4 Tips to Not Be Bad at Working from Home

I was talking with a client recently who kept saying they are “bad at working from home.” Throughout the conversation, they mentioned their ability to be a forward or strategic thinker was hindered because of distractions at home.

Though we can all relate to having distractions at home in whatever form they come in (kids, roommates, the pile of laundry you’ve been meaning to do, food, neighbors, pets), learning how to be more efficient in your work-from-home approach will help you in the long run, especially as we try to imagine what life will be like during cold and flu season just a few short months after the stay-at-home orders around the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, first, create your space. Assess what you need to get done and create the space that will ensure you can achieve your performance expectations. Do you need privacy and quiet? Do you need a large computer screen? Do you need additional technology and connections? Do you have Zoom meetings that will show your space on screen? Create what you need to be successful.

Second, remove the obvious distractions. Working at home can put many distractions right in your reach. Scan your area for anything that will distract you such as the TV remote, the availability of snacks, piles of laundry, dirty dishes, other household activity. Take a step back and just observe your workspace. Ask yourself: what could disrupt me in an unproductive way? Then remove it.

Third, create a daily to do list. Spend whatever time you need at the start of your day getting your head in the right place. Review your calendar so you know what calls or deliverables are required. Consider creating your to do list in order of priority with the items at the top of the list that need to be done today. Or, if you like to see the red marks as you cross things off your list, consider creating an “at work” list and an “at home” list. Identify 2-3 big things for each list you want to accomplish for that specific day and stay focused on getting those tasks done.

And finally, divide your day into blocks of time. This includes work and home times. For work times, set your day up to tackle the biggest, most important or thought-provoking items you need to complete during the part of the day when you are most productive. Be sure to define a clear start and end to your workday to also be able to accommodate the home requirements. This may take some time to notice what works best for both your work and home responsibilities, so challenge yourself to take note of what works best to get done what has to get done.

Working from home can be challenging when there are multiple distractions outside of your control. But following these four tips can help you set yourself up for success as a productive work-from-home employee.

Take Action
Take each step on its own. Master each one before you move on to the next. Take a day to get adjusted to the approach and give yourself some grace in learning this adjustment. There will need to be some flexibility for the first week or so, but stick to your new guidelines. You’ll see a drastic improvement in your productivity and mental capability.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading How to Balance Working From Home With Kids

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How to Balance Working from Home with Kids

Everyone is feeling the strain right now. The truth is that we’ve all been feeling it for months: the need to get your work done when you’re working from home when your kids are also home.

Regardless of how old they are, kids need guidance. Babies need your attention for just about everything. Toddlers can’t be left to their own devices for long. Tweens and teens need encouragement and support, especially as they work through remote learning. And adult children are likely look for emotional support and guidance, especially as they try to work through what all of this means for them and their independence, their friends and their family.

Trying to balance getting your work done while meeting the needs of your children is exhausting. We’re trying so hard to make it all work, trying to do it all. And though we don’t want to admit it, here’s the truth: a balanced life is not real. Time spent on one thing means time spent away from another.

So how do you successfully balance working from home when you have kids?

Consider these four tips:

First, identify your one big thing for work and home life that you want to achieve each day. Regardless of how many action items you have outstanding on your to do list, pick just one thing for work and one thing at home that, once done, will make you feel like it was a good, productive day.

Second, create a routine. This is as much for you as it is for them. Get used to starting your day the same way. Identify your work time. Identify school time. Identify free play time. Consider starting your day with a family meeting, maybe even over breakfast. Talk to each other about the day ahead. Communicate big events (like important work calls) or deadlines. Share frustrations and concerns. Make it a daily event and it will start to come easy.

Third, establish boundaries. When you’re working, it’s work time. No interruptions (except in extreme situations, and be sure to define what those are). When it’s school time, everyone is engaged. No excuses. Clearly define what “free play time” means and, if needed, put limits on screen time. I have found that having a brief family meeting each morning is a good way to reconfirm and remind everyone in the house about the boundaries, including a consequence for not supporting them. This is, after all, critical to making things work at this particular moment.

And finally, create a mental well-being space. Give a name like, Me time. Down time. Relaxing time. Whatever you choose to call it, make sure you build it into your day. You cannot pour from an empty cup (and I think most parents right now would say they operate on about 50% battery power on a good day).

These four tips – identify your one big thing for the day, create a routine, establish boundaries and create some mental well-being space – are how to get your arms around this working from home thing.

Whether this is temporary or permanent for you, it will require your thought, focus and intention to build and sustain something that works. Defining it and bringing everyone into knowing the approach will help ensure its success.

Take Action
Being told that the way to be effective working from home means doing more work can sound like a lot, but take it one step at a time. Start with the one thing from tip #1. What would a productive and successful day look like for you? Set your intention for the day, for both work and at home. Focus on getting those two things done and you’ll feel empowered to try the next tip.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Staying Productive When Your World Goes Quiet

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How to Manage New Remote Employees

COVID-19 has made us rethink many things about our businesses: how we do our work, who remains and who goes, how we keep our employees safe, how we share information and how we support our customers, just to name a few. One of the newest changes from this pandemic is that many of our local employees have become remote employees.

As a manager, how will you ensure their success as remote employees?

We believe it has everything to do with the way you manage (and actually coach) them.

Let’s say you have used a methodical process to assess which roles can be shifted to remote, and that you have evaluated whether the employees in these roles have the capacity to work remotely, including having a remote workspace. If they are incapable of working independently and don’t have workspace to complete their jobs, they should not be allowed to be remote.

But let’s say they are a good candidate for remote work. They are now set up at home and, because they haven’t done this before, you know you will need to interact and connect with them differently. The reason? You want them to be amazing in their roles, to be productive, successful and happy, so they will contribute, grow and develop with the organization.

Consider these four tips to help your new remote employees rock at their jobs.

  • Think and act like a coach. You have to start with you. Regardless of how you managed this employee / these employees before, what they now need is a coach. Coaches make time to ask, listen, support and guide. Coaches hold others accountable for their commitments and their work. Coaches help others solve their own challenges instead of filling in the blanks and doing the work of others. This approach activates greater personal connection, accountability and loyalty. Before you start managing your remote employee, learn the fundamentals of coaching. These include learning how to be self-aware and self-managed to shift the attention on the other party. Focus on gathering information, brainstorming ideas, choosing ideas and implementing performance plans. As you shift from controlling (managing) to guiding (coaching), you will interact differently with your employees, both those who are local and those who are remote. You will make time to explain, review, support and develop your employees. The reason for this is that it gets the work done more effectively while building rapport, increasing engagement and encouraging loyalty from your employees – particularly remote employees. This helps the remote employee be more committed to their role (that now has less direct supervision) leading to successful performance.
  • Define or redefine the performance expectations of the job. Since the remote employee may not be new to the job but new to the remote environment, defining, redefining or reconfirming the expectations and assessing what is reasonable based on the new environment is critical. The goal is to help the employee be successful in this new arrangement, and business as usual is not likely to happen. This could include a daily huddle or 10-minute review of expectations and challenges. As a coach, making time to review, guide and support encourages the employee’s confidence and competence. This helps to make a more effective remote employee.
  • Regularly assess performance. As this approach to work is new for the remote employee, increase the amount of time you assess and evaluate their performance. This isn’t to come down on things not done, but rather to create a recurring performance conversation about what’s working and not working so the employee knows they are supported, can improve in areas needing improvement and is applauded for successes. Again, acting more as a coach than a manager encourages an easy discussion about performance instead of one that is defined by worry about being reprimanded or scolded for things not done well.
  • Include the remote employee in local employee meetings and activities. Being remote may create a benefit for the employee in one respect, but it also can interrupt their ability to feel connected to their team. It will require intention to continually include remote employees in the discussions and activities of local employees. Challenge the team to develop ways to constantly and successfully include all employees and to ensure morale, engagement and the feeling of inclusion remain high. Activities such as team meetings, brainstorming sessions and even birthday celebrations can include remote employees so they feel included. Get creative in how you can have remote employees participate in the things local employees do.

New remote employees will need support. Though they were capable employees in a local environment, even the best employees can find themselves distracted, disconnected and disappointed in a new remote environment. Unless, of course, you create a successful environment for them.

Take Action
Stop and assess your management style. What is effective and ineffective about it with your new remote employees? Make the time to ask how your connection and support with your new employees is working. This will give you feedback and set up an honest exchange that will facilitate your working relationship and their performance success.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Ways to Get Your Employees to Want to Do More

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How To Keep Your Team Energized When Some Now Work Remotely

You had a great team. Everyone was focused and engaged because you had your daily huddle, you shared your performance expectations, you spent time each day connecting and developing your team and you made each team member feel included, valued and special. Then COVID-19 struck. Now, this tight-knit team is working from home. Your team now feels disjointed, confused and less connected than before.

How do you get back the great culture you created when some – or all – of your team now works out of the office?

Despite the fact that the remote workforce has become more of the norm over the past few years (since more of our work can successfully be done remotely), it has never been done on such a vast scale before. Sure, working remotely is a great benefit or role attractor for many people, so we have started to see managers learn how to keep the team cohesive, energized and engaged, but that just scratched the surface.

Consider the following ideas to keep your team connected and feeling supported when world events may move them to different locations.

  • Adjust your attitude. Yes, it would be great to have the entire team together in the same room, but some things in life are beyond your control. Spending any energy wishing it were different just uses your energy to be disappointed instead of solving how you want to keep the team excited and engaged. How you choose to look at this situation will allow you a narrow or wide view of the options to create a remarkable and connected team, regardless of the distance. So, as in most things, start with you first. Work to change your perspective. When you see that this is just a change that needs a new approach, you will find the energy and excitement to do it well.
  • Begin with the end in mind. Define what a great and high-energy team looks like and what makes it. This could include defining the quality of the relationships that exist between team members, the way the team supports and communicates with each other, or even the way they support each other on tasks because they share deadlines and expectations. Knowing what a high-energy team acts like creates a clear goal. From here, the team can brainstorm and consider meaningful options to achieve it.
  • Engage the team for ideas. It is in the team’s best interest (as it is in yours) to have a team that is wildly successful together. Have the team suggest ways to keep their energy high when some – or all – of the members are working remotely. As in effective brainstorming, accept all ideas. From these ideas, you can collectively choose the best ones and give them a try. A few ideas to consider as ways to engage remote employees include a daily Zoom or Skype huddle; a daily individual call to the remote employee to check in on progress and to talk about the work experience; an activity each week that requires team members to reach out to each other, such as a fun scavenger hunt or a project that puts employees with different abilities together. It is the intention of constantly connecting the worlds of local and remote employees that creates the ability for all employees to feel connected.
  • Try the ideas and assess their impact. Give any idea chosen a timetable to be fully implemented. Then assess what worked and what didn’t work about it. Have the team discuss how to do more of the successes and propose ideas to improve what didn’t work. This will keep the ideas coming and keep the focus on having an amazing team.

Local or remote, you need your team to connect and work seamlessly together. Sometimes this is easier when everyone is local, but in today’s COVID-19 world, that may not be possible. So, spend your energy helping the team define their new normal, how they want it to be and what they would be willing to do to have a high-impact and connected team.

Take Action
Engage your team to define how they want their interactions to be. With this clarity, host conversations to generate ideas, try the ideas and assess what works and doesn’t work. Keep developing and trying ideas until you consistently deliver the team experience you want.

Having a team that includes remote employees doesn’t mean the team has to be disconnected and disengaged. We all work better when we are valued, cared for and are included – regardless of where we work. Knowing some of the team will now be working remotely challenges us to come up with greater ideas on how to make this happen. We can respond. We are smart, resilient and capable. Guide them to build what they want.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How to Get the People Thing Right for your Business

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Do You Have What it Takes to Be Successful Working From Home?

As the workplace continues to compete for the best talent, organizations need to consider how they think about where their employees do their work. Though there’s an increasing number of employees who want and need to work at home, organizations must define when it makes sense for both the organization and the employee. Sometimes, employees lack the skills and discipline to be effective in a remote environment. Sometimes, the organization’s business approach or use of highly sensitive information may not lend itself to be outside the building’s four walls. And sometimes, it comes down to this: getting the work done correctly and on time.

As someone who has had a home office for the past dozen years, I have learned some things that work well and other things that should be avoided to ensure effectiveness when working remotely.

If you’re thinking about working from home and need to first get permission, ask yourself two questions:

1. Does working at home make sense for the work I do, the culture of the company and my impact in my job? Just because you want to work from home doesn’t mean it makes sense for the job you have or the way work is done in your organization. Making it all about you is a great way to have your boss say no.

However, if you can assess how working remotely aligns to the work you do, and you can show how it could improve your output while still fitting within the organization’s beliefs and work approach, it’s worth asking about. Showing that you have thought about working remotely from the organization’s perspective is the way to lead in this discussion.

2. Do I have what it takes to be successful in a limited supervision and remote environment? Before you say yes (because you really want to work remotely), be realistic. Are you organized? Can you create a space at home where you can be focused, thoughtful and able to deliver what your role or job expects or requires from you? Can you create a workday in your personal space that does not have you distracted by friends, neighbors, family, pets or other things so that you can be successful with your expectations? Do you need interaction and contact with your peers on an ad hoc or frequent basis to brainstorm, solve or deal with workplace issues? Do you need resources that are best supplied in a centralized workplace environment? What is your real motivation for working remotely? Answer these questions honestly to give you a full reality-check image of what working from home could really be like for you.  

Spend some time with these questions and be sure that your reasons for remote work accommodate both your company and the way for you to deliver your best work.

Now, consider the other side of the story: you already work remotely, but you need to improve your output.

Consider the following things to improve your effectiveness:

  • Assess whether you have the talents and skills to do the job well. Most remote employees with poor performance are employees who are hired into roles that don’t align to their abilities. If you need specific talents to be effective in the role and do not have them, you will likely struggle to perform. If you are missing some skills that would improve your performance, reach out to your manager and have a plan to develop the skills. If you are misaligned in your job, either you can’t do the work well, or are just not that interested in doing it well. The outcome is the same – average performance. Focus on alignment; does your remote job fit you? If not, start to locate opportunities in the organization that better align to your core talents and strengths.
  • Look at your remote workspace and make it a successful workspace. Consider your remote space your “office.” What do you need to have in it to facilitate your effectiveness? What gets in your way that you need to modify or eliminate? It is up to you to create a space conducive to your performance success.
  • Assess your personal organization and self-discipline. If you are not organized, get some guidance in activity management or spatial organization. If you are not self-disciplined, develop a reward schedule that defines your performance expectations and the reward you give yourself the more you comply with your expectations. For example, you may create an expectation that when your office door is closed, you are in work mode. Your focus is on your work and not on other things. When the door is open, you are available to the house, snacking and other things. The door becomes your tool to improve your self-discipline. Or, consider engaging a coach or mentor to help develop your personal organization skills and self-discipline habits. Get them to the level they need to be to ensure your success.

The goal is for you to be as effective, efficient and extraordinary working remotely as if you were working locally. That means you have to be in a job that aligns to your abilities and skills, and that you have the organization, focus and self-discipline to work by yourself. Remote work is not for everyone. Assess whether it works for your organization and works for you.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Don’t Panic (until it’s time to panic)

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