Adjusting to Working from Home in the Era of Social Distancing

March 23, 2020      By Andrew Taylor

Ultimate Takeaway
  • Remote work, and the challenges that may come with it, will look different for everyone.
  • Everyone can benefit from patience and understanding while many employees adjust to remote work.
  • Micromanaging may be tempting, but it often comes at the cost of trust.

Like many others around the world, my day-to-day looks a bit different now than it did just last week. I’m working from home, and there are no more carpool karaoke sessions during my morning and evening commutes. No more catching up on my coworkers’ weekend adventures while I wait for my coffee to brew.

Social distancing and now working 100% remote have changed the way we work for the time being.

And before I continue, I feel obligated to acknowledge that myself and many others are fortunate to work in roles and for organizations that allow for remote work. So many people do not have that choice. If you are reading this from the comfort of your home, I’d encourage you to take a moment to appreciate that privilege and extend compassion wherever possible. And for the organizations that are embracing their employees working from home – we appreciate you.

So, This is Working From Home?

If you’re like me, this is your first journey into full-time virtual employment – and there’s a lot to navigate here.

For starters: video conferencing.

Can I wear a t-shirt? Do I put on what I’d normally wear to work? What should the backdrop be? So many questions, right? (The answers, if you’re curious, are “depends,” “depends,” and “not too personal, not too sterile.”)

But there are bigger fish to fry.

Some employees who are now experiencing company-mandated remote work are learning that virtual employment is a highly romanticized concept. Simply put, it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. It sounds amazing, but it comes with it’s own unique set of challenges.

Whether you’ve fallen in love with it or found yourself really missing that free coffee, it’s a new reality for some of us. And for the time being, we all have to find a new normal as we’re conducting business as usual. As employers and managers, you’ll also have some adjusting to do with your new or expanded remote team.

Remote Work Looks Different for Everyone

I’ve been joking with a few friends that it feels as though I’ve been preparing for this my whole life. I lean towards being a homebody on most days, and I live alone – free from most unexpected distractions. Going remote full time has been a fairly easy adjustment for me to make.

But I am not everyone, and I think that’s something we all need to keep in mind during this time. If you’re managing a team, the reality of remote work for you and each of your employees will look different to varying degrees. Finding out any specific obstacles or needs the individual members of your team may have will go a long way in making this unexpected shift a more pleasant one.

So, what obstacles are people facing in this virtual world? What do remote employees actually need right now? To find out, I reached out to some friends and colleagues for a wider perspective on the new remote workforce experience. Here’s what I came away with.

Everyone Needs Patience and Understanding

This change from in-office to home office was swift. A few weeks ago, I never would have imagined that this would be my reality. None of us could have known just how quickly things would change.

For many people, this will be our first time exclusively working from home. Like any surprising change, there needs to be some time to adjust. And as I stated before, we’re all adjusting to different things. Some employees are juggling children who cannot go to daycare or school, in addition to their normal workload – all while becoming remote employees overnight. Others are still trying to get things in order to take care of themselves and loved ones during an uncertain time. While some are simply getting used to a far less social life.

One parent that I spoke to shared with me that her manager embraced her need for more flexible hours. Now, she’s able to split up her day into shifts – alternating between being a parent, educator, and employee – to help manage being a real-life superhero (shout out to all the parents out there).

No matter the case, we could all benefit from a little patience, understanding and flexibility as we try to gain our footing.

Be Mindful of Trust

If you’re a manager, you may be tempted to check in on your team members a little more than usual. And that can come from a really good place. Taking the time to make sure your employees are well-situated and have the support they need will likely be well-received by most.

On the other hand, checking in to see if your employees are getting their work might not have the same effect.

If you wouldn’t normally ask for status reports from your team, now might not be the time to start. I can imagine that it’s pretty tempting. Who wouldn’t want to be reassured that their employees are taking care of business? Still, that is where trust comes into play. While none of us hoped this is how we’d have to learn to exercise the trust between employees and managers, it is a great time to be mindful of it.

We Are in This Together

These are just a few experiences from people that I know, and I learned about their unique obstacles and needs by simply asking and listening. The needs of your team will certainly look different. So, ask for feedback. Ask them what they need. Ask them how you can help. We are all in this together, and nothing helps more in a time of uncertainty than supportive guidance.

And if you’re curious to know what you might need as a new virtual employee, check out this quick remote work personality quiz.


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  1. Avatar Phoebe on April 11, 2020 at 4:29 am

    Working from home makes me feel less stressed but I’m not put into much pressure, so I’m not as focused as at the office. I think a lot of people have the same feeling with me. Just hope everything will be fine soon.

    • Karina Schultheis Karina Schultheis on April 16, 2020 at 9:58 am

      Thank you for sharing your experience, Phoebe! Everyone has their own experiences and preferences, but it’s amazing knowing that we’re all in this together.

  2. How to Conduct a Virtual One-on-One Meeting on April 30, 2020 at 9:11 am

    […] Many organizations have successfully shifted to conducting the majority of their work remotely. Initially, the focus was on making sure employees had the physical resources and tools they needed to get work done. That included having access to the right technology, equipment, internet, etc. […]

  3. Avatar Buj on May 12, 2020 at 11:44 am

    Wow, so many great tips in one place. Thanks so much for writing this! Truly inspiring article!

    • Karina Schultheis Karina Schultheis on May 13, 2020 at 1:31 pm

      Thank you so much, Buj – so glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for reading!

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