It’s Sunday afternoon and I know many of us are looking towards tomorrow as the start of three to four weeks of working from home – for better or for worse! For some of us, working from home (WFH) is how we usually work but for so many, this will be a new experience…potentially compounded by our kids being home too!
As you probably guessed, I’m here to share five ways we can stay hopeful while working from home – and they’re all about future-facing activities, staying connected and taking advantage of this opportunity, one that is not likely to come around in quite the same way ever again.
#1 – Be prepared
If you’re a knowledge worker that typically goes to an office every day, do you know what you’ll need to work from home as far as accessibility to files and folders, secure network connections, power cords for your laptop? What about access to a printer, the ability to dial-into meetings and the contact information for key players in your organization should you need to inform them of anything? How’s your internet speed and data consumption limits?
Many organizations have plans and technology in place to support a remote workforce so make sure you know what those plans are and stay informed of available resources to help support you while you’re home. I know the company I work with has set-up Remote Readiness Drop-in Centers where you can simulate an at-home experience and make sure your technology is ready to be at home. It’s likely your company will increase staffing levels on your Support Desk to be available for those who need help setting up at home so make sure you have the phone number written down somewhere if you’re home and can’t access your office – won’t do you any good to have the phone number on your company intranet page if you can’t access it!
Hopefully thinking is about recognizing the future will be better that today and being proactive and prepared is a great way to stay hopeful and productive.
#2 – Get creative
What if you aren’t someone who goes to an office everyday and your place of work is a warehouse or a shop, some other kind of brick & mortar location and being able to connect a laptop to a network isn’t how you work-from-home? We’ll have to be really creative in these scenarios to stay productive and use this time to it’s full potential. Think of tasks and activities you just never get to, those ones that you know need to be done but there’s other daily priorities…any of those you can do from home? Think about filing that might be overdue, or bolt bins that could be sorted…are there Operations or Safety manuals that are out-of-date and could be brought into current? Maybe you have a whole bunch of new processes and procedures that haven’t yet been written down…could someone on your team update those while they’re home?
I’ve been thinking about updating contact lists – do you have out-of-date information that someone on your team could call folks and get current info from? What about suppliers you’ve been meaning to change but haven’t bothered because you’re too busy – maybe now is the time to get quotes from new suppliers and re-engage old ones. Are there contracts you can consolidate or inventory levels you’ve been meaning to top up but haven’t had time to do the pre-work necessary? How’s your website look? Anyone on your team have experience updating websites and interested to take that on?
My point is that even if your workplace isn’t somewhere that workers can easily stay productive at home, there are many ways to still engage them in the important but not urgent work that just never seems to get done.
#3 – Set weekly productivity-based goals
Anyone who’s familiar with my work around Hope and Hope Theory, knows that goal setting is one of the keys to staying hopeful and think these times are a really cool opportunity to get intentional about achieving our goals while staying flexible to the needs of our workforce. Chances are high that even if your team is working from home, there are going to be a lot of distractions – kids, the news, laundry. We all have the best of intentions and I’m sure we all want to be as productive at home as we are at the office but the reality is that WFH is just different.
I’m a big fan of smaller, weekly goals where we can see tangible progress and I think this is a perfect time to really focus on these kinds of goals. Especially since folks won’t be together in real life and holding each other accountable naturally by being around each other all day, setting a goal (or two) for each week will help. And because it’s likely we won’t be working “regular” hours, fitting our home lives around our work lives, setting the expectation to accomplish a goal by the end of the week gives our teams flexibility to work on that task, and complete that task, when it works for them, not necessarily enforcing work to be done during regular business hours. This flexibility will be so key for your employees and help relieve the stress that is so very likely to surface having to balance all the things.
Schedule daily virtual stand-ups with your teams or at least weekly accountability check-ins to ensure people are progressing towards their goals, have all the resources and support they need to be successful and feel like they’re not alone.
#4 – Be intentional about supporting a Remote workforce
For some, working from home will be awesome but for others, it’ll be a lonely experience. Especially for those of us who get our energy being around people, WFH could really drain our batteries and create a tendency to slip into lower levels of Hope. For others, who thrive in a more quiet and distraction-free environment, working from home could be ideal…until the laundry starts calling or cabin fever has set in for the kids. Regardless of where you fall on the scale, this is a cool opportunity for employers to really support their remote workforce.
My friend, Dr. Laura Hambley of Work EvOHlution, have a whole toolbox of things you can do to be intentional about supporting your workforce – she and her team specialize in exactly these situations. Some really simple things you can implement right at the beginning of your time at home is to implement a daily 15 minute virtual stand-up, as I mentioned earlier. This is where your whole team gets on a video call (or at least a conference call) for 15 minutes and shares successes and asks questions, maybe a funny story or a tip to stay hopeful. Just a cool opportunity for face-to-face time with your team on a consistent basis. Where possible, have video meetings with your people – make sure you can see each other as we all know how much is communicated via non-verbal interactions. Maybe assign someone on your team to send out funny cat videos or inspirational TedTalks each day to stay connected…gives an opportunity to learn more about each other when you’re sharing your feedback and thoughts in response to the videos or talks. Suggest you also designate someone on the team, maybe a leader or someone with mental health support experience, to always be available should a team member be struggling with their mental health. This could be a rotating role and this person should know how to access any Employee Assistance Plans (EAPs) available to your employees as well as the numbers to local health services and potentially, testing centers as well.
#5 – Move your body
Okay, okay…you’re going to be sick of me telling you to move your body! But it’s so important, and take it from someone who works at home on the regular…you’ll be surprised how little you actually get up from your desk when you don’t have others around you to invite you for coffee, when you’re not heading to meeting rooms or out for lunch. I actually have a reminder on my phone to prompt me to get my butt out of my chair and dance around for a minute or two each hour. Otherwise I can go hours not really moving, especially if I’m really into a spreadsheet 😊
And speaking of dancing…do more dancing! I told you how cool the dancing experience was at the Rise! Conference last weekend and I’ve totally brought dancing into my life on the regular. Pick a song, add it to a ring tone on your phone and set it to go off every hour…then dance around like a fool! Dance like nobody’s watching! Even if people are watching…get them to join in too! I promise you, it’ll feel so awesome when it’s over…you’ll be looking forward to the next time the alarm rings. Your mood will improve, any stiffness in your back or shoulders will relax and the smile on your face will relieve any tension you feel in your jaw or your forehead. Trust me, you’ll like it.
The other thing I’m finding that works lately, especially when I’m not feeling confident…if I’m feeling anxious or worried and find myself slouching or notice that my head is hanging – I strike a power pose! I know, another ridiculous thing…but I promise you it works! Stand like Wonderwoman – hands on hips, shoulders back and head high. Instant confidence! Or try flexing like you’re Schwarzenegger and you’ve just won the Mr. Universe contest…instant strength! Maybe Cleopatra is more your style and standing like an Egyptian will do it for you…instant power! Whatever it is, Madonna says strike a pose and see what happens to your mood.
This pandemic is scary, unknown and such a unique experience that it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the newness of it all. I’m very hopeful that our communities are ready to support each other, to take advantage of the positive opportunities this time will allow us to experience and be intentional about taking care of each other. The future will be better than it is today and hopefully some or all of these tips will resonate with you and your teams.
As always, I’m here if you need me.
Starting tomorrow, Monday, Mar 16 at 10am MST, I’ll be hosting a daily Facebook Live on my Expert in Hope FB page, answering questions around hope and staying hopeful while we ride out this season in our lives. Love you to join me!
Oh…and wash your damn hands! 😊