When we launched Orangeball, we began as a virtual agency. A team of three partners who had all faced a layoff together, we began our new journey working from home offices. Early on, we got used to using cloud resources and video conferencing tools to stay connected and build our business.
That was eight years ago. Eventually, we moved to our office where we work side-by-side… until now. Today, we’re facing a new reality. With COVID-19, I’m writing this from my desk at home, reflecting on how we launched and those early days working virtually.
Here are ten things I learned back then about working from home that I’m putting into practice again today…
- “Go” to work. It can be challenging to walk across the hall from your kitchen to your office, or to roll in from your bedroom in the morning, and get started. One of the first lessons I learned was that there was value in creating some kind of “drive to work” routine. Mine used to involve getting in the car and driving to a local coffee shop, then coming back as though I was walking into an office. Obviously that’s not an option today, but find a way to create a simple routine that mimics arriving at work. Step outside, drive around the block, or dress like you’re headed to work. Spending the day in your pajamas or sweats may not be the best way to arrive and thrive.
- Set aside a work space. If working from home was something that was going to last for a couple of days, camping out on the couch or working from the kitchen table would be fine. Looking at this and knowing it might take a bit longer than that, I’d encourage you to find a space that you dedicate to work. That way, you can protect as much of your personal life and home as possible, and keep work from bleeding into your personal space.
- Make it as comfortable as possible. Your office at work has some personality – knick-knacks and mementos, things on the wall. Making the shift to working from home, it’s time to create a similar, comfortable space at home. Put up a couple of photos, surround yourself with some of your favorite things, and do what you can to make the place you’ll be working feel refreshing.
- Plan your day. Waking up and “:walking into work” each day, you must have a plan. With all the distractions and chaos we’re each experiencing, we need to make the most of each day. I use a simple daily planner each morning that you can download here. Grab a copy, and use this time to create a habit that will be valuable to you well beyond the next few weeks and months.
- Set weekly goals. As Paul Batz said during the streamed Good Leadership Breakfast this morning, “Don’t let yourself wander.” It’s important today that we maintain a long-term perspective. Keep your focus on the future, and set some goals for the coming week that will guide your work and keep you on track.
- Focus your time. It can be so easy right now to tune in to the news online, or to distract ourselves on our phones with social media and games. Don’t let yourself get derailed. Right now, more than ever, focusing your time is critical. It can be challenging when the mind starts to wander but hang in there. In those moments where you get off-track, refocus as quickly as you can.
- Protect your time. This is something I’m learning to do better and trying some new things to accomplish. One of the tricks I’m trying this week is using the timer on my phone to schedule 30 and 60-minute blocks of time where I’m locking in on projects that need to get done.
- Stay on a schedule. Working from home, this one can be a challenge. It can be easy, all of a sudden, to drift into working even more hours than usual. The office is always just a few steps away… Don’t let it distract you from the family you have at home or time connecting with friends online.
- Stay connected. One of the things that working from home does is it places you in a bubble of solitude. You lack the personal interaction we all crave and need. That said, when working from home, we need to be extra intentional to reach out and keep in touch with other people. Take some time over the next few weeks to check in with friends, colleagues, and people in your network.
- The dishes and laundry can wait. These continue to be an ongoing temptation. It can feel attractive, between calls and emails, to sneak in a load of laundry or some chores at home. Be very careful about taking the household tasks you would typically tackle AFTER work and trying to do them DURING work. Once again, the more focused you can be, the better.
You may be reading this and thinking to yourself, “I don’t have a space to work in!” Or, you might be working with young kids in the house, which creates other disruptions. None of us are fully prepared for this new normal or all the changes. Just do what you can to make the best of the situation you’re facing.
Working from home can be a challenging transition – there will be many transitions to face over the next weeks and months. The key, as we move into this, is to see the opportunities within our challenges. We also need to keep those challenges from getting us off track.
Come up with a personal plan, implementing some of what I’ve shared above, to create a framework for working from home. Set some guardrails for yourself to keep the distractions at bay, and do what you can to make the most of this time at home. Remember, we’re all in this together – and together is how we’ll all get through this! – John
If you enjoyed this and you feel like you might need a little more positivity and new ideas in the next few weeks and months, subscribe to the blog and join me here. There will be more bumps along the road to come (there always are) but feeding yourself the right messages will be the key to thriving. We’re better together… thanks for being part of this with me. – John