working-at-home professional

5 Tips For Sanity And Success While Working From Home

Small companies and industries that traditionally would not allow employees to work from home have had to adjust so they can stay in business due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I began working from home over a decade ago for a multi-state, multi-national company with over 150,000 employees. They had long ago learned that giving up leasing commercial real estate meant greater profits. They mastered working at home through video conference calls, conference calls, and instant messaging systems. My life functioned with a very brisk morning routine, followed by breakfast at my desk and a full work schedule from 8 AM to at least 6 PM, but generally 8 PM – with no breaks.  My assistant took a trip to San Francisco and she thoughtfully bought me a gift. It was a metal plaque, probably 12” x 12”, from Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary that read: “REGULATION #20: As a general rule, you will work eight hours a day, five days a week, with Saturdays and Sundays devoted to recreation. Alcatraz USP Institution & Regulations.”

Shortly thereafter, she started monitoring me and enforcing a break system – true story. It entailed my going outside and sitting in front of our Koi pond for a 10-minute period – twice a day.  This was before anybody knew what mindfulness was.  I have to say, it did make a difference; I was much calmer when I returned to my desk.  I was also more focused, multi-tasked less and accomplished more. Having worked eight years from my home office while managing 200 employees and 10 states, there are five more tips I learned that are critical for sanity and success while working at home:

  1. Eat breakfast. Breakfast is key – you can’t level up your day if you don’t fuel up.
  2. Eat lunch. Eat dinner. Same rationale as above. Both can be done at your desk – eat an energy bar if you must – eat. Hydrate.
  3. Understand how to use the technology you are given and make sure that you are fully clothed while in front of the camera – like for real. You would be amazed at how often people at all levels are not – seriously. I have seen more than one person bare chested and bare shouldered with wet hair on 7 AM conference calls than I care to remember (bulging eye emoji) . Some of whom were on my team…
  4. Seems super simple but…make absolutely sure your phone is muted if you are having a conversation with a service technician, your partner or your children. And anytime you are swearing at anyone…YES I have done it.
  5. Dogs barking are the most common and biggest annoyance during any form of a call. Have you ever been on a committee or Board meeting outside of work using a Zoom venue and an attendee has a dog on the call? Seriously? Everyone thinks their dog is cute. Everyone. I’m here to tell you most people don’t think that your dog or cat is cute as theirs! And they don’t want to hear it or see it when they’re trying focus on the on the call. The same goes for kiddos. Even when they act like they do…

Working from home can be challenging. But it can also be incredibly rewarding. It allows for greater flexibility and you would be surprised how flexible most bosses are around things like exercising during lunch, doctor’s appointments, or school meetings when you are working from home. It’s really important to talk to your boss about those parameters and generally, they are more flexible than you may think.  For executives, many companies have stipends for things like country clubs and special training funds for high performers. It’s worth asking about, particularly during a period of working at home where there is more flexibility — taking off to network on the golf course or catch up on an actuarial class during the day is much more realistic too.

Lastly, checking in with your leader around performance expectations is even more important now because it seems that for many when they don’t have the ability to drop by their leader’s office and check in it, it can be intimidating to make an unplanned phone call.  They fell like they are being intrusive.  A way to address this is through regular, planned zoom or telecon one-on-ones. It can keep you in check in terms of tracking deadlines, deliverables and outputs.  Check-in with yourself to see what’s working for you in terms of working remotely and what’s not.  What steps can you take to address each of those areas? Are there opportunities for you to leverage working at home to become even more successful?  How can you showcase those successes?

Comment (1)

  • Mary Ann (M.A.) Reilly Reply

    Spot on.

    April 17, 2021 at 6:58 pm

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