It was during my one-on-one meeting with one of my engineers when the external screen went black. Then I realised I lost the audio too. I was already blaming technology, clicking various things on my laptop, when I spotted that more things were off. It was a power blackout in my home office. Obviously, my laptop was still working thanks to the battery, so it took me a while to realise nothing else worked. Work from home and power outage. What a combo!
I grabbed my phone to message a person who I was talking to just minutes before: “Power outage at my home, I’ll be back as soon as poss”. Then I decided to check other things to ensure it wasn’t a fuse or something else that I could fix quickly. It turned. It was a power outage on the entire street. I informed my whole team I wouldn’t be available for some time, and I drove to my usual coffee place. It was smooth and took me about 20 minutes. I was sipping coffee in my favourite cafe, ready to resume work. But it wasn’t always like this.
Power outage and work from home procedure 🔌
I am lucky; it is an infrequent occasion when I experience a power outage at home. I have been working remotely for a few years, and the real power cuts happened probably three or four times. However, I know there are places where power outages are more frequent. There is nothing we can do about it. Sometimes we know in advance. More often, it takes us by surprise.
Having this said, we can still do plenty of things to prepare ourselves. We know it may happen, and it should not be a question of if but when. You probably have a flashlight or even a candle somewhere in a drawer, right? We can also do things in advance to prepare ourselves from a “working from home” perspective. Here is my shortlist.
Let your manager know ☎️
Usually, a short absence is not an issue, but you never know. Especially if you work on the front line Support, Customer Care, etc. Someone else will need to resume your duties.
Make sure you have your manager’s contact details stored on your phone. I would suggest a call. Email massage may not be instant enough. If your manager is in a different time zone, email them, but don’t wake them up.
Let your team know 👥
Next on the list should be your team. Sometimes it will be enough to let your manager know. However, if you are in a different time zone or are just involved in some tasks you’ve been working on with someone, it is good to be transparent with your colleagues. Maybe you have commitments to deliver some work today. It could be that you have been pairing together and were in the middle of that session. Perhaps you are on on-call duties, and now you won’t be able to respond to an incident.
It is always good to let your team know your current situation and ask for help to cover your duties. This will build trust. And also, it will bond the team together. Next time it could be you covering for someone, whether a power outage or some other emergency that would cause another person to step down. You may be the one that will pay the favour back.
Make a list of the task for working offline 🗒
This point is your homework before you are in a situation where you need to step back. Sit down one day and make a list. Think of things you can do while you have limited access to your company intranet and your team. In the worst case, it could be you may not have connectivity at all. There are still things that you still should be able to do. It may be some documentation that has always been waiting for quiet time. Maybe you need to research a particular topic, but it’s been a low priority so far.
Spend some time in advance to create this list in your favourite task management tool. I recommend Nozbe (affiliate link below) and Trello. Assign separate categories or labels so it is easy to find and filter out from other tasks on your bigger list. Make sure that your tool of choice is available offline. Keep the list up to date. When you need to work from different places with limited access, pull the list and be productive. When things go back to normal, report what you have been doing to your manager and the team.
Find a place where you can work from 👩💻
This is also part of your homework to be done in advance. Finding a place with good WiFi connectivity is not difficult these days. Find one. Maybe during your coffee routine trips, check if you would be able to work from that place. Is it quiet enough? Some places have relatively loud music. My theory is that they try to rotate customers by doing it. 🙂 You just cannot stay too long as you can’t have a good conversation there, not to mention to do work.
Check connectivity to see if it’s stable and if it’s fast enough. Does it allow you to connect to your company VPN? Talk to the owner or the staff. Get to know them. It is good to build this relationship in advance to actually help you when you need it. When experiencing a power outage at your home, order good coffee, open your task manager, pull your sleeves, and work like nothing has happened.
Be honest with yourself and your team 🙅♂️
Sometimes, it will not be possible to work at all. A power outage may affect more facilities. The situation may be quite serious. You may be asked to come and pick up your kid from nursery, and so on. As you can imagine, It doesn’t need to be related to a power outage. It could be an emergency that will prevent you from carrying on working. In these situations, you can best be honest with yourself, your leader, and your team. You need to step down.
Pick up work later, when the fire is taken care of, or you will need to take a day off in an extreme situation. Talk to your leader; usually, there are a few options. You may want to work later during the day; you may consider working Saturday if possible and suits both slides. Again, communication is the key here. It will build trust. Trust is the most valuable currency for all aspects related to remote work.
Lessons learned during this coffee journey 🎓
Do you work from home, or do you do remote work? Is there a difference? You may ask. It should not be. However, in reality shows, there may be a significant difference. And it may affect the quality of work being done while you are not in the office. It is a broad topic that I will cover with a separate coffee journey blog post. Here, I would like to point a few things to ponder upon:
- If there is at least one person that works from home, your team is already remote. Most of the managers don’t realise it.
- It is not enough to be able to dial into the corporate intranet via VPN. Procedures, communication habits, tools and in general team routine and rituals – all need to be designed to support and promote remote work.
- The ability to work remotely it’s a skill. Needed to consider and check during the hiring process. It’s a skill, so it can be trained. Certain character trades will help certain people to naturally be good at it. Others need to learn.
- You, your team and your manager need to build a relationship based on trust to be an effective remote team.
- Do all you can do in your power to build, maintain and increase this trust.
- Some people are afraid of losing control while working remotely. Managers will be afraid of losing track of what team members do. Teammates will be afraid of losing track of what is significant, what is being communicated. Address these concerns. Build the right procedures. Control procedures, not people.
- Homeworking & Homeschooling blog post by Brad Egeland.
- First aid for work from home
- Why high-performance teams need team agreements
Would you add anything to my list? Have you ever had to work from a coffee shop or coworker’s place due to a power outage at home? Let me know in the comments below.