As millions of people are suddenly working from home for the first time, I thought it might be helpful to share some things that have helped me be successful as a Work-From-Home-Warrior for the past 25 years. There’s a lot to love! And I can help you shortcut some of the challenges. As an Executive Coach, working 1-on-1 from home has been relatively easy. When coaching, facilitating or training groups, the complexity factor goes up. Here’s some of my best tips! And in case you’re wondering, I do not profit from any of the recommendations below – this is just in the interest of helping you be successful while all of us in the world are wrestling with the change and anxiety that has come with the coronavirus. I usually travel quite a bit (which is obviously off the table for a while), so I’m enjoying learning some new virtual skills, too.
- Use structure. Like 1/3 execution, 1/3 creative/R & D, 1/3 strategy. I meet with coaching clients (usually by phone, ALL by phone right now!) Monday-Thursday, keeping Fridays open for everything else (facilitation, training, research, creating programs, admin, etc). Otherwise everything becomes execution and the other components fall behind.
- Structure is also timing – a decision about what time you’re planning to start and end your day. Boundaries blur easily when you work at home. I’m fine with that sometimes, but I do think it works better when I’m clear about it. If you have other people in your home, I’d recommend headphones/earbuds, so you’re not distracted by other family members, plus it creates safety for everyone to speak more freely, too.
- Don’t try to multi-task too much, tempting as it is…putting a load of laundry in does only take a few minutes, but it distracts from focus.
- Use a stand-up desk. I have a really cool one from UpDesk (updesk.com), that’s sleek, electronic and also functions as a whiteboard. Love it!
- Get a VPN (Virtual Private Network) program, if you don’t have one. I use ExpressVPN, which cost me about $120 for 14 months, and I have it on all of my devices. Once this is over and we’re all out in the world again, it’s especially nice when utilizing free wi-fi in airports and hotels.
- If you can, have a designated workspace at home. You don’t want your work stuff all over the living room, and you don’t want strawberry jam on your keyboard.
- Get a headset, so you’re not cranking your neck or annoying everyone (in your house and the person with whom you’re speaking on the phone) by using your speakerphone all the time. This Plantronics phone is what I’ve used for years: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001GX6MJ8/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1. I can put it in my pocket and walk around. I realize many of you may not have a landline anymore, in which case, use headphones or earbuds with your cell phone. I like my Beats headphones for sound quality when I do use my cellphone.
- Let the other folks in your home know when you really need to be in “Do Not Disturb” mode and when they need to be in relatively quiet mode. It’s easier to prevent ruffled feathers in advance than to apologize later for that sharp rebuke or nasty glare you threw someone’s way.
- Make a quick and easy sign (I used a fluorescent green piece paper and had it laminated at Office Depot) to put on the outside of the door to your home, saying something to the effect of, “Hi! If this sign is up, I’m on a conference call and can’t come to the door. Please text me at XXX-XXX-XXXX and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.” Obviously, if you’re expecting an important delivery, work it out in advance, if you can.
- Do.not.use. call waiting! Nothing says, “you don’t matter” more than “hang on, I’ve got another call coming in (translation: “someone more important than you may be calling, I need to check.” Disable this feature while you’re working from home. It’s also disrupts the focus for you and the person with whom you’re speaking.
- Ditto for sound on your computer. If you’re communicating with someone on your laptop, tablet or phone, you obviously have to have the sound on. So turn off your email program, Messenger, and anything else that will interrupting you with “dings”. It does require juggling if you are sending and receiving emails with the person(s) with whom you’re interacting at the moment. Honestly, even when the sound is off, I can hear when someone gets distracted by an incoming email. Focus!
- Have a good scanner or all-in-one at home. I have a ScanSnap and and HP Envy 5660.
- Get a good chair (I have a top-of-the-line Herman Miller Aeron), and make sure you have good light.
- Get outside, on your balcony or deck, or better still, for a walk. I walk 1-3 miles every day with my dogs. Get outside a couple of times for fresh air and change of scenery.
- Pick a platform and get really proficient with it (I like Zoom).
- Have some home gym stuff available. I have a physio ball, a set of dumbbells, a kettle bell, an assortment of Therabands, a couple of foam rollers, a yoga mat, block and strap and an inversion table. Doing a bit of exercise even for 10-minute intervals will keep you from staying sedentary and help keep you energized. It’s easy for me to get out and walk or bike, but if it isn’t for you, consider a stationary bike.
- Get out of your jammies. Now. Jammies are for sleeping. If you’re working from home, act like it (the working part, not the home part).
- Keep a big container of water at your desk – that kind of stuff is so easy at home! Eating healthy is, too.
You’re going to save a bunch of commuting time, travel time and expense and eating out expenditures. You’ll spend time in a place you love, with beings that you love. Enjoy it!