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Four Ways To Make Working From Home A Success

March 30, 2020
Posted by Devin Riley

By Jones Loflin

Helping With The Struggle Of Too Much To Do

I laughed out loud when I read the article, Farts, Cats, Naked Bodies: People are failing hilariously at working from home. So many disasters in video conference calls. I’ve also had several intense conversations with people working remotely who are ready to sell their children, strangle their spouse, and even give away their pets. They are learning what I have known for over 25 years… working from home is TOUGH!!! I could list lots of reasons why that’s the case, but here are the big ones I see:

  • There are way more distractions. When you are “at work” in a different physical space, you might think about home or family tasks, but you can’t engage in them. You now have an endless array of possible tasks to undertake because you’re at home, and if you’re procrastinating in the slightest bit about a work task, your brain is happy to divert your attention somewhere else.
  • You don’t make the mental shift to a work mindset. When you walk out of your house you aren’t just physically going to work. You are shifting your mental and emotional energy toward getting work-related stuff done. If you’re working from home, that shift is not as clearly made, so you can find yourself less focused on work.
  • It takes practice to get good at something. If you asked me to play Call of Duty (a popular video game) and expected me to do well, you’d be sorely disappointed, because I’ve never played it before. Give me a few weeks of practice, however, and I could hold my own. This may be your first extended season of working from home, and let’s face it… you’re going to be bad at it until you learn what works best for you. It just takes time.

So what does it take to successfully work from home? As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been doing it for over two decades, and these are the four foundations I’ve seen on which to build consistent achievement in this unique environment. And to make them easier to remember, I’ll share them using the H-O-M-E acronym to help you remember them.

H-Have Clarity

One of the complaints I’ve heard from some newly remote workers is that they aren’t getting the guidance they need from their supervisors or organizations. They were just told to “work from home.” Having established goals and priorities are more critical than ever for remote environments. If not, people tend to just put in 6-8 hours of checking email, being on Zoom meetings, and getting the bare minimum done. It’s not about hours… it’s about outcomes. Some key questions to ask (and know the answers) while working remotely include:

  • What are my daily priorities?
  • What’s important for me to be working on during this time of workplace upheaval?
  • What’s something I could make progress on now that I couldn’t when working in my normal environment?
  • What’s my team or organization going to need to continue moving forward when this period of isolation is over?
  • How can I best use any discretionary work time I find in my day?

O-Orchestrate Your Environment

While the work space you had when you were working at your physical company’s site might not have been perfectly set up, it was still probably better than your work space at home. Just plopping your laptop on the kitchen table does not mean you’ll be able to get work done there. An effective work space is one where all of your senses are aligned toward getting things done. As James Clear writes in Atomic Habits, “Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior.” To see if your work from home environment is conducive to productivity, use this short checklist:

  • Sight. As you look up from your computer (which you need to do frequently), do your eyes focus on something that reminds you of an unfinished home project or task? Are you positioned so that you can look out a window to help with encouraging creativity and a bigger perspective? Is there clutter (work or home-related) that is distracting?
  • Sound. Can you frequently hear other people talking or engaging in other activities? Is the sound of an appliance distracting you?
  • Smell. Laugh all you want, but smell has a tremendous impact on productivity and focus. My wife used to cook or bake in the morning hours and the smell would travel to where I was trying to work. All I could think about was how hungry I was. She now refrains from baking or cooking until the afternoon, or when I’m not in my home office area. I’ve started using a diffuser with essential oils to help me focus at work (lavender and peppermint seem to work best for me).
  • Touch. An effective work space should be comfortable and help you maintain the right posture. Working from the couch is comfortable, but your posture might soon be a bit too relaxed. Working while sitting at the dining table might maintain the right posture, but its comfort may be short-lived.
  • Taste. Working from home invites every food craving to be a reason to stop what you’re working on. Are you finding yourself snacking more than you would at work? If so, consider putting out the amount of snack you want to eat just like you would when at work, or move to an area of your home where you aren’t as tempted to reach for the bag of chips.

I would also include your digital environment in your review. From smartphone notifications to Skype instant messages, have you set yourself up to work without distraction? Are you fully familiar with the digital capabilities offered by Zoom, Web Ex, Bluejeans, or other platforms you’re using? If not, spend some time with a tutorial to be able to use them efficiently and effectively.

Most importantly, be willing to invest some time and possibly even money into creating the right work environment. Regardless of how long this isolation lasts, there is no question that working from home is going to be more accepted and expected in the future. Don’t be afraid to paint some walls, buy a better work chair, or even rearrange a room to create the environment you need to be productive. You’re going to be using it more than you think.

M-Make Everyone Aware Of Your Plan

With school-age children and possibly your life partner at home these days as well, it’s easy to get sidetracked with the needs and expectations of others. Start improving your productivity by getting everyone on the same page as to when things need to happen during the day. From meals to breaks to your turn to “watch the kids,” everyone needs to know the plan-and abide by it unless there is an emergency. 

Create and post schedules for each day and review each morning. You’ll also want to communicate your plans to those who will need to get in contact with you during the day. Unless you have a real jerk for a boss (or coworkers), they will respect your need to build in time for family and personal responsibilities. And if you’re working based on outcomes and not hours (see “Have Clarity” section), it shouldn’t be a problem.

E-Engineer Your Entire Day

One fallacy followed by those newly working from home in this Coronavirus era is that they can relax their planning and scheduling because they aren’t having to drive to work or transport children to as many events and activities. This more casual approach can lead to wasting precious minutes and losing that sense of order and urgency that fuels their productivity.

I highly encourage you to take the opposite approach. Plan for every minute of your day. Think about how each hour could best be used to accomplish your goals as an employee, spouse, and parent. This includes your evening hours. Be more intentional about planning specific activities with family members and friends. Plan meals for the week (and who will prepare them) so there’s less ambiguity. Give your brain every opportunity to fully focus on work when it needs to, instead of thinking of all the “loose ends” you haven’t addressed in your day.

Most importantly, don’t miss the chance to improve the relationship and self-care areas of your life. There are special moments you can create with your family and for yourself because of being at home during the day. After all, what you are working for anyway?

Jones Loflin is a global keynote speaker on innovative yet practical solutions to help with the struggle of too much to do. He is the author of several books, including Always Growing and the award-winning, Juggling Elephants. Jones is a leader in solutions for individuals, groups, and businesses dealing with too much to do and all the tools to support balanced, productive lives.

Four Ways To Make Working From Home A Success By: Jones Loflin

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Posted by Devin Riley

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