This past week, both Ohio and then the United States have declared a state of emergency, and we, the public, face schools, colleges and office jobs mandating students, faculty and employees work from home.
It dawned on me that not everyone has experienced or knows how to adjust to working from our domiciles. I first started my business back in 2007 and during our country’s last crisis, the market crash of 2008, shifted my work to 100% remote. This enabled me to work not just from my home office, but also from wherever my travels took me. The past decade taught me a lot about what is functional and what is not. Working in our pajamas may seem like a long-imagined dream come true, but one thing to remember — working from home is serious work.
1. Invest in All the Right Tech Tools — Upgrade to the quickest wifi, clear out your laptop of unnecessary files (move, back, up, cloud, whatever works for you), know/write down all your hardware, software and app passwords, (especially those from your job or school), and have the right IT assistance on speed dial. Learn to use video conferencing tools. Explore what your smart phone can do for you. Depending on your age/health/budget, you may also want to consider in acquiring a bigger/tinted screen to help with vision and headaches.
2. Designate a Dedicated Work Space — You may have the luxury of a spare bedroom or you may need to carve out a functioning and well-lit corner of your living room. It does not have to be luxurious. But it needs to set your brain to “This is my work space. This is where I need to show up to every morning as I would to my remote office.” Invest in a proper/ergonomic office chair. Your back will thank you later. Or. This is a perfect time to try that standing desk. Find a functioning lamp. Try it out. Is your set-up ready to go the minute you approach it? It needs to be. If you absolutely need to share the space with another family member, then schedule on/off times. Otherwise, try to set up multiple functioning work stations around your home.
3. Stock up with office supplies — Your firm may allow you to shop the supply closet, or not. Either way, you need the basics: pens, file folders and whatever method of organization works for you. Even if you’re lean and green, find a proper work journal. We assume our technology will get us through this crisis. However, writing down your projects, clients and ideas is a great way to better recall the details of everything. Also — and I’ve noticed this pattern increase not just with entrepreneurs at Starbucks, but also with my CSU students — go back to paper planners. Spending one hour a week — either Sundays or Fridays — to write down ALL your deliverables, for works, school and even home, and making those organized to-do lists, with the dates in from of you, sets a nice rhythm to the week.
4. Communicate Clearly with Your Home Base — Whether you’re the boss, a member of the team or the sales lead for your client, make sure you know where to get the right information, when the team calls/remote meetings are, projects touchpoints, and any and all changes that may (and will) happen during this chaotic season we’re all living through. If you are not getting the answers or information you’re needing, then know who to ask. If you’re the one setting the rules, make sure you clearly communicate them to your team and that everyone knows where they can access the right schedule and information. If anything, over communicate, share the information on multiple platforms and follow up with people. Be the hero.
5. Shut Off All Distractions — This is not the time to Netflix and Chill. At least not during your regularly scheduled work time. And believe me, no one loves the 11am-noon The Price is Right hour more than I do. But unless you’re that early morning person who is pumping out emails at 7am and can take an early lunch, enhancing background music is your primary entertainment. Some friends or family members may not initially respect your time, so it’ll be up to you to set those boundaries. It’s also especially easy right now to drown in social media. And I say this with zero judgement, as this week I’ve been sucked into the Twitter news vortex. Best thing to do is block time to do that and short of LinkedIn, or whatever professional network is part of your daily job, ignore that noise as it kills productivity. Also, work time is not laundry time.
6. Take a Timed Break — Get up, stretch, breathe in some fresh air and if the weather is right go for a short walk or bike ride. This is such a strange time, and we need to give our minds and hearts some level of relief from all of it. Breathe, meditate, do yoga, do some personal writing, put on your favorite music and do some dancing, by yourself or with your family. They’ll love seeing you being silly. Especially in a crisis. Then get back to work.
Image: A. Sukhoy
Alexsandra (Alex) Sukhoy. I’m a writer, marketer and career coach at Creative Cadence LLC, and both graduate and undergraduate full time faculty at CSU’s Monte Ahuja College of Business. You can find my first business book, Date Your Career: The Longest Relationship of Your Life, on Amazon. I’m currently writing a film noir screenplay called The Girl from Cleveland City.
If you have career related questions that you’d like to see addressed in this column, PM me on LinkedIn.