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Rachel Rybicki

Working from home tips: How to find your new normal

As more and more people are being asked to work from home, Rachel Rybicki, a remote working veteran, shares her own work from home tips below amid the global COVID-19 pandemic

Around the world, more and more people are finding themselves being asked to work from home, when possible, as a means to enable social distancing. As there is no short-term end in sight, we recognize that this transition will be easy for some and harder for others. From my experience, here are my working from home tips I’ve learned throughout the years. 

Working from home has its benefits – no commute and more time with family, to name a few. But it also comes with a new set of challenges. So, how do you stay productive at home and keep your virtual team motivated and engaged?  

According to census data, almost half of U.S. employees work from home from time to time, while 5%, like myself, have made their home their permanent office. As one of these 8 million people  – and one of thousands of people at Sitel Group – I like to think that I’ve mastered it.  

Make yourself at home and get comfortable

There are obvious steps everyone should take to make the most of working from home. First, investing in a chair with proper back support – unless you want to develop a close relationship with the chiropractor. Also, having a dedicated space in your home to represent the office (no more clearing off the dining room table) and following traditional office hours are key. 

Find your rhythm

Being out of the office means you are solely responsible for implementing and maintaining the work rhythm. So, plan and stick to a routine, even setting time limits for each task or time spent logged in to Asana or Teams. And, while it can be tempting to stay in your pajamas all day, dressing up for work will help get you in the right mindset. Also, I always make sure to work in some form of physical activity; whether it’s going to the gym, getting out the yoga mat or simply taking a walk around the block.   

Up until March 11, when the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, these rules and routines worked flawlessly. But now, many of us (myself included) are trying to stay proactive in the face of this global pandemic, while also facing a new set of challenges. Because working from home is one thing; but working from home while also looking after your children is another thing entirely. 

At Sitel Group, we are skilled at working from home. I’m part of a growing international ecosystem of virtual employees, including everyone from Account Management and Operations to Communications and Compliance, and most importantly our Sitel at Home frontline associates supporting our clients’ customers every day. We are all powered by a secure IT infrastructure and equipped with the tools needed to maintain virtual connections. We’ve even been known to present awards and celebrate achievements virtually.   

For my European colleagues, the challenges are greater still. In France, many are now responsible for home-schooling their children and prohibited from leaving their home unless it’s to go to the grocery store. Imagine being French and not being allowed to step out and go to a café! 

With that being said, I’ve put together a list of tips for managers that are working with a virtual team for the first time – and some additional tips for people like me, who are used to having a home office, yet looking for new routines and ways to adapt to the situation. 

Get some face time 

If your organization is used to face-to-face meetings, leverage video conferencing to maintain that connection. Not only is it more friendly than a voice call, it provides the platform for screen and document sharing that facilitates collaboration. 

Take it outside

Thanks to 4G/LTE, we’re no longer tied to our desks. Take full advantage of this fact by moving around and working outside from your balcony or patio (when the weather permits). Fresh air helps generate fresh ideas! 

Stay social

When you’re out of the office, you miss out on passing team members in the hallway and shooting the breeze or catching up – a crucial element of management. So leaders need to leverage video technology to recreate these moments where you touch base and say hello. Building these moments into your daily routine will also have the added benefit of giving you a break from the go-go-go mindset that can make you too task-focused. 

Give your team a channel of their own

Every organization has priority communication channels – whether it’s phone, email or a collaboration tool. These should remain formal and for work-related communications. However, encouraging your immediate staff to use SMS or social messaging as a side channel for chatting with each other can help to replicate the normal co-worker conversations that happen at the office. 

Don’t stress out if it isn’t working

For the majority of people who find themselves working from home right now it’s a new experience and it will take some time to adapt. But, this is normal, so don’t panic. It can feel claustrophobic to be stuck in the same space all day and without having physical interaction with others. But eventually, it will start to get easier. 

So, what about us home working experts who are discovering a new set of difficulties? Due to the circumstances, my typical schedule and routine have disappeared, and work has intensified. I have to start earlier each day and finish later, and I’m in back-to-back conference calls to monitor the effectiveness of our business continuity planning. This means I’m taking fewer breaks and it also means I’m not giving my children, who are now home from school, the time they deserve. 

Check in daily  

At Sitel Group, we’re always talking about best practices and proven methodologies. So now that I find myself in this situation, I’ve found the best practice is being demonstrated by one of our clients, Intuit. Intuit has set up a daily all-hands, all-partner status call so we have everything we need to be proactive and productive first thing in the morning. This gives everyone the flexibility to build pauses into the day.

Inuit is also using these channels every day to remind everyone working to deliver for its customers, that what we’re doing is more than appreciated.

Share experiences

As a team directly supporting this client, we’ve established a channel specifically for giving advice and sharing home-working hacks such as how to balance parental responsibilities with business deadlines. We’re also using this channel for distributing and redistributing tasks to reduce overload and to give people time to catch their breath or deal with an unforeseen home situation. overloaded or unable to catch their breath. This is an everyday way of underlining the importance of the human element in our profession.

Your team now includes your family

Accept that your child will need help with an assignment at the exact moment you need to take a meeting or they even may want to join in on your video conference. The doorbell is always going to ring when you’re on the phone. Dogs bark and cats meow when they feel like it, not when it aligns with your schedule. So we need to not only recognize it, we have to celebrate it. 

Intuit goes as far as inviting the kids to take part in the last five minutes of a video call. If you’ve got a pet, let your co-workers see them. After all, the internet was invented for sharing cat memes.  

Focus on what’s important

It took me a week to figure out that even though we’re home safe, the long hours cooped up inside don’t help our health! So, take breaks, drink water and get out of the “office.” Staying connected, spending time with your family and being human while adjusting to a new routine – that’s the new normal, and that’s the change we all have to make.

In this unprecedented time, we’re highlighting #SitelHeroes to spark inspiration and positive conversation when we need it most. From adjusting to working from home, implementing social distancing measures in our sites and keeping up with the daily changes around the globe, we are  celebrating stories of success, motivation, overcoming challenges and more. Visit voices.sitel.com and search hashtag #SitelHeroes.

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