It’s a lot by itself to live through a historical event like COVID-19. For those of us working through and despite it, we have had to dramatically change the way we do business, to continue to do business.

As we return to the workplace, things will not be as we left them. Challenges inspire creativity, and it would be foolish to cast aside what was learned to return to exactly the same workflows used at the start of this year.

Below I will share some thoughts garnered through my own work from home experience. I hope some of the themes can apply to your workflows as you begin to build the new normal.

1 – A picture is worth a thousand clichés

There is something to be said for clean and powerful documentation, and in our MSP work it is invaluable. The stock image-manipulation tools that ship with computers are not built for efficiency, so I have turned to third-party alternatives.

For capturing a portion of a single screen, I use Greenshot. It allows me to map captures to the existing Print Screen key, and maintain a single file folder where things get saved straight away.

For larger visual projects, redacting sensitive information from Greenshot exports, and creating Knowledge Base articles, we recommend Glimpse Image Editor, which is based on the GNU Image Manipulation Program. If your role does not allow for an Adobe Photoshop license, this is a great free alternative which packs the basic feature set.

2 – Respectful communication

Whatever you use: Teams – Hangouts – Slack – etc., it’s great to have your coworker’s attention at the push of a button. What’s less great is that you are that available to them as well. The word ‘etiquette’ always comes to mind around this topic.

It is easy to treat work instant messaging like SMS texting, fire off a thought and get a reply as soon as the recipient checks their phone. But in practice, it’s far from it. If you are two hours into a design document and get a handful of pings, where does your attention go?

  • The pings, in the order received?
  • The project, because it is in motion?
  • The pings, but in the order of sender’s rank?

There’s no optimal answer, and in the end we either split focus or are forced to ignore something in the short term. Because of this, the agency and impetus for respectful communication ultimately falls on the sender.

Consider the following when authoring a direct message:

  • Does this need addressed right now?
  • Is there a collaboration channel that would be more appropriate for this discussion?
  • Is this large enough that I should call them instead?
  • Is this larger still that we should schedule a meeting?

These platforms exist for us to utilize them, but like any tools they only work to their full potential in the hands of a skilled craftsman.

3 – Continually-secure access to company resources

For those whose roles are not focused on cybersecurity, these last few months may have been the first time you have heard of a Virtual Private Network (VPN). These encrypted tunnels allow you to access company resources that would normally require your physical presence in the office.

I’ve gathered from a number of users that their teams will not be fully returning to the office when this all clears up. We’ve all learned first-hand what tasks require physical interaction, and it’s a staggeringly low percentage. If you’re staying at home, or even just replying to email from coffee-house wifi, it will always be important to consider the security of your connection.

In my previous post I made mention of 2FA/MFA, and it truly is imperative that this is enabled for platform which supports it. 15-30 seconds of account verification can save hours of account and data recovery in the long run. See if your password keeper will allow you to embed MFA codes in entries, saving you the SMS set up for each account.

If you do not have a password manager for work, please speak to your IT team about one. I fully recommend Bitwarden, and maintain a separate instance of it for personal use.

4 – Personal awareness

We all punch the clock, but how closely do you know where your time is going?  I recommend any or all of the below to really dial in your day.

Stay active

“Introducing short bouts of activity during the workday of sedentary office workers is a promising approach to improve overall well-being at work without negatively impacting cognitive performance,” reports the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (link).

Invest in your upcoming work hours by taking care of yourself now. Stretch, pace on phone calls, keep hydrated and food handy. Remember, you’re not you when you’re hungry.

Stopwatches

The heart of this topic is seeing where time goes, minute to minute. It is not healthy to run a timer against everything you do all the time, but a check in once and awhile can reveal time sinks that are subconsciously part of your routine. During mandatory work from home, I’ve discovered that I pace my apartment around 1:00-1:30pm each day; It’s a lull after lunch where I collect my thoughts. Having identified this, I can work to counter it – building incentives and workflows to get me back up to speed for the rest of the day.

Take copious notes

When I was first learning to write code, I was told by person after person that documentation should be 30% of every file I write. As a kid that blew me away, that only 70% of my work would be functioning logic, but it tracks. If you do not have a documentation tool you prefer, consider looking into one.

I used to swear by physical sticky notes, until my desk was covered with them! You’ll thank yourself when it’s time to reference a conversation or project down the road.

5 – Closing thoughts

Thank you for your time! Being an immune-compromised individual, these last few months have been a scary period. Our team has banded together with renewed efforts in spite of it all, and we look forward to a secure and successful continuation to 2020.

If you would like to discuss any of the above, most specifically VPN and MFA usage, please drop us a line!