you don’t want to make an inappropriate appearance during your spouses video conference, like it almost happened to me the other day.

Better even, schedule a regular video call with your team. A lot of teams have a morning stand-up meeting. Here they discuss what everyone is working and exchange updates. This is a great place to share things and ask for help. But in these times, it’s the best time to have this to stay connected to your team. Try it out, if not daily maybe three times a week or at least twice. Strongly recommended.

B) Make it visible that you are working

If you are sharing your home with flatmates, a spouse or other family members, it is important to communicate and set expectations. Some of them might need to work. You need to coordinate with them the place where you are working from and the timing. Some of them might not need to work. They will also need to know when you are working and when you are free.

Working from your spot (see 1C) can help to show everyone that you are “in the office”. Wearing your work outfit (see 1B) might give another clue that you are busy and don’t have much too time to spare.

Wearing headphones might not to be good enough anymore. I used to work in an open space office. In the beginning, if you wore a headset, people either made gestures to check if you are “on the phone” or simply didn’t interrupt you. But that faded away quickly. People just walked up and interrupted my work anyway. Then again, you are in your home; you can still tell everyone what it means when you wear your headphones.  Important is that you pick something that works for you and everyone around you.

C) But be approachable

Like with all things, there needs to be a balance. Make sure you get your work done. Get into it with out distractions. But there are also positive things being stuck at home with your spouse, family of flatmates. 

We noticed we cook so much more. In our day these are great times to connect and enjoy the good side of “being stuck” in a place.

Even if you life by yourself you don’t have to miss out. Did you use to have lunch with teammates or socialise over a coffee? This is where 2A comes in again – jump on a video call while sharing a meal or beverage. I’m serious. It’s a nice thing to do. Even better: you are not limited by distance anymore – as long as you can agree on a time, you can catch-up with a friendly face from anywhere!

So far, so good. But how does this way of working change the tools we are using? If you are working with Zendesk you might find next part useful.

Part 3 Zendesk specific tips for working from home

Continue reading Working remotely during a pandemic.

About the author 

Nils Rebehn

Founder of Guidoo Services and former Zendesk employee #100. Nils is a Customer Service Expert and a certified Zendesk Administrator. Guidoo Services is "your guide to Customer Service” - the team offers a range of professional services and are specialised in Zendesk. Guidoo is a Zendesk Select Partner, assuring sophisticated solutions for your help desk.

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