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  1. Telecommuting: Supporting Remote Workers During and After COVID-19

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    If you’re like millions of Americans, taking a break from work probably used to mean walking to the breakroom for coffee and saying hello to your coworker down the hall. Now you may find yourself reading through this blog on your couch for your break, while convincing yourself you don’t need another snack from your kids’ stash of goodies before tackling your next project.

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of employers supporting telecommuters, or people who work from home, skyrocketed. However, working from home was on the rise prior to the outbreak. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that more than 26 million people worked remotely at least part of the time before the pandemic. In fact, the total number of people who telecommuted increased by 115% between 2005 and 2015. Yet while some are used to keeping themselves away from the snack cupboard and successfully being productive while working at home, millions of employers and employees are new at it. We’ve put together a few tips that we’ve found helpful during this unprecedented time.

    Technical Tools

    From a technical standpoint, dozens of virtual tools can keep coworkers connected. Video conferencing software enables face-to-face meetings when physically getting together is not an option. Instant messengers, like Skype, foster quick communication for business purposes or the occasional aside! But remote work and collaboration go well beyond video conferencing and instant messaging. A whole suite of cloud-based unified communications applications including screen sharing and browser sharing can help groups of remote employees collaborate on mission-critical projects. In many ways the future of work has become the present, out of necessity. This is only set to continue as countries experiment with an incremental, limited easing of restrictions over the coming months.

    Applications that are typically only accessed at the office require a bit of planning, but there are options. Many businesses use a virtual private network (VPN) to give workers secure access to their company’s network. Employees can set up from virtually anywhere that has a Wi-Fi connection and access applications as they typically would at the office. DQE has seen an increase in the number of customers accommodating their newly remote workforce with this tool. Additionally, we’ve worked with many customers to increase their bandwidth so they can accommodate new, heightened demands on their network systems. This in turns means productivity can remain high, which is vital for businesses eager to weather the effects of COVID-19 successfully.

    Embrace Employees

    Employees are feeling more stressed and isolated than ever before because of the pandemic. Workers who are now also serving as teachers because their children’s schools are closed may be feeling the pressure even more. CNBC reports companies that successfully schedule time to check in on employees and provide emotional support will have a higher employee retention rate and more individuals who feel appreciated by their leaders.

    Working from home can be beneficial for employees who feel supported, so it’s important to embrace your workforce more than ever during this crucial time. An article by the American Psychological Association says telecommuting overall increases job satisfaction, and employees experience less work-related stress and exhaustion. Conversely, drawbacks include social and professional isolation. The article encourages employers to consider ways for staff to build relationships virtually, including creating online message boards or providing small stipends by using meal delivery services for virtual lunches or coffee breaks.

    We’re here when you need us

    At DQE, we’re doing our best to adhere to these and other best practices to support our employees as much as possible during this time. Whether we’re in the office or working from home, we also remain committed to you – our customers. If there are additional ways we can support your business as you manage a remote workforce now or in the future, please contact us any time.