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As you’re discovering, virtual work offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to working the way you want to, and that flexibility covers your office environment too. 



While self-isolating, many of us aren’t going to be working from optimal office environments. We’ll be working from spaces we share with roommates, pets, partners, or family members, which might mean competing for space, quiet, and Internet connection. In a survey conducted by the CCYP, nearly half of all respondents anticipated facing distractions due to roommates or other household members. Here are suggestions to help you work optimally with others while under isolation:

  • Set clear boundaries around your workday. Inform others when you’ll be participating in important meetings or tasks and aren’t to be interrupted, and where within your space you’ll be working from, while also respecting their schedules and boundaries. 

  • If you have limited space, consider sharing or swapping times in communal areas. 

  • Have conversations around what’s expected when it comes to phone etiquette, noise levels, and workday interruptions. 

  • Recognize that the pandemic is placing an added strain on mental health, so we must be conscious of supporting and helping each other through this time.

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What I came to realize in the first two weeks of COVID-19, was that my office space was also a mental space for me. I found it really difficult to do some of the bigger thinking, particularly around how am I running this company right now? I found that my physical office space created a mental space for me to think.


President, Art & Science Digital Experience Design


While working virtually in environments that aren’t ideal, we might have to get creative with how we set up our office. During self-isolation measures, people around the world are coming up with all sorts of unique ways to cope in the absence of proper office infrastructure including using cabinets, ironing boards, clothes hampers, highchairs, recycling bins, and bathtubs as desks; replacing standing desks with ladders or stacks of books; or working from closets, bathrooms, and cars for privacy.

As isolation measures roll back, working virtually will expand. If your home environment isn’t an optimal workspace, consider these alternate settings:

  • Libraries and local cafes often offer free Internet connection and a quiet space to work. 

  • Many urban centres are home to a number of co-working spaces, which are communal working hubs with various rental options depending on your needs. These spaces typically offer amenities like printing services, collaboration opportunities, networking events, and more. 

  • Some universities offer free use of campus facilities to recent graduates and alumni. 

  • Some employers may also offer to cover a portion or the entire rent on a workspace, or provide a stipend toward office expenses. Be sure you are clear on policies around virtual work reimbursement. 


Ergonomic virtual work solutions

  • Prop your monitor up to eye-level with books, pans, or boxes to reduce neck strain. 

  • If you find yourself leaning closer to read your screen, make your font bigger.

  • Use a pillow to provide more back support.  

  • Keep your knees at 90 degrees while sitting using a footrest (or a DIY version). 

  • Rotate positions regularly if you can. Transition between working from a seated and standing position. 

  • While working from a standing position, wear comfortable shoes that provide you with good support. 

  • Take regular breaks to stretch, move around, and stay hydrated.



Virtual work can offer a lot of freedom but the independence also means you might have to troubleshoot problems on your own without the help of an IT department.  

  • Internet connectivity issues: If you’re used to working in an office setting, you might find your home office Internet speeds simply don’t compare. If it’s reasonable for you, consider upgrading your networking tools. Note that some employers may reimburse office expenses, so be clear on those policies.

Internet connectivity and COVID-19 

During COVID-19, many of us may experience slower Internet speeds because of how many people are going online. You can hotspot to a smartphone as a back-up option, but keep in mind your data plan limits and overage charges.

  • Back-up Storage: It’s very important to have a good data back-up system, and regularly make use of it,                             in case your computer crashes or dies and you need to access your files.

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Employee tech needs

  • When transitioning to a virtual work environment, consider the hardware and software your employees require. In a survey conducted by the CCYP, 30 per cent of youth respondents felt they only somewhat had the technology necessary to do their jobs. Identify any tech requirements for the position and ensure your employees will have access to the tools they need prior to the first day of work.

  • Limits: A 2019 Communications Monitoring Report, noted that 89 per cent of Canadian households had access to the Internet;[1] however, the Canadian Internet Registry Authority found that those who lived in urban areas in 2019 enjoyed much faster and higher quality Internet experiences.[2] It’s important for employers to be mindful of this.

  • Communicating technical issues: Occasionally, the Internet will go down and there won’t be anything you can do to fix it. Make sure you can communicate what’s going on to your team and supervisors. Have an alternate way to contact them, such as a telephone number.

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