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Coronavirus crisis: Experts lend advice to Tampa Bay employees switching to remote work

Coronavirus

FILE – This June 19, 2017 file photo shows a person working on a laptop in North Andover, Mass. The U.S. internet won’t get overloaded by spikes in traffic from the millions of Americans now working from home to discourage the spread of the new coronavirus, experts say. But connections could stumble for many if too many family members try to videoconference at the same time. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

TAMPA, Fla (WFLA) – Millions of employers across the country are instructing employees to work remotely as a precaution amid the global pandemic.

While working from home is new for many of America’s workforce, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting that nearly a quarter of the workforce already works remotely, at least part-time.

In the past few years, remote work has grown significantly around the country. There was a 159 percent increase in remote work between 2005 and 2017, and Tampa Bay is no exception.

According to remote employment website Flexjobs.com, Clearwater has the second-largest percentage of remote workers in Florida with 9 percent. St. Petersburg isn’t far behind with 7.6 percent, putting the Sunshine City at No. 4 in the state.

Tampa ranks sixth in the state, with 6.8 percent of its workforce population working remotely.

For Matthew Vaughn with Tampa-based tech recruiting firm Full Stack Talent, that number isn’t surprising. His team of five regularly works remotely since the startup’s inception in 2017.

Communication is key, Vaughn says, especially for those new to working remotely.

“Make sure your company, or at least your team, has some sort of chat function, be it Google Hangouts, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Discord, Slack,” Vaughn said. “There’s a laundry list of them out there but making sure that you have some kind of way to text message, call or interact with the team so that way everyone can interact really effectively.”

Those communication portals are essential, according to LivingHR CEO Keri Higgins-Bigelow, particularly because this is new territory for many companies, which are moving the bulk of employees to work remotely under such a time crunch.

“Ideally you would have all that data upfront about how your workforce works but unfortunately, this is unprecedented so a lot of people don’t have that information at the ready,” Higgins-Bigelow said.

Higgins says almost 100 percent of her clients have moved employees to at least partial remote work as a safety precaution. To help with the transition, LivingHR developed a collection of useful resources about navigating work and home life, as well as working remotely amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think it’s about offering each other grace at this point and realize that we’re all trying to figure this out,” Higgins-Bigelow said. “It’s also a lot to do with the mindset and it’s also about the human element in all this.”

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