I recall during an intimidating interview with Kraft, after being asked by the CMO how I thought I could work for a Chicago office, while living in California. I replied with a largely made-up statistic (hey I was thinking on my feet) about in-office communications being 80% via email even with co-workers in the office down the hall. And while that probably is closer to true than ever before, the challenge to turn this ‘pandemic opportunity’ from Work From Home into Work From Happy is before us all.
Unlike most of you, working from home is not new to me. In fact, I have built a successful career as a marketing executive for global agencies and large corporate organizations over the last 15+ years while working from my home. I have ‘grown up’ with WFH technologies and conveniences making this moment in time possible for us all. Let’s look at ways to find your happy while building a career at home.
- Be mindful of THEIR business hours: Since many of us are now telecommuting from new home bases (vacation homes, quarantining with family in other cities, etc) and your work offices may be in different time zones, it is important to keep the office hours of your base office or colleagues. Yes this means if you are working from the West Coast you might have to hit your screens at 6am to connect with your NYC office, but it also means emails end around 3 or 4pm. Whatever the situation, remember the burden is on YOU to be available during the same hours as the majority of your colleagues.
- Let’s (Virtually) Meet: With so many new technologies (Like Intermedia and Avaya) making it easy to connect with colleagues and clients via video, you have no excuse not to be on video for the majority of your meetings. Yes, this means your pajama tee will need to be swapped and you’ll need to run a brush though your hair, but the benefit of your co-workers ‘seeing’ you as you participate in meetings and conversations is hugely valuable. The more face time you can offer to teams, the more connected they will feel. And once you accept being on camera is the new norm, you will find it satisfying to have conversations in this manner. The cat walks by, your kids walk in the room? Don’t worry- we are all human and we all know you are at home. Cats and kids live in those homes too.
- Over Communicate: If you worked in the office, you would be seen by individuals typing away at your desk, maybe they pass you having a convo with another co-worker, they might even see you stress eating the breakfast donuts for lunch in the office kitchen – all of which is a FORM of communication. You don’t have to email them to explain you are IN THE OFFICE or BUSY or really, really stressed out. So without the visual & auxiliary communication, we WFH-ers must learn to OVER communicate. That means weekly schedule updates, robust Slack/messaging use, email summaries and yes lots and lots of Zoom calls. Another valuable piece of visual communication that is often missed is our personal REACTIONS in conversations (eye-roll, head nod, smile in agreement etc) -so follow up those calls with an email recap. It is up to you, not to be misinterpreted. So if you think for even one second you need to clarify your thoughts, your position or your opinion- put it in writing.
- Collaborate: Pre Coronavirus days (I call it PreCV) many of us, envisioned collaboration as a group meeting in a conference room. A white board. Sticky notes. Powerpoints on the screen. The entire team reacting to an item by bouncing ideas off of each other and generally working together simultaneously to collaborate. And now? Now collaboration looks different. Find a smart cloud file provider that offers live document editing so the team can be in a document at the same time, utilize technology for digital whiteboards and of course hop on video to hash it all out. Whatever you do, don’t work in silos. Connect and collaborate as frequently as possible to give visibility to your efforts and also to maintain the quality of your work.
- Don’t rub it in: When you are speaking with your co-workers who might actually have already been asked to return to the office (and aren’t thrilled about that), proceed with kindness. No need to brag about working in pajamas, or that you might be sitting pool-side as you type. Without a doubt these kinds of mentions create resentment and animosity in your work relationships. So help them forget you are working from your home. Don’t mention it.
- Cloud up: While we know having a lovely WFHappy office space can be beneficial for many, we also need to embrace that from time to time we will be in our base office (headquarters of the employer) or we may wish to multi-task in a different location. The kid’s hockey rink can be your office just as well as a doctor’s waiting room. BUT if you are relying on paper files as reference- you will quickly be frustrated because you won’t have that password/powerpoint/paper to use to complete your task unless you learn to rely heavily on the cloud storage. The end result is true mobility and productivity no matter where you choose to set up ‘office’.
- Limit home business. Husbands/Wives have a way of saying ‘oh by the way the electrician is coming at 10am to install that light’. And this is where you need to practice boundaries and say ‘Sorry hun. That will need to be rescheduled since I am WORKING and cannot take off to deal with that during the day’. After about the 100th time the spouse/partner/roommate gets the point. Sure it is nice to grab packages off the porch, or even throw in a load of laundry during a conference call….but limit anything that requires talking to people or keeps you from being in front of your screens. Work is work. Respect the fact that you are being paid for that time.
- 110% or nothing: Perhaps the most un-popular part of being a remote employee is that you need to over-deliver to feel like you are ‘as good as’ a ‘regular’ employee. Be more responsive. Be more detail oriented. Be early for your calls. Be smarter with your deliverables. It is one of the reasons people say they are MORE exhausted working from home. Throw in a few kids to watch/educate. A dog that insists on barking every time you get on a call and it can be overwhelming. Remember too, you will need to unplug and disconnect more than ever before. Remember when you complained about that commute? Now your work where you live- so making separation and doing NOTHING on off days should be considered self-care.
Ultimately, acknowledge that working from home has long been one of the greatest perks for many employees, which is now available to most all. Like most things – it isn’t exactly as you might have imagined, but with thoughtful approach you will be able to #WorkFromHappy and thrive.