Working at Home During COVID-19 Outbreak

Being in close proximity to sneezing, coughing passengers is more alarming than usual right now for employees travelling on public transit. Additionally, being in close quarters and contact with colleagues who may have the coronavirus.

Such was the case at Amazon in downtown Seattle, Washington recently, when one of their colleagues tested positive for COVID-19.

How do employers keep their workers safe, especially with so much still unknown about its transmission?

Should companies restrict travel for employees who conduct business abroad? Should hand sanitizers be placed on all floors? Should anyone feeling unwell be mandated – and paid – to stay home for 14 days, the length of time it takes to know whether you are infected? What if you just had the flu, but didn’t get paid? These are critical questions companies face.

Many of these questions are addressed by Labour and Employment Lawyer, Peter Straszynski of the Toronto law firm, Torkin Manes.

Canadian employers are grappling with imposing restrictions on staff by instituting or encouraging alternative work arrangements, as the coronavirus continues to spread.

If you find yourself working from home all of a sudden, and don’t have a dedicated work area, below are some tips to set up a workspace in your home, or adjust what you have:

  • Set up proper technology. Your company will arrange the proper technology to connect you to the company’s server. If you have to work from home, ensure you have the bandwidth.
  • Control light, comfort, temperature. Once you have a desk set up, or area designated to work, ensure the sun isn’t shining in your face, you have a supportive chair, and a comfortable temperature. That will help you focus on work.
  • Set expectations on disturbances. Tell your children, spouse, and any other people at home not to bother you when at your desk. Unless it’s an emergency, they must wait until you leave your workspace to ask questions or chat. Still, remember to take frequent breaks so that you can refocus on your work when you return.
  • Eliminate distractions. If you don’t listen to the tv or radio at work, don’t start now. It will be enticing to watch an entire show. You may be tempted to walk the dog again, just pop out to pick up milk, or quickly sew on a button. These are all tasks that must be left to after-work hours and takes will power. Set a timer to take breaks instead.
  • Manage disruptions. When working at home, you’ll notice how many times telemarketers call your land line or cell phone. Don’t be tempted. You may also find yourself making tea, drinking coffee, or eating snacks you don’t normally, as the kitchen is right there. Or maybe you want a long bubble bath you never get. It will be important not to get seduced into a different routine. Also, if you need to be on the phone, ensure you have some privacy and conduct calls out of potential noisy areas.

Working at home can be rewarding with less noise, no commuting time, and saving money making lunch. With the proper boundaries in place, you can often concentrate better with less distractions. Embrace it.