Due to the structure of service and support, it was largely thought that we could not do our jobs from home. We needed to fill the seats in our department space for a specific amount of time every day. The other problem that companies face is simply trusting. If they have a culture of command and control, likely you will have micro managers that will keep an eye on every minute of the day and what you are doing. Of course, that may not work anymore, especially in this current environment that we find ourselves in.
I have been working from home for such a long time that some of you may still have been in diapers. I know; isn’t that just wild? With that comes a sense of expertise about the topic. It was not someone telling me what to do; I learned how to do this through trial and error. You benefit from that experience and the wisdom that I have gained.
I am only going to cover the part of this topic that gets into how to manage yourself working from home. If you are interested in the topic of how to manage a virtual team, we can talk about that another day.
I will give you small things to consider and implement, some explanations; other suggestions are simply something to check off your list. Perhaps you simply want to skip around and read about what is most important to you at this moment. I do however encourage you to read the last paragraph of the article.
Deborah will be teaching the pre-conference workshop, Desktop Support Manager, at SupportWorld Live!
Things to consider:
- Your Space
- Your Technology
- Your “Person” Prep
- Your Family Relationships
- Your Emotional State
- Your Personality Style
- Your Intro/Extra-Vertness
- Your Intrinsic Motivators
- Your Boss’s Emotions
- Your Task and Distraction Management Abilities
- Your Routine
Ok, Let’s begin and start by breathing!
- Create a separate space in your home with a door or a tall inexpensive folding screen. If you can close a door behind you after work, that is the best way to work. The dining room table is NOT the place to have an office unless it is the only space you have.
- A solid surface: Even if it is a door on top of two wooden horses from home depot.
- Incandescent lighting on the solid surface.
- Order supplies from Staples or Amazon. You know what you need. Keep the receipts.
- Measure the square footage, you can take a portion of your electric, heating/cooling and footprint of your apartment/home off your taxes if it is a separate space and has a door.
- Everything depends upon your technology. High-speed internet is a must.
- A landline may not be necessary. Although if you are doing any type of customer interaction, it may be worth your while. Most companies will set us up with VOIP or "softphone.” If that is the case, KNOW your service provider, their record of continuity and availability. You don’t want to be doing business with your cell number.
- A printer is going to come in handy. They are not expensive; the INK is expensive, so get something wherein that is not going to be an issue.
- Headset. You don’t want your neck and shoulder telling you that you were on the phone all day at home.
- Security setup on your wireless. A must. Do not allow your family members to use your work computer, and be aware that you should maintain the same security protocols at home by not going to certain websites on that work computer.
Your “Person” Prep
- Make your bed, as Admiral McRaven said. At least you will have gotten one thing done! That is a good beginning.
- A good friend of mine, Krystala in the crisis management business said, "Don't wear your yoga pants to work, as it is just going to set you up for the rest of the day.” I agree. In this day and time of video connection and meetings, we tend to dress up above the waist and have PJs below. My encouragement is to get dressed ENTIRELY. It changes how you approach your day. It changes your mental attitude. Don’t get lazy.
- Pay attention to your hygiene; take a shower. Keep that schedule, if nothing else.
- Likely you will be eating at home. Think about what you will have for lunch and dinner each day and get it ready (e.g., out of the freezer). Remember, you have not had to think about this before if you have not worked from home, and one cannot function properly on chips and salsa and sugary sodas.
- Make time to move, just like you do at work. You are not walking from the parking lot to the building; you are not walking up and downstairs to visit other departments. This is beyond important!
Your Family Relationships
Significant Other: You both may be home working now, on video or conference calls, hearing one another as you have never heard your significant others before. It is going to take some getting used to. When work is over, it should be over! There's so much to this dynamic, I would need to go into family counseling. But this is something that you all are going to have to work out yourselves in a nice way. Remember, it is OK to have borders and boundaries.
Children: They are likely at home right now and not going back to school. They will be loud; they will want your attention,. It is beyond crazy. This is something that your manager is simply going to make adjustments for. And you can provide them guidance yourself by setting up borders and boundaries (yes, that again). “When Mommy or Daddy’s door is closed, that means we cannot be disturbed unless someone is bleeding.” I know there are a lot of ideas out there on Pinterest to get your children's attention around this topic. Most importantly, please have mercy on them and yourself. Fast Company has a great article about this topic.
Pets: We all need to recognize that there will be barking and meowing in the background. We are joining our personal lives with our work lives like we never have before, and we are ALL doing it. I have always made conversation around the pets if they are noticed. It lightens the mood.
Your Emotional State
No matter how long this current event goes on, life is stressful. This simply means there is more of it. One of my leadership expert mentors, Richard Boyatzis, said to me recently, that, "Stress in the doses we are getting right now causes cognitive, perceptual, and emotional impairment.” You can tell that it is true from the perceptual impairments of many people believing that toilet paper is the most important currency in the world and it should be hoarded.
The times are uncertain. Fear is large. Fear, though, means we care about something and are afraid it is going to be touched or taken away.
Please allow me to reiterate what I say to all my students in my HDI classes, and it is ever more important right now. TURN OFF THE NEWS! It is simply making us sick. If you need to watch it, take 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening.
This topic could be an entire book; yet, I simply want to encourage you about GIGO. In everything that you do, watch, see, and listen to Garbage In, Garbage Out. What you put in is what is going to come out of you. Care enough about yourself to protect yourself. Please!
Your Personality Style
We are all familiar with Myers Briggs personality styles or DISC:
- D = Dominance. Bottom line, task-oriented, controlling, telling
- I = Influence. Relationship-oriented, motivator, salesy, fun
- S = Steadiness. Relationship oriented, loyal, can do, caring
- C = Conscientiousness. Detail-oriented, task first, line by line, it has to be correct
Well, imagine taking those home to work. I was bantering with a friend around these personalities and how they would be working by themselves at home. Each style has its strengths and weaknesses and that is to be expected. This is what we thought humorously:
- D = Nobody to boss around but the plants and the dog
- I = Makes videos of self-explaining concepts and work processes while looking in the mirror behind the camera to check hair
- S = Asking the boss three times a day, “Do you still need me? What can I do for you?”
- C = Trying to explain why the work is not done yet because it is not right! I missed a deadline again!
Yes, I know that is silly, but these times require a little humor.
Now, this is very important. Let's get to the real definition of these two things.
This has nothing to do with gregariousness or shyness. It does have everything to do with where you get your energy from.
- Introverts get their energy from being by themselves so that when they go into public they have something to give those around them.
- Extroverts get their energy from being with other people. When they are alone, they begin to feel listless and drag.
This is important to know because if you are spending a lot of time alone in a home office as an introvert, you are in heaven. Your productivity is up, you have limited distractions, and you are rocking it.
As an extrovert, though, this can be a challenge to work from home alone. The best thing you can do for yourself is to schedule video meetings at least once a day and focus work for 40 minutes at a time before calling people or getting up to walk around.
This is going to be important to the extrovert, especially if they want to be productive. If you are managing an extrovert, keep in touch with them, but not about the work or if it is done. Just be present for them.
Your Intrinsic Motivators
We have extrinsic and extrinsic motivators. The paycheck only goes so far as a motivator. We need to find something important to us that drives us to accomplish the things for work that are important. To Daniel Pink, the author of Drive, that looks like autonomy, mastery, and purpose. I like to add a couple more: significance, clarity (security), and belonging.
We are driven by these needs internally, some more than others. If you have someone who is driven by belonging and they are at home, that is going to degrade their energy and they will have a difficult time working. On the other side, if great direction is not given to someone who's motivator is clarity, they will be lost and not know how to accomplish a task. If you are a micro-manager and doing that to someone who is motivated by freedom (autonomy), well get ready for some rebellion. The lesson here is to know yourself, know your peers, and know your staff (if you have one) and meet them at their need.
Your Boss’s Emotions
Realize that your boss is going through the same things you are, only magnify it by a bunch because they are managing several people, they are managing their bosses, and they are managing a whole new way of getting work done. This is a time to approach them with only solutions, not problems. What does that mean for you?
Instead of calling them right away, think about how they approach problems. Dig deep in your troubleshooting mind. I encourage people to come up with at least three solutions to every problem and then call their manager, share the three solutions, and together identify the best approach. This will help your managers focus on what is important rather than dealing with time-stealing frustrations. This is one way you can help them.
Your Time and Distraction Management Abilities
So, this is probably one of the most important aspects of working from home. If you have not done this long or are just starting, you are about to meld your world with your work environment. The temptations are great, but it can be managed. The emotion we feel around this for a working person is guilt. For a manager, it is anxiety around trusting your people to get the job done.
The keyword for everyone working from home is FLEXIBILITY. Things are going to come up. You will want to take advantage of the time you are home to do laundry, go into the yard, take a nap, and sometimes aimlessly putter around, and that has to be OK…to a point.
Distraction breaks are scientifically necessary for solving problems and allowing the brain to rest so dots can be connected. If you do need a break to go for a walk or do something else, the encouragement of one of my business associates who manages a remote team in a Fortune 500 company is, “Communicate what you need to do with your manager.” Just let them know what you need. We all have more mercy and grace on one another right now because we are in a place together that we have never been before in the history of this planet.
Funny enough, my business associate has recorded that his team is getting more done than ever before. The collaboration tool they use is not hindering the cause of multi-tasking; it is creating community and collaboration, which it was meant to do. This autonomy causes us to increase productivity. That science has been proven over and over again in all the studies since the 1950s. The lesson here is to give trust to one another; don’t make them earn it. Managers, I am speaking to you. Move away from knee-jerk reactions and micromanaging and allow your people to be adults, do what they need, and get the work done. Create more of a results-oriented work environment and watch them grow. Watch them increase in productivity, and then watch them flourish and enjoy their work to a greater extent.
This is a lot to think about. Life has changed, and no one knows for certain how long we will be doing this.
My encouragement to you is to try different things for your routine that are within the guidelines of your working culture. Tweak times, tweak activities, tweak face-to-face conversation. Include video as much as you can with work and family and friends.
My business friend recommends taking some of the time that you used to spend commuting and put that towards extra sleep. This is wise because sleep increases your immune response, and we need that right now. I concur!
Take some of the time that you used to spend commuting and put that towards extra sleep.
You will figure out what works for you. But you want to include all of these somewhere in your day, and they don’t have to be the same every day.
- Shower and dress
- Movement 3 to 4 times a day
- Technology free time
- Work in segments of time
- Household little items
- Quality time with family/friends
- Care for pets
- Quiet time to recharge
Everything is going to look different. We want to understand this and get through it together. We will get the work done. We are simply going about it differently. Take care of yourself. Be nice to YOU. Allow yourself time to adjust. Be easy on OTHERS. Provide them some space. And realize we will all need to be FLEXIBLE and that is OK!
If you need to talk and maneuver your way around this topic, email me. I will be ready to listen. I am not going anywhere for a while!
Deborah Monroe is one of 18 Master EQ practitioners in the world, through the Global EQ Community of 6 Seconds. She's also an associate with the Institute for Organizational Performance and an HDI business associate. Working with all levels of executive leadership, management, and individual contributors, Deborah concentrates on integrating humans and process to create a balanced working environment. Her aim is to build understanding and empathy, creating a positive bottom line through employee and customer retention.