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Working from home? Safety is your responsibility

Tips on maintaining health, sanity as a remote employee

April 1, 2020
Wes Mazur

As a result of social-distancing measures, many Canadians are adjusting to a new routine of working from home.        (Visual Generation/Adobe Stock)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a new work-life reality is becoming real for many Canadians.

In mid-March, public-health officials implored us to take up social distancing in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. As a result, thousands of people headed home to work remotely for the next several weeks.

For many, it’s the first time they’ll be working from home — relying on technology to keep them connected and productive. But even the most cutting-edge technology can’t overcome basic distractions such as kids, a dog or the call of a nearby snack.

Working remotely demands a big mental shift and brings with it a sudden loss of the camaraderie and socializing that comes with a workplace.

Here are some tips to make working from home productive.

Availability and responsiveness

Your company likely has normal operating hours, such as 9 a.m to 5 p.m. Certain roles may require availability outside of these hours for meetings, certain services or cross-team collaboration.

If you need to step away during work hours, you should ensure your manager is aware, as a respectful method of open communication.

Workers still need to be available, responsive and remain in communication with their managers, co-workers and (sometimes) customers. Monitor your email during work hours and prioritize communication.

On workdays, if your manager, customers or co-workers are reaching out to you, you will need to respond in a timely manner.

Confidentiality is extremely important — most employees have signed a non-disclosure agreement with their employer and included in that is an agreement to respect the confidentiality of information and limit access of content to staff within the company.

When working outside of the company office, it is important to be aware of your surroundings regarding computer privacy and phone calls.

Keep a workday ritual

While you may not have to drive to get to work, it is still important to keep a workday ritual. Some tips for working at home include:

  • Have a specific location where you work. This may be a room, or just a corner of a room, but it is always the place where you do your work.
  • Begin and finish at the same time every day you are working at home. Have a beginning and end-of-day ritual. Since there is no longer a “break” between waking up and going to work, some work-from-home workers find it helpful to actually leave the house and walk around the block before starting work. You may want to end the day the same way.
  • As you would for working in the office, set a schedule and stick to it. Make a to-do list and check your accomplishments at the end of the day. Stick to deadlines.
  • Determine what interruptions are OK and what is not. Tell your friends and family what the ground rules are.
  • Be honest with yourself. Work-from-home is not a substitute for child or elder-care, nor is it a way to simply save money on commuting costs. Too much compromise can lead to problems and possible failure to meet client needs and job expectations.

Physical environment

When working in the company office, it is comfortable as well as a safe and healthy space to work, with proper airflow systems and fire detection.

If you are working from home, it is your responsibility to ensure you’ve created a space to work that is safe and healthy for you.

It is recommended that you create a space that is separate from your regular living space, to help you have a physical separation from work within your own home.

Wes Mazur is the president and founder of Spark Safety Solutions in Cambridge, Ont.