For sole traders, freelancers and micro businesses working from home is no new thing, however we are likely to see a massive increase in the need to work from home and while it sounds heavenly to wear what you like, stroke the dog and work the way you want to, it rarely works like that without putting a lot of strategies into place.
So, whether you manage a team (that you now need to lead remotely) work on your own or report to a boss how can you manage your time effectively, not get cabin fever and actually achieve more?
As a coach helping people with these issues is something that is naturally woven into the fibre of my time with my clients so let’s help you achieve more wherever you are working from.
Remember you can have the best business model, products & services, marketing strategy and company but without the practices around the human(s) within your organisation you are open to a lot of risk.
Let’s reduce that.
- Company ethos. If you are a company that has always operated an open-door policy then that needs to still apply – how will you ensure that happens? If you are company that believes that everyone’s ideas are valid and to be heard how are you going to ensure that still happens? A lot of the large teams I work with create communication laws so that everyone can be more productive – how can you adjust these to still support yourself, your team and your customers and suppliers? Even if you work alone knowing your preferred communication style will help create structure and increase productivity.
- Boundaries are essential in all of our lives. If you create communication laws they will includes boundaries (for instance one company banned anyone from sending emails on a Friday – this stopped the “moving a problem” mentality that made the return to work on a Monday stressful and unproductive, it also ensured people took responsibility and ownership and supported one another.) Ensure your boundaries are communicated and honoured. When I asked business owners that work from home if they ever got asked this question it was 100% yes. The question was “Do you ever get someone phone you and say, ‘Oh are you working today’?” Annoying right? Communicate that I am working between these hours and only work-related conversations will be answered. (Remember you don’t have to answer the phone when it rings.) If you struggle with this check out some articles on this site around confidence. When you don’t put yourself on the importance list your business and own success suffers. We naturally want to help others and underlying fears stop us from telling people what we want and need. So build confidence and you can communicate what you want and need and people will love you just as much (often more!)
- Company goals. It can be all too easy to gain a survival mentality when we are faced with massive adversity. And it can cause long term problems personally and professionally. Don’t dishonour your company’s goals at this critical time. You may need to turn some areas into back burners (this is a term I use with clients – it may be a great idea but it is not essential to the goal at this time so they park it for later. This usually ensures it naturally starts happening anyway because their minds are looking out for the opportunities and resources they will need.) Take the time to sit down and plan, structure your thoughts as a company, sharing and learning from your customers and suppliers too – they often have different insights that could support you.
- Panic! Don’t do it. You know those predictable horror movies where someone is screaming their head off and then within 3 scenes (after they’ve gone off to explore on their own – classic horror movie mistake!) they are very dead? Panicking doesn’t help. If anything you open yourself up to stress and stress causes illness! (And it damages your productivity, your ability to think creatively and your ability to concentrate.) The SAS are taught skills so they remain calm no matter what. That’s not just so they don’t look like they’ve just stepped out of a predictable horror movie, that’s because there is science behind our need to stay calm. Hysteria has caused enough disasters throughout human history. There is no denying how awful the Corona Virus is and for many it is their first experience of having no control and of things going wrong. Anyone that has received an awful diagnosis from a doctor will tell you they wish they had known how to handle it better. As tough as this is to accept, this is a chance to learn.
- Change is going to be needed. Don’t assume how you get to work in the office will be the same at home. Trying to mould the world to suit can make life very stressful so change needs an agile attitude to adaptability. Some people will naturally be able to adjust and others will look like they are fighting it. We don’t all learn or think in the same way and we don’t all deal with change in the same way. Create an open honest dialog that enables those that struggle to feel safe to explain their struggles. If you are someone that has worked for the company for 10 years are part of the management team and don’t have a clue about half the tech they are saying you’ve got to use. It’s not easy to say “Hey guys, I know you look to me to support and lead but right now I need some help.” What will you do to assist everyone to adapt effectively? How will you coach your team remotely to support them? Never underestimate how much change can be the issue within your work place. People hide all manner of fears and it looks like they are fighting the development you wish to introduce. They aren’t trying to annoy you and fight you. They need help to change.
- You know how when you get on holiday you love the lack of structure, the over eating, the sheer indulgence of doing what you want when you want? And how by the end of the holiday you are looking forward to an early night and a vegetable? The fact is a little structure is good for you. But getting the right structure is unique to you. Look for somewhere in your life where you naturally excel at achieving what you want to. Maybe you can book a holiday and fly to somewhere sunny in 24 hours and not forget a single thing. How did you manage that? What skills did you utilise? What were you choosing to think? When I coach clients we look to migrate mind set and skill set skills to enable them to achieve in areas that they struggle with. So get your structure right for you.
- Science of you. What works for one does not work for the other. One size doesn’t fit all and when I’m coaching people they will say what should I do? I don’t know. And that’s good. Because it has to be according to your values, your beliefs and your goals in life. When you tap into who you really are then you achieve more. This is very relevant when it comes to achieving more and being self disciplined when working from home. In Fight the fear in chapter one there’s a great tool to help you work out your top values.
- Targets – set them for yourself, for your team and for each other. It is all too easy to end up in a nice comfy bubble and that’s not good for you. You stop challenging yourself in how you work, what you think or how you act. You miss out on new trends, new ideas and even keeping up to date on laws and best practices. Setting targets and communicating means you naturally stay connected and that is very good for you mentally, emotionally, physically and professionally.
- Checking in and mentoring. Leading on from targets if you are someone that likes having a team to rely on how are you going to keep that ethos to your working life at home? With the Insiders my confidential mastermind group (It’s only £5 a month because I want to prove it’s about supporting professionals not making money) they know they can ask anything and find the support, ideas and resources they need. What will you put in place to get the mentoring you need? And how will you ensure you stick with it?
- Honesty with no judgement. One of the reasons my coaching is so powerful is because people are safe to say anything knowing there is no judgement. How will you create and communicate that to yourself and your team? Who will you turn to and ensure you are honest with? (And yes you can turn to me. Many do.) It will also make you more accountable and that is perfect for working from home when you can lose motivation and focus.
- I’m just going to….If you hear yourself say these words step away! I’m just going to is not just anything. Just putting the dish washer on or just sorting the toy box is not good for many reasons. You cause procrastination, you change your mindset from work to home mode and it’s not easy to get it back. Did you know on average for every distraction “Just checking your email, collecting the post from the front door, replying to your mate on Facebook” you do it will take you 15 minutes to get back into the flow of working. So if you get distracted 3 times that project/task/report is going to take you an extra 45 minutes. You can see how quickly your working week can disappear! Be disciplined and if you know you can’t be disciplined on your own post to me on Facebook “Hey @Mandie Holgate I’m going to have that report finished by 2.14pm today.” Sharing publicly is usually enough to kick your own butt into productivity. And getting specific on the time focuses the mind!
- Fear and lack of confidence – if someone is not responding to your emails, calls, etc it doesn’t mean they are bingeing on a box set ignoring you, it could mean they are struggling and fear coming forward. A clean communication structure and plan for everyone will help break down this issue. Not everyone copes with fear in the same way. Some get consumed by it and don’t realise how badly the media and social media can feed fears. They may see you posting comments that suggest you are feeling nervous but confident with an “all is fine”, so they may feel you won’t understand how they are feeling. Remember no judgement on you or them. Look out for the warning signs in those you work with and ask them kindly “How are you coping with all this? If you ever need someone I’m there and I mean that. I’ve been giving people my home telephone number so that they know if they are having a tough day and feel isolated I’m here to have a chat and cheer them up. Look for the people that will motivate you. I even had someone message me saying “Mandie can you post a motivating video please?” I was happy to oblige.
- Even if you don’t realise it your work environment sets off a mindset at work that says “Right let’s do this….” When you work at home it can be hard to recreate this. You may not have the luxury of an office and have family members just popping in to ask a quick question. Years ago I would put a sign with my children’s favourite characters on saying “Mummy has to finish her work, remember if you disturb me now I will have to finish later and I’d rather be playing with you. Love you!” it made them smile and remember the chat we had only had 20 minutes ago (see below for more on this). So if your working environment from home is less than ideal, here are a few ideas for you.
- Sound cancelling headphones are genius.
- Aromatherapy like rosemary has been used for thousands of years to improve brain function. And if you are feeling stressed there’s an oil for that too. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5198031/ I like this site for information on this but it dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans so I’d say there’s some evidence to suggest this can help!
- Different rooms of the house. Don’t restrict yourself to the kitchen table. If your dressing table has a nice view set up shop there.
- Lighting can change the mood, fast. Get the light right for optimum productivity. Be aware if the lighting is giving you a headache is distracting you or making you squint.
- I discovered that if I had something motivational to write like these articles or my work for Lifehack then Captain Jack’s Pirates of the Caribbean is awesome for giving you that sense that you can achieve anything. Likewise if I’m dealing with something that needs a more sombre tone wow does Schindlers list do it for me – sometimes too much. Play with music to work out what inspires and motivates you and what distracts and demotivates you.
- Photos – it’s amazing how a happy moment in your life can create an instant feel good boost.
- How’s your bottom? Seriously ensure you are sat well. Office chairs have been designed for long sitting, your dining chair – probably not. Get comfortable and don’t slouch.
- Walk away. It can be all too easy to get your head down and power through an 8 hour day with only refreshment breaks. Don’t do it. You can’t maintain it long term (Honestly you can’t, I’ve worked with plenty of CEO’s who’ve learnt the hard way!) a short break can give your brain the space it needs to achieve more and stay productive for longer. Studies have proven this time and time again.
- Research shows that we can be up to 4% smarter from being well hydrated. So when you set up your desk for the day ensure you’ve got your glass of water there. Even if you hate water when the coffee is all gone eventually you end up drinking it anyway!
- Move the phone out of arm shot. Phones are so distracting. If you lack discipline put yours out of reach. You can still hear it but it won’t stop you from being productive.
- You’ve just gained all that time you spent commuting. Don’t give all of that to achieving more at work. What fun do you never get around to? Have you always wanted to do a bit of Yoga in the mornings? Download an ap. I know some amazing personal trainers with their own dance training. Victoria Strudwick and Maxine Jones are just two that make me smile and get active. Always wanted to read a certain book or learn how to knit, cook, sew, paint, craft, coach – now is the time to add some personal goals and fun too!
- That job you never get around to – work on the inside – inside you and inside your home. Instead of feeling trapped and getting cabin fever, imagine how great it will be to look around you and see all those niggly little jobs gone! That commute time saved could be used for those things too. Things like this may seem trivial but what you are actually doing on the inside is creating positive mindset. Positive mindset, leads to positive beliefs and perspectives. Positive beliefs and perspectives leads to positive actions and results. Trust me I’ve seen this in thousands of coaching clients!
- Make some money! You know that cupboard that everyone just throws things in fast and shuts just as fast for the next poor soul to end up having it pour out on them? This is the perfect time for a spring clean – good to keep Corona Virus away and you could find a ton of stuff you can sell. Okay maybe you can’t post to eBay, Facebook etc right now. But take the nice pictures, create an inventory and plan how much money you could make from letting the eaves on your house stop groaning under 20 years of unloved stuff!
- Get the family and your friends on board – don’t try and go this alone. You will need your loved ones to know your plans, whatever you take a way from this article ensure you communicate with with them too. You could actually help them be more productive and successful too. You are their role model, be a good one and remember if all else fails remind them that if you don’t get your work done we won’t have the money for holidays, cinema, clubs, trips, food, etc. my children used to love it when I set them up a work station next to me. With their home work, an apple a glass of water and a pad and pen for ideas (so they looked just like Mummy). It made them feel big and grown up and like they were helping Mummy, which of course they were. What would work for you and what issues are you likely to face? Tackle them now.
- And lastly – Warning signs – don’t start mindlessly spending online, drinking and eating. Be mindful of what you are doing and why you are doing it. If you want to start work at 7 am and have a two hour lunch break and fancy binging on a box set as long as your work is finished by the end of the day – own that. Really savour it and you won’t hate working from home, you may never want to go back because you are getting so much done and having fun!
I mean it when I say I’m here for you. These are unprecedented times so look for the people that aren’t looking to make money out of you but genuinely care about you. And you can add me to that list. xx