Appropriate workwear in TT may have shifted last week from pants suits, button-up shirts and ties to pyjama pants, Pikachu T-shirts or underwear as people began to work from home.
Last week the Ministry of Health asked people to self-isolate, leading some businesses to allow their staff to work from home. This is in an effort to restrict the spread of coronavirus.
Working from home could be a digital native’s dream come true. No commute means less time spent on the road to get to work. Flexible working time means people can work, cook food, eat healthily, exercise and spend time with their children while still meeting deadlines.
When an employee works at home, he/she actually does more work.
This was the view of Darren Mohammed, corporate business manager for the Caribbean at Microsoft.
“When you sit home, you do more work. It eliminates the commute and we can hunker down and get to work.
"But you must set boundaries," warned Mohammed. "Really drink water, walk around, eat lunch and stop at a certain time because you could just keep going. It is something everyone has to be mindful of.”
Since the country began social distancing, where no more than ten people can congregate in one space, the Microsoft office has sent most employees to work from home, running its offices only essential staff such as the receptionist and security guard.
This is not unusual for the staff, as Microsoft is a global company and its employees usually have three work-from-home days each week.
As Microsoft’s 365 has a full set of online tools to facilitate work-from-home operations, it created a remote work checklist.
Microsoft advised to set up a workspace with minimum background noise or distractions.
Remote work provides a flexible schedule, so coherent communication about availability, deadlines and managing expectations is important.
“Your rhythm with online work from home might look different than it does in the office. You may be balancing work and childcare at the same time. Communicate your schedule to your co-workers so that they know when to reach out to you,” the checklist says.
Maintain healthy boundaries in the job is important. Just because one can be available all the time does not mean one should. Without the physical space of clocking in and out, it can be harder for a person to unplug, which makes it difficult to rest and recharge for the next day.
“Make sure to take breaks, stay hydrated, and give yourself opportunities to ‘clock-out’ from remote work at the end of the day.”
All meetings should have an option for people to join virtually and should be recorded so that those who missed meetings can review them. Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Hangouts all have virtual options.
Connect with your co-workers. Just because they are not in the same space does not mean connection needs to go away. Camaraderie is vital for a workforce, so check in with your co-workers, by Skype, WhatsApp or phone call.
Managers can also organise to bring the team together even for fun events. On Friday, Caribbean Ideas Synapse, a digital marketing firm featured last week in Newsday for moving its entire operations remotely, had an after-work lime online. The virtual team mixed drinks in their own homes, limed on Instagram for an hour and switched to GoToMeetings.
Synapse marketing officer Jonetta Charles said the lime reassured her of the strength of the team.
"We're not in the same place. We haven't seen each other in maybe a week and a bit.
"But the fact that even at a distance we can have a time bonding over drinks and deeply conversing about our quickly changing lives says a lot about our connection as a team."
At the end of the lime, they joked that they could not wait to see each other's faces in person again.
"We were serious, though – at least I was," Charles said.
How couples can survive at home working together
Some couples who are now self-isolating for the first time together are entering new relationship territory – co-workers. One’s work self may be different from one’s home self. So some couples are now seeing each other in a new light.
But Christian and Rachel Jardine have been their own workforce for nine years now. They are responsible for Check Ting, a lifestyle blog. Newsday spoke to the two on Facebook about their routine and work patterns.
Rachel said they work together and try their best to respect each other’s perspectives.
“We wake up, have our coffee, go through social media and have a laugh.
"Then we shower and start work. (We) do a couple of tasks, then home-school Eve. Then some more work.
"By 2 pm we're done for the day and can relax,” she said.
Rachel said time-blocking and keeping a schedule with three major tasks to get done for the day is essential for her to work.
Christian, who is a content creator and graphic designer, said he sets up his work schedule electronically using Google Keep.
He describes his workspace as fluid, but it is usually at his desk or dining-room table.
“After morning norms such as coffee, breakfast and bathroom, (I) plop down in front of the computer and start. Make sure to stop for lunch, though.”
He too warns that when one works at home, they can get carried away and, “spend the entire day banging out work.”
Their team uses the full Google suite with tools such as Hangouts and Gmail and recently Microsoft Teams, which is temporarily a free service Microsoft is providing because of the coronavirus crisis.
Asked how the family felt about social distancing Christian said, “So far so good. We're introverts by nature, so we're doing just fine.”
Schools were the first institution to close when coronavirus entered TT on March 12. The government has suspended school, so far until the beginning of next term on April 20.
Until then, parents either have to home-school their children or teachers have to get innovative.
Louis Ramdhanie, the computer science teacher at St Mary’s (CIC), said teaching online is not a problem for him, as he has been teaching classes online for more than ten years now.
Years ago, he tore a ligament and had to stay home. His students were in exam-preparation mode, so he used Skype and a projector to teach and work on past papers with the class.
“I also managed the school's network and database so I could easily use remote access to fix most issues…We have been training staff to get onboard, and right now quite a few teachers use Google Classroom or Moodle (modular object-oriented dynamic learning environment).”
Form one students have a Kindle on their book list to facilitate this way of teaching.
Last December the school did online testing for maths and some other subjects. The school has a few classes online already.
“I’m now collating all the classes we have online to make it easy for parents to access it as well as students...Some teachers were given a loaner laptop to facilitate this,” Ramdhanie said.
Most pet lovers will agree that the biggest benefit of working from home is having their furry friends as their new co-workers.
Previously pet owners said goodbye to their beloved animals and left them to their own devices. Now they have their human to play with them all the time, but at least now, the pets can join in on the video chat, provide emotional support and be a person’s joy all day round.
Have any work-from-home stories or stories of social distancing? Reach out to us on social media at @raesay2407.