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Rights, Responsibilities, and Recommendations for Remote Work Under COVID-19 Restrictions

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The coronavirus pandemic and resulting global quarantine have changed the way all we live and work, and it’s unclear when the lockdown will lift. You might be among the thousands of workers caught off-guard as employers made a hasty transition to remote work — and even now, weeks later, you might still be struggling to catch up.  Even if you’re a work-from-home veteran, you’ve likely never done it under social distancing conditions. 

Whatever your work-from-home situation, questions arise: How much leeway do I have in balancing my family’s needs against my employer’s? How do I stay focused and maintain my workload? And how do I establish some normalcy amid all these worries and distractions? While not all questions are answerable yet, here are some factors to consider about your rights and responsibilities as a new remote worker, as well as basic recommendations to help you catch up to the learning curve and work from home productively during the quarantine.

Emergency Preparation And Response

In addition to a global health emergency, the COVID-19 pandemic is causing unprecedented economic failure around the world. While nobody can accurately predict the full scope of the effects on the world’s economy, experts agree on basic measures that can help you prepare to meet the financial challenges that lie ahead:

  • Assemble important documents. In addition to putting together a disaster preparedness kit with materials and supplies, it’s recommended that you assemble a legal and financial emergency packet. Locate and make copies of the following: 
    • Identification documents for each family member (including pets) – birth certificates, Social Security cards, passports, picture IDs
    • Financial documents – bank account info, tax returns, pay stubs
    • Insurance information – copies of cards and policies
    • Info on bills and other financial obligations – rental and payment agreements
  • Assess and get control over your finances. A clear picture of your financial situation is more necessary now than ever, even if the news is bad as a result of the coronavirus. Now is the time to look into the following areas and take steps to repair any weak spots:
  • Analyzing your spending and cutting out nonessential expenditures 
  • Revising your household budget to accommodate a drop in income or a rise in expenses 
  • Establishing an emergency fund with 3-6 months’ worth of expenses 
  • Enacting measures to monitor, repair, and build your credit rating in anticipation of needing to borrow money
  • Negotiating better interest rates or payback arrangements with lenders or cardholders 

Workplace Considerations

Companies that once pled ignorance or incompetence at initiating work-from-home policies have learned in a hurry how to make it happen. But this haste has made for a transition that’s not always smooth, logistically or legally. Consider these elements when you’re navigating the work-from-home learning curve:

  • Set yourself up online. Reliable internet access is the key to staying in touch not only with your boss, colleagues, and/or clients, but also with news sources, family, friends, and the rest of the world. Equip your home with secure, reliable Wi-Fi internet access, plus a virtual private network, or VPN, if your company offers it. (Start with this step because, especially in a crisis, it may take some time.) 
  • Sort out your tech. Make sure your workspace has all the technology you need to function. You’ll likely be meeting via video conferencing, so don’t forget your webcam and microphone if it’s not already built-in. Load all the software you need for operations, communication, recordkeeping, etc., onto your computer at home. If you’re set up with a cloud storage account, your work files should be secure and accessible from anywhere.
  • Know that your productivity might be monitored. You should be aware that about half of all big companies use some kind of monitoring software for work-from-home employees, so workers won’t treat this stressful time as “one big vacation.” Keystroke monitors, attention checks for screen-sharing functions, and employer access to Slack conversations, while they create some civil liberty concerns, are nonetheless common.  

Uncertainty is the rule during this crisis, and the only promising way to meet it is with caution, preparation, and resolution. An awareness of our rights and responsibilities — and of our human capacity for cooperation in times of greatest need — can bring us through this crisis together.

Printed with permission.

About the Author: Molly Barnes is a full-time digital nomad. She works remotely, travels constantly, and explores different cities across the U.S. She started her site, www.digitalnomadlife.org as a resource for travelers, nomads, and remote workers. Molly writes resources that help office and remote workers alike reach their personal and professional goals of becoming more successful. Follow along with her and her boyfriend Jacob on their blog as they pursue a nomadic lifestyle while freelancing and traveling across the country.


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