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Blog:Working and Learning Remote Admidst an Outbreak

Manny Becerra as a child

February 2020

Remote work is something I've been able to weave into my work schedule starting back when I began my career at Tesla in 2012. Each year, the amount of remote work in my schedule has steadily increased. During the last couple of years, I've been able to move my work situation toward an almost 100% remote work setup. It has a lot of benefits and trade-offs, but by-and-large it's fantastic for more reasons than the trade-offs.

An uptick trend toward remote work and learning.

With the current coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, I suspect more-and-more people will be forced to stay home from work and school, including large social settings in the weeks and months to come to help reduce the spread of the virus.

With this abrupt change, many will be faced with the challenge of how best to work and learn from their "home" as the new norm, even if it's simply learning how to communicate asynchronously with co-workers and peers. Given this, I put together a few resources and tips that I've picked up over the years in the hopes it helps people get started with working and or learning remotely on a regular basis, or temporarily during the outbreak.

Reducing the spread of COVID-19

Outbreak Information

First off, stay informed and take precaution about the outbreak. Here are some (inter)national resources with helpful information on the COVID-19 outbreak and what you can do to take care of yourself, those around you, and your community:

Also, look to your area's county and state-level public health officials for guidance. If you're around the Reno-Tahoe region:



Unemployment Insurance

During these uncertain times, many people are likely to experience layoffs. If you recently lost your work, I would personally recommend you file for unemployment insurance immediately. If you're in Nevada Unemployment Insurane Claim office through DETR has put together some videos on YouTube to walk through people the process of easily filing for unemployment insurance.


Volunteering to Help with COVID-19 & Jobs for POC


Tips & Resources

Day-to-Day Communication

  • Spectrum Chat - Real-time, community-oriented messaging software. https://spectrum.chat

  • Slack - Good communication tool for sharing regular updates with your co-workers with the ability to share files, make calls and do screen sharing, create spaces (or "channels") that are dedicated to certain topics. Even has integration capabilities with other tools like Google's G-Suite. https://slack.com

Video

These video products allow you to make "face"-time calls with your co-workers, peers, teachers, friends and family. Good way to just stay connected, doing meeting presentations, share a lesson plan and much more.

Project Organization & Collaboration

  • Monday - Handy tool to help you and your co-workers organize projects, create timelines, even setup automated workflows. They have some pretty decent tutorials to help you get familiar with the tool. https://monday.com

  • Asana - Similar to Monday, an online tool to help individuals and teams to organize projects, communicate with one another on the status of projects, etc. https://asana.com

  • Google G-Suite - Google's all-in-one suite for creating collaborative, online documents, spreadsheets, video hangouts, and more, including email (ala Gmail). Google also has a tool dubbed, Classroom which may be of interest to teachers and students, particularly, if their school does not already have some online learning platform setup for learning off-site. https://gsuite.google.com

Suggestions for Adjusting to a Home-Work/Learning Environment

  • Commute to work. Say what now?! Even though you're working from home — or say a coffee shop, a friend's place, or some other location that is not your work office — establish a routine, if possible, where you "take a trip" to work even if it's 5-to-15 minute in duration before your day starts. This could be a stroll in your neighborhood, some mediditation time for yourself — whatever works for you. This is "time back" from actually having to commute to your work office so use it for some self-care time before jumping into the weeds of work.

  • If possible, dedicate a space in your home that is your "work" and "learning" space so you can "walk away from it" when needed and spend time doing just personal stuff, whether that be family quality time, rubbing your pets head or just decompressing.

  • Leverage some of the productivity tools mentioned above or others that you prefer to connect with your co-workers regularly to touch on both work and non-work stuff, including the sharing of ideas. Come up with some rules for level-setting amonst everyone on how to effectively stay connected with one another without always being connected to your screen.

  • Mind shift with communication. If you're just getting started with remote work (or learning), it's going to be an adjustment. Now, if you're entire team is pivoting to this mode of work style all at the same time and abruptly, it's definitely going to be a collective learning curve, so one thing to keep in mind is communicating asynchronously (aka: async communication). This simply means that when you write a message to a co-worker or peer, train yourself to not expect an instant response back; however, and as a team, setup some rules on how to reach one another during urgent matters, how to inform one another when you're needing to be "in the zone" (free from distraction) to get work done, or needing to step away for an appointment. Some of the productivity tools outlined above have gotten sophisticated to help supplement async communication.

  • Get up and stretch from time-to-time. If possible, take a trip around your neighborhood or apartment complex, including saying hola to your neighbors from a distance. Look at this as the "water cooler" break one might have in a traditional office setting, however, I think it's better than that as you can connect with your family, your pets and neighbors, even get some sunshine or just some fresh air.

  • Not sure if you're being productive or simply making progress? Write a TODO or journal of what you want (need) to accomplish for the day. Focus on those things and share them with your team during a daily, yet brief stand up call for team accountability. At the end of the day, see how you did and update the team during the next standup call on what you accomplished from the prior day. As you reflect on your productivity at the end of your day, think of what worked and what didn't work so well in helping reach your daily goals, and apply the lessons-learned to the next day. Keep in mind: you're not looking for perfection; rather, progress toward incremental improvement in how, both, you work and your team works together. Related, this is a scary, uncertain time for many people. Realize that you and your coworkers may simply not be able to be your best for work at this time while you, like others, are thinking about your loved ones' well-being. Which brings me to...

  • Lastly, for this post, and more importantly: take care of yourself, loved ones and where and when possible, your extended community, like your friends and neighbors while practicing social distancing. Your well-being shouldn't take the back seat over work or the well-being of your loved ones. Even when working or learning from home, it's easy to get into the zone and realize hours have passed before your last stretch and breathe of fresh air. Step away for a breather. Call your loved ones. Checkup on your neighbors.

In some of the suggestions above, I mention if possible, because I'm aware that in some cases, for various people, it's not entirely possible to do some of the suggestions due to economics, physical impairments, and a host of other factors. I hope, however, that we can all learn from one another through collective sharing on how best to approach working and learning remotely, while at the same time, helping support the most vulnerable of us in society during this difficult, uncertain period.



Remote work will likely grow as the future of work is redefined with the advent of technology and shifts in societal attitudes, including the occurence of life-threatening situations, like the outbreak with COVID-19 (coronavirus). While the above list is not an exhaustive one for how to jump into remote work life, I hope it helps some people in getting started in a direction that is constructive for them and their situation.

Take care of yourself and one another,

Manny


I am human, a father, and a problem solver: a tech and people leader with a passion and proven track-record in building and leading compassionate, productive teams—remote and on-site—within a continuous learning culture. My teams and I champion usable, inclusive digital products and online experiences. My work, passion and intentions also intersect with advising small businesses and political campaigns, life-long learning, outdoor advocacy, community building, and uplifting others. Learn more about Manny