Tech companies in the Seattle region have gone to great lengths in recent years to build fancy offices full of a variety of perks to entice people to come work for them rather than a competitor. Sometimes the recruiting game even makes mention of a policy allowing “remote work” when necessary.
That latter point will be put to the test in the coming weeks as thousands of employees from Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Google and many more companies have been instructed to work from home during the escalating crisis around coronavirus.
COMPLETE COVERAGE: The latest about the impact of the novel coronavirus on Seattle and the tech industry
It’s one thing to stay home now and then and answer some email from your phone or finish a project with your laptop propped on a pillow in bed. But being away from the technical comforts of work — including in-person interactions with co-workers — for such an extended period will demand a more regimented structure when it comes to home workspace, equipment, etiquette and more.
The Wall Street Journal published a great tips column Thursday morning that touches on a lot of the hoops that the WFH (work from home) newbies should be prepared to jump through. The piece highlights everything from reliable internet connections, multiple monitors, drowning out noise and distractions, muting your mic on calls and more.
Microsoft’s Scott Hanselman has been working remotely for 13 years and has a slew of tips and tricks to share, too, as he did in this blog post. “I’m deeply aware of the privilege we have as tech/desk workers to be able to do our jobs remotely,” Hanselman said. “I am also (dare I say) looking forward to what I believe will be a dramatic increase in Remote Worker Empathy on the part of the in-office folks.”
On the Microsoft 365 blog, the company shared a letter from a worker in Shanghai dealing with challenging times in China, and what she considered key lessons for “successful and sustainable remote work.”
The geeks at GeekWire have been known to WFH from time to time and offered up some quick best practices, too:
- Alan Boyle: Make your home office as much of a work office as you can, with a desk and file cabinets, in a separate room if possible. And get a “Do Not Disturb” sign to hang on the door.
- Monica Nickelsburg: If you use a second screen at work, set one up at home. It’s a game-changer.
- Todd Bishop: My big thing on WFH is the second monitor, and laptop, and creating a space for yourself, separate from family.
- Taylor Soper: Sweatpants and a nice external monitor. And go for a walk or get a little exercise to get out of the house.
- Kurt Schlosser: Get up and treat the day like you’re going to be around people. Shower and get dressed and find a quiet, dedicated space to work — don’t just roll over and grab the laptop.
- Curt Milton: Communication is important and challenging. People misread text comments or your mood when they can’t see your face or hear your voice. Be very clear in what you mean and don’t forget to chat about non-work stuff. Emojis help! Get out of the house and go see people. I went for coffee every morning before my shift mainly to chat with the baristas and anyone else at the coffee shop. Take a walk!
GeekWire Editorial Operations Director Cara Kuhlman’s home is a boat, so she gets to use “WFB” when she’s not at the office. Regardless of location, she floats more great remote work tips our way:
- Make sure you have reliable internet. For now, I’m “wired” into the dock with a 50-foot long cable. Open the curtains! Leaving them closed can get rather cave-like and it’s nice to be reminded: I am working at the marina! Get a lap desk. I use one from IKEA both on my lap and sometimes on top of the table to raise my screen higher. Even when I’m alone, I wear headphones and sit inside on business calls. The first time someone hears seagulls or wind in the background is quaint but it is also distracting and can be counter productive.
Kieran Snyder, CEO of the Seattle augmented writing startup Textio, appropriately focused on the care that should go into written communication as employees are spread out away from the office. In a 14-tweet thread, Snyder highlighted the importance around a “culture of belonging.”
1 Like many other teams, we often work together in person. As we do more remote work in light of #COVID19seattle, we're going to do more and more of our work in writing.
This poses a unique opportunity and challenge for building and sustaining a culture of belonging. Thread >
— Kieran Snyder (@KieranSnyder) March 5, 2020
Others on Twitter were sharing their own tips or observations about the WFH situation, in Seattle and beyond:
To all the folks who are used to going to the office but now have to WFH for the next 3 weeks, welcome. I’ve been wfh for the last 3 years & my one advice is:
Get up. Shower. Get out of PJs and do not work fr the bed. If you have a desk, great. If not, go to the kitchen table.
— C:hristina ???????????? (@divinetechygirl) March 5, 2020
Day one of mandatory Work From Home. I have already set up my home office, grown a full beard, burned all my pants, and my wife has filed for divorce.
— Bill Barnes (@billba) March 5, 2020
— Rob Wolf (@thatrobguy) March 5, 2020
WFH Day 2 Unlock: Made banana bread with the 3yo during what would have been my commute home. pic.twitter.com/zT2zGIwK3E
— Amrita Ahuja (@AmritaAhuja) March 5, 2020
Day 3 WFH observations:
– food on the shelves disappears very quickly when eating all 3 meals at home
– I’ve gotten to know 3 neighborhood birds. 2 pigeons who walk up the block in the afternoon together and a crow who visits the window every day. I consider them colleagues
— Patrick Traughber (@ptraughber) March 4, 2020
Most of my roommates are now mandatory WFH it feels like our own coworking space ????
— Laura Gao ✌️ (@heylauragao) March 5, 2020
breaking: new grad software engineers across san francisco, asked to work from home due to coronavirus precautions, begin succumbing to starvation in large numbers because none of them know how to cook
— stephanie (@isosteph) March 1, 2020
Me after my first day of WFH pic.twitter.com/FGj4FsYTNi
— Kyle ????️???? (@kyleve) March 4, 2020
If you’re a WFH pro or it’s all new to you, share your tips or concerns in the comments below. Or mention @GeekWire in a tweet.