NZ's Guide to Working From Home During COVID-19
Monday 23rd March 2020 is a day New Zealanders will remember forever. For a minimum of four weeks, all non essential businesses must close and the only socialisation you can have is with the people you live with. Supermarkets, petrol stations, medical centres and pharmacies will remain open - but nothing else - unless they can work remotely.
Working remotely is now the name of the game. We think it will be bumpy for a while, but New Zealanders are a highly adaptable bunch, and together we'll all get through this and out the other side.
We've put together this guide on the types of decisions you'll need to make, tips on working with kids at home and ways to let your customers or clients know what is happening with your business.
Decisions to Make When Working from Home
Many of New Zealand's small to medium sized businesses either work from home, a warehouse, an office or a hot desk. They often are the owner operator, family operated or have less than five employees or contractors. Consequently, many are already experts in working remotely, arranging couriers to collect from their house and selling products online.
What has thrown a spanner in the works though, is now the kids and partners are also home. Gone is the 9-3 peace and quiet, replaced by continually being interrupted or required to do things, including schooling. We suggest that first you spend time taking stock of what you currently have in place and then make some decisions about your next steps. Here are things you may wish to consider:
- Must do times - are there any tasks that you must do at a specific time? What time will the courier collect from your home? When will you have Skype, Zoom or phone chats with clients? Create a list of these dates and times and block them out in your diary.
- Tools needed - do you have all of the tools necessary to work from home? This can include notifying the courier of a new collection point, getting in courier bags or boxes, making sure you have enough online time/internet connection to do your tasks and that you have the right online software and technology.
- Other responsibilities - you'll still need to juggle regular household tasks, but also include looking after kids and older family members.
- Kids - here's the big one; the kids. Until the schools get the online learning up and running, it may be best to simply treat the first few days as a school holiday. Let them chill out, watch TV, play on the iPad and in the garden.
How to Make Working from Home Easier
If you are able to be flexible regarding your working hours, then you will have a huge advantage to those who need to work to a clock. That's because you (in theory) will be able to work when the kids are busy doing something else. Things will get crazy at home, plans won't be able to be completed and changes will need to be implemented. But remember, flexibility is the key here.
- set up a food tray - instead of needing to make snacks all day long, do it once in the morning and the kids graze when they want. Sure, they'll eat everything straight up on the first day. But this will change and they'll start to manage their food choices over time.
- rotate activities - each day, decide on some activities for the day. You could either bring them all out in the morning, or drip feed over the day. Keeping them used on a rotating basis will help keep the novelty going too.
- ask for ideas - kids know what they want to do.If you are stuck for ideas, ask the kids what they want to do. This can give you a place to look for further ideas within their topic area.
- schedule kid times - if you are working from home, you'll not be able to be with the kids at every moment. If you book in time to be with them, encourage them to give you some space when you need to work. You could also set them up with some activities in the same room as you, so they can be close and talk when they feel the need.
- have specific zones - set up a play area, a work area and a learning area. Keep activities related to those areas specific to them. This can help everyone set the 'mood' or tone and find it easier to keep to a certain role or task.
Keeping Your Customers Informed
Everyone in New Zealand will be impacted by our nationwide lockdown. There will be a lot of mixed up information out there and likely some panic. What you can do is clearly communicate with your customers or clients as to what is going on with your business. This includes information about:
- how you will deliver orders from your eCommerce shop
- how to contact you
- how you are managing hygiene and safety with products and packaging
- any expected delays with deliveries
- updates to your returns policy if applicable
- updates to markets and other store sales that are now cancelled or postponed
Most of all, let them know what you can and can't do at the moment. Be clear as to whether you are business as usual, have changes or are shut.
Together we will get through this. Kia kaha New Zealand.
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