April 8, 2020
Here are tips for working from home and for leading your newly virtual team. If you missed PART ONE, here it is: LINK
TIPS For Working From Home and For Leading
Your Newly Virtual Team
In Part One of this two part article, we met Shelby, a senior VP of IT leading a newly remote workforce and team. We also talked about some of the challenges of teens who are now doing school from home while parents work. The key message: There is no way to circumvent our feelings about this global pandemic – there is only facing it, feeling and forging on.
Part Two includes some tips for working at home. Read on – share your own ideas in the comments and keep finding that sonorous harmony of balance – where you can.
§ Don’t expect perfection in this season.
- Instead identify what is truly essential.
- Find ways to deal with the rest.
§ Create your space – and be creative about it.
- Use colors, smells, textures, sights, sounds that relax and inspire you.
- Some people are working from home without a real dedicated office space. If you must use your couch or dining table, make a daily ritual out of setting it up in the morning, and putting it all away at the designated time each night. This is your new commute and it allows you to switch gears and be at “home” again at the end of the day.
§ Productivity is equal parts mindset and organization.
- Identify what is in the way of your productivity and address that. This might take slowing yourself down to notice what is really going on inside your own thinking – your habits and your space. Some people who have small children or needy family members at home have expressed that this feels hopeless. “How can I address having kids?!?” they say. I really get that! I wrote my doctoral dissertation while caring for my infant child all day. It isn’t easy but it can be done. My encouragement to you is write your frustrations down, thoroughly, and with no holds barred – to vent. Then look again at what you can do something about. And just do that. It might be working with children on your lap – or while they nap. I’ve done that. It could be something else – be creative. Share your ideas!
- It is impossible to be truly creative when you feel overwhelmed, depressed, scared, angry or otherwise focused on uncertainty. If that’s you, do something that is creative. What is that for you? Is it cooking? Gardening? Some kind of workout? Decluttering? Then, go for a walk and focus on what is beautiful, good, working and well in your world. From there it’s possible to be creative.
- Decluttering is a cleansing activity. It creates space and it frees up energy. Take on a decluttering project – make it small enough to do reasonably – and watch your spirits soar when it is done.
- Organize your time by identifying what is really critical to achieve this week. Then break down the steps to doing that thing. Lower the barriers to getting each thing done by taking one step to make each part easier to do. What does that involve for you?
§ Mind your working hours
- I’ve talked to some who are having a hard time working at all – distractions are everywhere. What has worked for them is to create a schedule that allows them a lot of “get up and walk around the block” breaks. Each person’s obstacles to productivity feel and sound different – but at their root is likely some mixture of anxiety – discomfort (with uncertainty) – overwhelm – anger or frustration – loneliness – or a lack of clarity about their motivation, the true answer to ‘WHY am I doing this?’ Slow down and identify which of these things it is, and then get some help in shifting it. It’s all in our perspective. Then come back to your regular schedule. Break it down to chunks that work for you. If it’s 1 hour working – 15 minutes of walking and sunshine then do that. If it’s 4 hours of working and then a great reward – then do that! What will you reward yourself with when you are done? How will that feel?
- Others are working more hours than they did when they had an actual commute. It is critical to find a balance that keeps your batteries charged. They say that there is so much to do, it’s hard to know when they’ve ‘earned the right to stop.’ It’s important to identify boundaries around what a daily “enough” is for this season. Keeping your batteries charged and your mind, body and spirit well has to include shifting gears to non-work every day. If we don’t do this, our effectiveness plummets. Read that last sentence again. If we don’t do this, our effectiveness plummets. It can be a routine of exercise, mindfulness, pleasure reading, and something fun – or whatever you choose! Have a little fun every day. 1-2% more each day is enough to pivot.
§ In summary, here are some daily habits to create for to keep you sane!:
- Follow a schedule – maintaining a plan will help you and your family adjust to our changed environment.
- Pace yourself – Take time for fun – whatever is fun for you! Books, games, a Netflix series. A little bit every day goes a long way toward sanity.
- Get outside! – Do this a little every day. It’s critical to maintain physical distancing and it’s also critical to get fresh air and sunshine for your immune health!
- Find or indulge your hobby – music, art, gardening, cooking or reading – whatever it is – do something!
- Take time to connect – keep in touch with friends and family. This is for you and for them. Make sure they’re ok and you are too.
- Keep a journal – this can be a way to vent the clutter in your mind. A possible way to do this is “morning pages” which involves writing first thing in the morning three pages of whatever it is that’s scrolling across your mind’s screen – without censor. This can set you up for a truly clear headed day.
- Create Office Hours – Virtually – Create a zoom based time to be available to those who need you!
Finally, if you have all the space sorted, your daily routine working well, and you are personally feeling great – you may still have to engage and communicate with your team virtually. They are no longer 10 or 15 feet away, down the hall or up a flight of stairs. It’s not the same. Let’s just acknowledge that and vent about that for a few – and then figure out what to do about it. I read a great article in HBR including five engagement tips for virtual meetings. They include (paraphrased here):
1. Begin the meeting with a visceral communication of the problem /opportunity your meeting needs to solve.
2. Don’t let the meeting become a collection of witnesses. Get each attendee engaged with a particular responsibility.
3. Give each person a task that they can/must actively engage in. This might mean breakout rooms (available on zoom) for 2-3 people to work on a task/problem/idea together with; Or pre-assigning participants a piece to present (including slides or live to white board time). And give them time limits.
4. On the subject of slides …. The best sleep inducer is a fat deck of slides with tons of words and bullet points on them. Use slides sparingly – and only when needed. Inform, engage, and then be done. Also ask questions and invite comments.
5. Never go longer than 5 minutes without giving the group something to respond to, solve, answer or interact with.
Shelby (from PART ONE) continues to have brief weekly check in calls with me to problem solve. The leaders I see to who find that trusted advisor to problem solve with are the ones who are being the most innovative and being a strong force of calm and optimism. It’s when we can keep our heads clear that possibilities become clear as well.
I am offering select people time to talk about leadership, working from home, parenting in these times, being creative and agile in your own business pivot. If that would serve you, connect with me here: Connect with Lisa here and send me a message. I look forward to hearing from you.
Dr. Lisa E. Hale is the President of Focused Leadership Consulting. FLC develops senior leaders and senior teams. By advancing their capacity for true leadership excellence, companies achieve extraordinary business performance. Focused Leadership Consulting is currently facilitating virtual programs for leadership teams to cement their bond further during this time of physical distancing so that they can be strong, creative and inspiring – and so that their teams and companies thrive.