Lessons From Working at Home

Lessons From Working at Home

For those of you who are used to working from home… you might be getting a good laugh from problems people are having while they adjust to the new normal. (Like those people who forgot to turn off their computer cameras at unfortunate moments.)

But whether you are a new remote worker or a veteran, we all share the same concerns: This will be easier if the kids go back to school soon, right? Is this my new normal? How am I going to get everything done?

And given the economic climate in the nation, you’ve probably tried to put your best face forward and have just felt grateful to have a job at all. Income coming in, even under trying circumstances, is better than being stuck at home wondering how to make ends meet.

So what have we learned from working remotely? How can you prepare for the new normal?

Here is a list of lessons we’ve learned since going remote that will help you adjust to the new norm:

  1. Tech is an essential skill… and can no longer be left to just IT

A couple of months ago, most people had never even heard of Zoom, much less had experience with it. Now it has been adopted not only by businesses but by schools and churches as well.

While we’ve all experienced tech foibles and mishaps along the way, it is clear that navigating new tech is now considered an essential skill.

Consider what areas you know you need to improve in and make a goals list for yourself.

Whether it is Google Drive, cloud sharing, videoconferencing, moving around funds electronically, organizational apps or keeping your router and modem running smoothly, this is a great time to step up your game and make it a goal to become proficient at these technologies.

Keep in mind that tech has support, FAQs and YouTube videos to help you out. Or ask a colleague or friend for help — or a teenager, if you have one around!

You don’t want to be the one who is late joining the conference because you are trying to figure out how to log in.

And speaking of logging in, the place for all the new passwords and login info is not on random sticky notes on your desk. If you are on a private and secure computer, ask your browser to remember them.

Additionally, store this information in a reliable password keeper like 1Password, an app available for your phone and desktop. Bonus: 1Password will autofill logins for you, and all you have to remember is its master password.

  1. Keep things balanced

The perennial dilemma for those that work from home is the balance of work and family needs and distractions. Right now that is even more difficult for parents who have their children home because of school and daycare closings. 

Some parents take turns helping out the kids with school, and some have managed to find a babysitter or other child care option. Finding your personal balance will take patience, creativity and clear communication.

An important consideration for those working at home is to set aside a dedicated workspace, such as an office, nook or spare unused room. That allows you to shut the door and focus on work and to leave the office space when the workday is over.

An important piece of this equation is to make your needs and expectations clear to your family.

Let them know, for example, how you prefer to be contacted if they need you while you are working. If you spend a lot of time on videoconferences, for example, it is helpful if family members know to text you instead of knocking on the door.

One working parent had the bright idea to put a picture of a stoplight on his office door. His young children could tell whether or not it was OK to visit by whether he had a Post-it arrow on the red or green light. A “do not disturb” sign may also be in order.

  1. Work in a space that works for you

And while for some the work-at-home space may have been hastily improvised, it does not need to look like an impromptu afterthought. This is where “you do you,” keeping in mind that a functional work-at-home space doesn’t look the same for everyone.

Make sure that you have the necessary tools at hand, and organize the space to the level that you are most productive. If at all possible, make sure that you are somewhere that gets natural light. Add a plant or two, rearrange pictures and do a little decluttering. Try to eliminate distractions as well as things that may cause others to interrupt you while you work.

Making your space comfortably yours may also involve an air purifier, a scented candle or some music. How about an additional comfortable chair to have as an option for when you are tired of your desk chair?

Being sensitive to your work rhythms and productivity patterns is a potential upside of working at home, especially if your workday is not real-time sensitive. You can work into the night if that is when your best energies are flowing, or get up early and knock out the big things so that you can take a slower afternoon. When you figure out your best work energy patterns, you are able to leverage maximum efficiency from each day.

If this work-at-home thing is relatively new to you, we hope that the most important thing you’ve learned is to give yourself a little grace as you’ve worked your way up the learning curve. Face it, some days will seem fairly productive and some days will be write-offs. Sometimes, you make the deadline and other days a kid blows a gasket or the washer floods the laundry room.

Some days, the stress of our crazy world just gets the better of you.

Take a walk, take a break, take a breather and clear your mind a little.

We’re living in unusual times, so cut yourself a break. You have more to give to your job when you are taking proper care of yourself.

When it’s all said and done, you may be glad to return to a bustling workplace, sad to leave the comforts of home, or busy forging a new normal for yourself. Regardless of what your circumstances are, you have the opportunity to take what you’ve learned in this time and carry it forward to bring a new perspective to your work situation.

If nothing else, you surely have more appreciation for your professional flexibility!

With purpose,

Patrick Gentempo

Patrick Gentempo