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Tips for telework success

A U.S. Air Force member teleworks from home to practice social distancing. Staying home if sick, and self-quarantining if exposed to those with COVID-19 symptoms (coughing, fever, shortness of breath), and teleworking when possible has been highly encouraged in both the civilian and military sectors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kiaundra Miller)

A U.S. Air Force member teleworks from home to practice social distancing. Staying home if sick, and self-quarantining if exposed to those with COVID-19 symptoms (coughing, fever, shortness of breath), and teleworking when possible has been highly encouraged in both the civilian and military sectors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kiaundra Miller)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --

The Air Force has elevated its Health Protection Condition in response to the fast spread of Coronavirus 2019; in response, Airmen, civilians and families are encouraged to practice prevention measures.  

In addition to following strict personal and environmental hygiene, social distancing, staying home if sick, and self-quarantining if exposed to those with COVID-19 symptoms (coughing, fever, shortness of breath), teleworking when possible has been highly encouraged in both the civilian and military sectors.

If you find yourself teleworking in the following weeks as a result, you may discover it is harder than you first imagined (especially if you have little kiddos!)

Sure, scrolling social apps in your pajamas with a bowl of cereal on your stomach may sound like the way to go, but if you're not careful you can find valuable time lost, poor quality products and/or missed meetings. 

Read on for a few tips that can help you be successful while teleworking, and things to keep in mind if you are also taking care of your kids: 

  1. Set a morning alarm, shower and get dressed - keeping a daily routine similar to your typical workday will help you stay on track and make it easier to return to business once you physically return to work. 
  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate - the old saying, "out of sight, out of mind" may be true if your coworker, supervisor or leaders are dealing with issues or a crisis such as COVID-19. During a crisis, certain things take priority for commanders. This doesn't mean what you do isn't important, so continue to provide reports and recommendations. Your insight could help save taxpayer dollars, solve a shortage problem, or even save a life.
  3. Keep the lines of communication open both up AND down your chain. Teleworking can be lonely, but it doesn't have to be. Pick up the phone, initiate a video conference to check on one another and share updates on your projects. 
  4. Do the work - even with meetings postponed, information is still critical to advise your leaders. If you know that your unit's daily meeting is cancelled, you can still send the information you would normally provide. Not only does this show initiative, it keeps the communication channels open, and may provide critical information to your organization.   
  5. Take breaks - just as you would do at your work place, take breaks while teleworking. Step outside for some fresh Spokane-air (while maintaining six feet of personal space!) and stretch your legs. 
  6. Prepare for success today and tomorrow - as you're wrapping up your day, set aside 5-10 minutes to outline work for yourself to accomplish the next day. Make sure you have planned enough work to keep yourself busy. Will you need clients' information? That case to review? This will save you from constantly asking your coworkers in the office to email you files. Your opportunity to telework should not be more work for them. 
    1. Communicate your plan to your supervisor with an estimated timeline and seek support if you need additional information or resources.  
    2. Make sure your laptop is charged, programs are up to date and your equipment is out of reach from tiny hands. 
    3. Prepare healthy snacks for tomorrow so when the hunger pangs strikes, you have healthy brain food ready to eat. 

Additionally, below are tips for maintaining a balance between parenting and completing your teleworking tasks. 

  1. Establish a routine - if your children attend childcare or school, chances are they are used to some kind of routine. Try to establish one quickly; by having a similar routine, it will help them transition back to school/daycare. 
  2. Distractions – as any parent knows, with children there will be distractions from work. Little Johnny will likely pull down the sack of flour or Sally will need help going to the bathroom. Don't worry. Rapid Mobility will not cease because you had to take a break to clean up a mess.  
  3. Avoid multitasking - most parents know that multitasking is a critical skill to have while raising children. Many mothers have nursed while typing emails. Many fathers have juggled a baby and groceries. It isn’t necessary to complete all tasks at the same time. If you have to step away from a conference call to care for little Johnny, apply the mute button and take care of your child. 
  4. Delegate - if little Johnny and Sally are old enough, delegate certain things to them. Explain that since you're staying home to prevent others from getting sick, you're going to need their big-kid support. Have them take their dishes to the sink, wipe up their mess, get dressed and even put up their toys.
  5. Take breaks – schedule virtual “play dates” during your lunch, take snack breaks with the kids and give your mind a break. 
  6. Keep calm, breathe, recognize your stress - there's nothing like participating in a teleconference, typing notes and feeding a screaming toddler all at the same time. When multitasking has to happen, a certain level of stress can affect you. It's important to remain calm, take a deep breath, recognize that you are stressed and then manage the situation by handling each piece individually. Put out the biggest "fire" first. This might very well be the screaming toddler.

Our installations have assumed a mission sustainment posture that best balances the Air Force's number one priority – the safety of you and your families – with necessary mission requirements. Hopefully these tips will help you telework with success!