Sahya’s work environment changed overnight. The notification was swift. She, along with everyone in her department, was grounded. Accustomed to a travel schedule that placed her on the road or in a plane every week, her frequent flyer account stopped accumulating miles. The pandemic forced an immediate paradigm shift, not just for her but also for everyone in her company.
She mostly needed to adapt to a new way of working, engaging with her team, clients, and allied professionals. Working from home was now a unique experience. Shaking hands and working side-by-side with individuals was replaced with a face on a monitor separated by many miles.
According to an article in the New York Times magazine, anywhere from 5% – 15% of U.S. employees worked from home before the coronavirus. As of April, research shows that the percentage rose to 50%. Undoubtedly, the pandemic caused this rapid acceleration, creating a need to learn new skills and learn how to be productive in this new environment.
Is this a new phenomenon with lasting consequences or a temporary situation that will correct itself once a vaccine is discovered? If the latter, how long must we wait? As a leader of your organization, you must prepare yourself and your team for a potential new normal — a remote workforce. Advanced planning that includes training, written guidelines and tips for success is essential. Time is of the essence; it should be swiftly executed and adequately communicated to everyone.
Let’s face it. Not everyone is wired to work from home! Without a plan from you, your team may feel anything goes, and everything is appropriate. Answering emails and attending virtual meetings in sweatpants may be the result with dogs, cats, and small children running around in the background.
A comprehensive plan should include these steps:
Establish a Structure and Discipline
A critical step for remote working success is establishing a structure and adhering to it. Adopt some of the same standards used when working in the showroom and apply them to working from home.
Stick to a daily rhythm. If you usually wake up a 6:00 am every day when working at the office, maintain the same habit. If you typically, read, meditate, journal or exercise before starting your day, don’t deviate from it. The rhythm shouldn’t change just because the location of work has.
Resist the urge to sit in pajamas all day. Dress like you would for a typical workday environment. There is an attitude shift when we dress for success. We’re more focused, poised, locked in, and confident when we dress the part. Plus a ZOOM Meeting might pop up at any time with team members or prospects.
Enact a work schedule that is consistently carried out every day. Eat lunch and take breaks at the same intervals. Plan your work and work your plan daily. Avoid the temptation to check emails, social media posts, text messages, and phone calls by placing all your devices on airplane mode.
Any discussion on structure and discipline includes having a designated space to work. Establishing a dedicated space helps set the boundaries between work and family activities, whereby increasing productivity. This specific workspace provides the opportunity to close the door, leaving the stress of work behind at the end of a workday.
Productivity increases when engaged with others. Humans Beings are designed to live in relationships, not isolation, separated from interaction with others. We need links and a feeling of connectedness.
Share your work hours with your team, including the projects you’re currently working on. Design a daily 15-minute check-in with your team to outline priorities, share thoughts, and challenges. Review and recap the events of the day before, and solicit feedback and help from others on the team.
Eat the Frog
Productivity expert and author Brian Tracy suggests starting each day with a list of the three critical tasks that need to be done day. However, for many, procrastination rears its ugly head and a tendency to work on more comfortable, and more enjoyable, activities first. It is so tempting to put off the most difficult task until later in the day. However, studies have shown that tackling the most difficult tasks first, as opposed to the easiest ones, will move you closer to achieving the set goals.
Tracy calls these difficult tasks “frogs,” and advises they should be identified and eaten first thing every day. He counsels if choosing the first task is difficult, or all three seem equally challenging, eat the ugliest frog first.
The key to working from home successfully begins with proper planning, execution, and communicating the plan. Productive work from home requires commitment, focus, discipline, and staying connected.