Working From Home – Productive Yet?
While it does feel like we are in one of those Hollywood epidemic movies like Contagion or Outbreak, thank the stars it isn’t like World War Z! We are constantly being bombarded with facts and figures of the worst kind and how to stay safe and healthy in this new age of COVID-19. Many employers who have the ability and means to allow employees to work from home have done so. While not everyone is that lucky, for those of us who can work at home it can be a challenge.
While there are benefits to working from home there are also many downsides. I have been a consultant for well over 10 years and it took me some time to perfect my environment to be productive.
Know Your Tools
- Understand all technologies available to you to make working from home more productive.
- Most companies have many tools that are available to use at home. Each person may vary, but if your organization allows you to work from home, there are some basics that they will provide: Accessing Firm software, email, documents, work product and in house software required to do your day to day work.
- In addition, there are many productivity and collaboration tools available for free or little costs to make you more productive: Trello, OneNote, EverNote, Slack, Skype, Google Hangouts, Discord, Workplace by Facebook, Microsoft Teams, Basecamp, Google Voice and WhatsApp. Take some time to find out what you are lacking and research popular tools available to you!
Get Cleaned and Dressed
- While you no longer have to get suited up for the office, getting yourself into the routine of getting dressed puts you in work mode. So, don’t roll out of bed and put on a pair of sweats and start working, get showered, brush your teeth and as momma said, put on your “school clothes”. This is especially important if you will be doing video conferencing. Trust me, no one wants to see you in your food stained T-shirt from dinner last night!
Office (This is not your bed)
- While Winston Churchill often worked from his bed, I don’t think most of us have that sort of resolve built in. Every home is different, and every situation is different. While I am lucky enough to have a dedicated office in my home, you just need to make sure that you have an area that is relatively quiet, not a high traffic area and can be dedicated as your workplace for the length of time you work at home. Make sure that it is neat and orderly but make it your own. If you have pictures of your family or a favorite plant on your desk at work do that here as well.
- If you have pets, try to limit their access to your workspace or at minimum be prepared to mute your phone. If you have children, you are on your own – I don’t have that experience or ability to provide advice!
Don’t do Chores (Or binge Breaking Bad)
- While it may be tempting to throw that load of laundry in the dryer or to wash those dishes in the sink, would you be doing this at work? Schedule your time around a workday just like you would in the office. For instance, my normal day consists of getting dressed, making a cup of coffee, checking emails, daily team huddle, and then scheduled meetings and work throughout the day until my normal end of the day. Make sure that you do take that lunch period for yourself. During your lunch, you can choose to take a walk, talk to your friends, exercise or do those dishes – those are things that are benefits to working from home as long as you don’t get completely distracted by spring cleaning!
- While you can no longer walk down the hall to visit your colleague and discuss your current project or the status of some task, you should not be afraid to pick up the phone and talk.
- You may need to be a bit more rigid in the way that you schedule your work, schedule 15-minute phone calls to review statuses.
- Be considerate of others time, while you may not have software to see the status of your colleagues, you can email or text them to see if they are available for a chat before you pick up the phone and call. While you should remain accessible, ensure that you are giving yourself time to be productive. Block out time for work that you would normally fit in between meetings.
- If you have a team of people that work for you, scheduling a daily standing meeting is beneficial. It sets the expectations and priorities for the day and ensures that everyone has a clear vision of the work that they need to accomplish.
- Respond to emails in a timely fashion, even if it is just to say that you will need to take a deeper dive into it and respond later. Again, while we can’t walk down the hall, we do need to realize that someone may be waiting on information before they can proceed.
- Be clear and concise in your emails. Make sure that all of your communications detail specific requests or instructions so that everyone is clear on expectations. Remember, since you are not in person body language cannot be perceived in an email. Luckily, we’ve all been using email for many years and should know these gotcha’s by now!
While these are difficult times for everyone and we may not be able to ensure that we have plenty of toilet paper or bottles of wine, we can control our work environment and maintain a sense of normalcy on a day to day basis. We hope that all our clients stay healthy and productive!