Lincoln Absence Advisor

Best Practices for Remote Workers

April 07, 2020 Lincoln Financial Group Season 1 Episode 5
Lincoln Absence Advisor
Best Practices for Remote Workers
Chapters
Lincoln Absence Advisor
Best Practices for Remote Workers
Apr 07, 2020 Season 1 Episode 5
Lincoln Financial Group

In our latest podcast, we talk about an issue that has suddenly moved to the forefront for many employees – working from home. Many companies have quickly transitioned – seemingly overnight – to having their workforce at home on a full-time basis. What are the challenges of this new normal? What best practices should newly remote employees be adopting? Tawnya Goertzen and Melissa Michuda of Lincoln’s clinical and vocational operations department explore practical tips that can help employees set up a workspace, use technology to stay connected and productive, and balance working from home with taking care of children who may be learning from home.

For more information visit: https://www.lfg.com/public/covid-19guidance

LCN-3016500-032720

© 2020 Lincoln National Corporation. All rights reserved.

Show Notes Transcript

In our latest podcast, we talk about an issue that has suddenly moved to the forefront for many employees – working from home. Many companies have quickly transitioned – seemingly overnight – to having their workforce at home on a full-time basis. What are the challenges of this new normal? What best practices should newly remote employees be adopting? Tawnya Goertzen and Melissa Michuda of Lincoln’s clinical and vocational operations department explore practical tips that can help employees set up a workspace, use technology to stay connected and productive, and balance working from home with taking care of children who may be learning from home.

For more information visit: https://www.lfg.com/public/covid-19guidance

LCN-3016500-032720

© 2020 Lincoln National Corporation. All rights reserved.

Karen Batson:

Hi everyone. This is Karen Batson Marketing Manager for Leave and Disability at Lincoln Financial Group. Remote working has been a trending topic for a while , but it's really stepped up its game over the past few weeks. Now that we're adjusting to our new work arrangements, I've invited Tawnya Goertzen, Director of Clinical and Vocational Operations at Lincoln and her coworker Melissa Michuda, Returned to Work Consult to discuss what we're seeing with our remote workforce and chat about suggestions they're offering to colleagues and customers. Welcome everyone. Thank you so much for joining us today. Before the beginning of this year, about 3.6% of the workforce worked from home at least half of the week according to Global Workplace Analytics. Now granted, not every job can transition to a work from home environment. That same resource said that about 56% of the workforce has that ability. When you compare those two numbers, that's quite a few of people who probably very quickly conform to this new normal to work from home. I assume that their focus was more on the technology aspect. Do they have the equipment at home to do that job? And really just getting up and running really quickly. Now that employees have been working from home a little while, what remote best practices should we be thinking about right now? Maybe even ones we weren't paying attention to with the rush to set up new workspaces?

Tawnya Goertzen:

That's an excellent question. I think some of the best practices are really making sure that you can be in a type of work environment where you can try and mimic as much of your work day and, and have a quiet space. Another key tip that I have given individuals is make sure that you stick to a schedule like get up every day , shower, and dress like you're going to work. A lot of people like to joke like, Oh, you can be in your pajamas all day. I feel like if you're going to be in that work environment and just to try and keep some normalcy with things that are going on, dress for work, shower, get ready, start your normal routine in and treat it like you're in the office. That helps people, and you know, just trying to deal with the stress of everything that we're going under as a nation. Just with, you know, being in home and inbound and trying to deal with everything going on with the Coronavirus.

Karen Batson:

You know, getting dressed. I think it's a really important tip that I didn't think about as much. As we kind of moved to this new normal, but I read this article, even putting on shoes just to go and do your work can make a big difference. Thinking about like how you're at home, you might not put on your shoes. And I've now done that a couple of times and it's funny, it does make you feel like you've gotten ready for the day. So it's a very important tip.

Tawnya Goertzen:

Well, I am a full-time remote employee and so it has been part of my DNA for several years. A lot of my coworkers in addition to friends from different industries have called and they're like, we always were so jealous that you work from home. But this is so hard, like trying to adapt and you know , trying to stay connected. So, you know , I've shared some of the tips with them. They're like, you know, I, I did start getting dressed. I did keep to a routine, I thought I could sleep in, but it really put me off my game at work. I felt like I was always behind in getting caught up. A lot of people have found it beneficial just really to have that sense of normalcy.

Melissa Michuda:

And to piggyback on what Tawnya had said, making that workspace area , that's important. It's important to have a designated workspace to keep those boundaries , especially in the midst of what's going on now with the COVID-19. You're now in a space where your spouses are home. You know, partners are home, children are home, everyone is in one space together. So to designate your workspace is important and to put limits around that. Remind people it's not, not a come and go. I mean, my children are, they're older, they're in high school, but they still have that tendency to just run in my office because mom's here. I've been working from home for over 15 years. They should know that by now. But it is important to put parameters on that. And then just another thing, I have an ergonomic background so keeping in mind because you're working at home and you may not have the ergonomic desks and the supportive office chairs, making sure you're still comfortable in that space and you're not putting yourself physically, you know, kind of setting yourself up for maybe neck pain or shoulder pain. So making sure that, as much as you can, being comfortable in that workspace, having what you need within arms reach. Those are definitely important as well.

Karen Batson:

One of the things I think I've gotten used to at the office is the sit/stand desks, and now that I'm home, I don't have that here and reminding myself to stand up to that point, get moving. Even if it's just to take the phone call while standing up has made a difference as well. I'm just not used to even just sitting stationary in the office anymore. And now I have that setup at home.

Melissa Michuda:

Absolutely.

Tawnya Goertzen:

I was just going to say that's an excellent point about making sure you're taking, you know, those micro- breaks to get up. I think another key factor is when you are at home, you can get into this tunnel vision of just powering through work and not taking breaks. So I think taking a conscious effort to take a quick five, 10 minute break, make sure you're taking a lunch break, go outside, get some fresh air, do a quick walk, do something to get out as quickly as you can out of your office space. Just to give that little break because you really can just get so laser-focused that you just think work, work, work and the day is done and you're like, I haven't got it from my desk one.

Karen Batson:

Very good point. Now, there are a lot of people I've been observing writing a lot of different articles and blog posts and even social posts about remote working lately. You know, top 10 tips, top 20 tips. Is there anything here at Lincoln that we've been observing? That's really important to remind people of or anything new that we also might have learned too in this environment that maybe we just didn't think as a standard remote to work practice.

Melissa Michuda:

I think using the communication devices that we have, whether it be a company sponsored app that you can use on your phone or chat options, Skype, WebEx, Zoom , to still connect and have that contact with others, especially for people who are used to going into the office and used to having that contact and communications with others on a broader basis. It's really important to still keep in touch.

Karen Batson:

No, it's funny that you bring that up because in our last two recordings that has come up in different aspects, whether that's to , you know, maybe you're having a huddle in the morning with the people that were in your physical location and just talking about really whatever's going on or just even having like family calls outside of working hours of maybe when you're eating dinner and having those connections. So connectivity I think is important for the remote work and just remote life quite honestly. Now being at home with everyone in the household. We talked about this just a few minutes ago, a couple couple of little tidbits, but it has a lot of stressors probably come from that with having people at home. What do you think is important to alleviate some of those stressors?

Tawnya Goertzen:

I think with any employer and any manager is making sure that there is that flexibility with the stress of if you have to take care of your parents or if you have to take care of children. Now the online learning that a lot of schools are requiring is offering employees that flexibility and grace to take time away. You know, I've encouraged individuals to consider starting their Workday earlier and ending later and taking an hour break in the morning, an hour at lunch and then an hour in the afternoon so they could address those family needs and relieving some of the pressure that it's okay to take that type of a break from work to make sure you're dealing with the stressors you have to maintain your household, keep the learning alive, keep the care alive that you're required to do. Because these are all unprecedented territories that we are in. We've also talked with some employers about getting creative. Does the job really require Monday through Friday? Could you alter and offer some flex time or alter schedules where individuals could work on the weekends, work Saturday and Sunday and then take two days off during the work week? Individuals could then put that dedication and time to taking care of their family, taking care of their household , doing the school and education on online learning. Just finding ways to flex and trying to be as adaptive and understanding to your employee's needs.

Karen Batson:

That's an interesting point. Especially if you have two parents in the household, they can split that ability and having that flex schedule allows some people to then work during the weekend and then some people work during the week. So that's a very interesting tip to consider.

Tawnya Goertzen:

Yeah, I think flexibility is key. We all have work, but we all have home lives and we have to find ways to adapt and make sure that we're still being there to keep an engaged and retain our workforce.

Karen Batson:

Now, you both have worked from home for a while. It sounds like now that you're seeing many of your colleagues working from home are you noticing any changes that you've had to make to your remote work practices? Or are you really established great tips for yourself that now you want to really advertise out because they work so well?

Melissa Michuda:

For me I feel like because of the longevity that I've been doing it from home, I have a good handle on it. For my coworkers, some of them do struggle. So I do find, you know, giving tips and letting people know that even though it's not an environment you're used to, you can still get everything done. I know, especially for like myself, I have a routine. I'm a pretty stringent routine girl, so I'm just creating and sticking to that schedule. Making lists for myself and I have a to do list every day. I do make it realistic because as Tawnya said, it's easy to get caught up and realize that, Oh my gosh, I've been sitting at my desk for four and a half hours now. I haven't even moved. It is important to schedule in those breaks and , and get up and walk away from work. Even in the office there's an opportunity for that socialization key. I mean people are, are getting up, t hey're going to get coffee going to the restroom. So it's still important to do those things at home.

Tawnya Goertzen:

And another tip that I think employees can benefit from in any situation, any industry, is we're all getting good with the virtual technology now, whether it's, Skype, WebEx, using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, like all these different social media platforms and we use it for meetings, right? Like we're going to have this meeting so we can see face to face, we can see engaged. A lot of individuals need social interaction. We thrive, we're social human beings, we love that connectivity. And now that you know, a lot of us are practicing in home and staying safe. We're missing that connectivity that we normally have with our family, friends, and even coworkers so you can use those activities outside of work. But even at work, think of how many times people love to get together and have lunch together or go down and get a Starbucks or a coffee and schedule that time. We've tried to get creative with those that we know really like that team bonding and doing a virtual coffee hour or we're going to all sit together and have lunch and on video. Don't worry about what you look like. We're all going to talk and just talk what's going on in our families. So you're using that video technology to connect on that personal relationship building versus just strictly always that work task. We're going to talk about work, try and use it for other social features, just to have that connectivity and have a sense of belonging. Because if you're used to having those face to face interactions with your team and doing lunch and doing coffee, there's ways you can do it virtually to get really creative and help with feeling that sense of still belonging with your team.

Karen Batson:

That feeling of belonging is a really good point. Phrasing it that way. So this environment and the changing of how we work has had me wondering about are we going to learn things for future remote work? And I was curious, what do you think we will observe after this time when it comes to working home?

Tawnya Goertzen:

You know , that's an excellent question because there's some people who are very passionate that want to do full time work. They're like now do you think we've proved we could do it ? Our employers will allow. I do think that it'll show employers that it can be done and that you can make it work and still be successful and consider offering more of that flexibility. But I also think on the flip side that there are individuals that have really thought that I want this and now that they're in it, they're like, Nope , no, I need to be in an office, I need that structure, I need to see people, I want to be connected. I think it's going to help people just kind of reassess with where they're at and what their true needs are and what they're looking for in an employment setting. Melissa, what are your thoughts?

Melissa Michuda:

I wholeheartedly agree with both of those, both of those views. I also think from the employer's side. Because this happened so quickly , employers are probably going to take a look at their , the technology that they currently use to make it more user friendly for at-home workers. They may be looking at certain jobs that they didn't think could be outside of the office before and having more opportunity for their companies to have more remote workers.

Karen Batson:

Now, you know, before we end this conversation, I wanted to ask, are there any resources out there that you guys would recommend for employers and their employees , for working through these remote situations?

Tawnya Goertzen:

So in resources and looking at the technology piece, I do know that, Skype and zoom , Microsoft Teams using messenger videos people have even done Facebook live videos just to teach courses or to hold different engagement instructional videos or learnings. I just think there's a lot of different technologies that you can explore and see if your systems will be able to uphold those for security purposes and not crash any IT systems. I think there's a variety of different technology things that can be explored just to help with that connectivity in offices.

Melissa Michuda:

Yeah. And also right now especially right now there are very, very reputable sources out there who are offering tips on working from home ergonomics. I mean Mayo clinic, they have a few online blurbs about healthy lifestyle and office ergonomics while at home from the job accommodation network as well as OSHA. In regards to ergonomics. But you know, when working from home, again it's a different scenario in different situation. You may not have access to some of the equipment that you have in your offices but just making sure that you are practicing correct ergonomic posture. A rule of thumb that we always tell people is it's the 90 90, 90 rule. So all those major bends in your body , um, from your elbow, your hips to your legs, your knees to your shins and your feet to your ankles, making sure those are in 90 to a hundred degree angles. So that you are sitting comfortably, making sure that your monitors, your , you're able to gaze on them from that top third of the screen down. Having frequently used materials within, you know, 12 inches, you typically within that arms length. It is important because depending upon how long you are working at home , you don't want to create repetitive stress injuries for yourself cause that that's something that you know is going to pop up in the future. And if you can be proactive now, that's definitely, definitely something that , that we should be doing.

Karen Batson:

Really good reminder. And also note for our listeners, we do have a page up on LFG.com, providing various resources around the Coronavirus, including a tip sheet on remote to work. So we'll provide a link in our description so that you can go check that out. Well thank you both. Will you, will you join us again on this podcast? Will you be guest again? Good. Thank you very much for joining us today. To everyone listening, thank you for joining us. We will continue to cover topics that help employers and their employees navigate through this new environment. So be sure to subscribe to Lincoln Absence Advisor on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Disclosure:

Lincoln Financial Group is the marketing name from Lincoln National Corporation, its affiliates, the Lincoln National Life Insurance Company, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Lincoln Life and Annuity Company of New York, Syracuse, New York, and Lincoln Life Insurance Company of Boston, Dover. New Hampshire affiliates are separately responsible for their own financial and contractual obligations.