Working at Home – Staying Productive and Secure

Emergency Remote Instruction forced us all to think about how we work, teach, and learn. Working from home, while providing some flexibility, comes with its own challenges. Limited devices and limited bandwidth for multiple people can tax the patience and frustration of all involved, all while trying to present as professional in more video conferences than most thought possible in a day, much less a week. On the plus side, many of us have learned more about our colleagues in this short time, as we see their homes, their pets, and their families come in and out of view.

Staying productive in a period of remote work involves finding a way to dedicate a space to work in what normally remains reserved for non-work pursuits. Whether we rededicate a space in one room, or move everything off a table and set up an office there, having a dedicated space provides a way for workers to still “leave work at work” and signal to others in the household that work ended for the day. Some people report that it is harder to leave a work space if emails appear, or if a message sounds off on Skype, but shutting down the computer completely, or muting the sound can help “leave work at work” at the end of the day. Likewise, communicating to students and /or coworkers when you are likely to be online, and how quickly to expect a response, can lower some anxieties on all ends.

Extending grace and flexibility to others, and ourselves, will also keep people productive. We need flexibility to deal with all the limitations described above. Some may need to be answering email earlier in the morning and getting off a device so a student at home can attend a course. Others may need grace in completing a project that originally required components that had to be implemented in person. Many people are innovating how they work and learn, and some of the techniques being tested during remote instruction may turn out to be better ways to work overall.

Keeping the work secure also requires some intentional thinking, but there are some easy steps that can keep your work secure when working remotely. Use strong passwords that contain a mixture of letters, numbers, and symbols. Check and make sure your internet connection requires a password so that people nearby cannot access your internet and any devices using that connection. Store sensitive files in locations that provide authentication, such as Box. Box, for example, provides ways for users to work on files stored in Box without ever having the files leave Box.

When this period of remote work ends, take a moment to reflect on lessons learned, individually and with your team. What elements did you learn about yourself and others from this time? What practices would be beneficial to keep? What practices require some reconsideration after having to adapt how those practices are carried out? What practices turn out to be no longer needed? Returning to work does not have to mean returning to the status quo.