Working From Home
Mar 31, 2020
With the pandemic called the coronavirus, many people are working remotely. Unfortunately, many of the traditional advice is not applicable such as working from a café. Working from home has its advantages, but it also has some unique challenges. I have been working from home for almost 20 years. I was born with cerebral palsy which has left me in a wheelchair with a severe speech impediment. I also need help typing long form articles, blog posts, and books. Back in college, my dream was to work in the middle of downtown Los Angeles or the west side of Los Angeles. I realized that I needed a working environment that was conducive to my disability. I work from home and part of my team I physically work with, but most of my team I work with virtually. We use messaging and video calls. Productivity at home has its own unique challenges. These challenges need to be understood and dealt with especially for those that work from home for the very first time or need that social element that only a work environment can provide. We are in unique times with unique challenges. Here are my tips to work remotely considering the social distancing that coronavirus has placed upon us. There are some unique mindset shifts that you need to be aware of.
Instead of my dream of working in a big bustling environment, I decided to become a professional speaker and as the industry changes, I decided to disseminate content online. One thing that drew me to this was the excitement of being with people and once. What I know now is that people in my industry are very isolated and most of the work is done in isolation, a small team. There are days when it's just me and one other person in my office. I absolutely love my work, my team, and my contributions.
My process is fairly unique and was born partly because of my disability. When I was in school all the way through college I interacted with the material quite differently and my peers. I had to dictate my answers to a scribe. This included cutting through my disability coupled with describing what I wanted written or in some cases drawn. I always had to have material read to me because of my lack of head control. In addition, I could not physically take notes or highlight a book. Most tactile forms of learning were not accessible to me. As I write, my process involves thinking about concepts away from the office then dictating it to my team. It’s how I write books, blog posts, and articles.
- Create a working space. As much as possible create a space that is dedicated to work. You want to know that a dedicated space is just for work. For example, if you do work at the kitchen table or the couch in front of the television, you might have trouble deciding what that space is for. Is it for fun or is it for work? Even if you have to pick up a cheap table make sure that a space is dedicated for your work. When I started working, I used to get frustrated because I really could not take my laptop anywhere around the house. I needed to plug in my special keyboard and hook up my television to a large monitor. This was a blessing in disguise. It forced me to properly set up my own space. Now, I turn the formal living room into an office with a wall and a door. That space is primarily for work.
- Use productivity tools. Productivity tools are important for any goal. However, productivity goals become that much more important when you work from home because there are few people around you that you can gain motivation and inspiration from. Scheduling becomes that much more important because you set your own agenda and tasks. Use to-do lists and schedule your day appropriately. This includes when you start work, when you take a break, when you eat lunch, and when you end work. These should not be suggestions, but hard and fast rules. When I started writing I used to get frustrated because I could not write whenever I got inspired. I need a team member around me whenever I write so that I can dictate to them. I researched the creative process and the research had overwhelmingly concluded that creativity is not about inspiration. It’s about doing the work.
- Relationships. Relationships get complicated when you work from home. First, it’s the relationships that you have with your family. Your family may assume that since you are at home that they can have more access to you. Since you are at home they expect you to call customer service or run to the supermarket. In these times, many school children are out because of the virus. Balance is important. Next, is the relationship that you have with colleagues and team members. Communication becomes even more important. We use Zoom and Skype. This software allows you to face to face. In addition, accountability can be challenging. You may need an accountability partner or check in with your team. Every Monday morning, I send out a report describing what I am thinking and what I did that week.
- Distractions. One of the major drawbacks of working from home is the distractions. Beyond the family distractions, you have the television, books, internet, friends, etc. Another major distraction is the pesky refrigerator or pantry. This is why it’s important to set a schedule.
- Transitions. In the book, High Performance Habits, by Brendon Burchard, he describes the idea of transitions. Throughout our day we have different kinds of tasks. For people working at home, you may have transitions that have to do with different kinds of tasks and you have transitions that have to do from work life to home life. Mentally close the book on one task and open the book on another task.
- Technology. Keeping secure is more important when you are working from home. Make sure your passwords are strong and you have enough bandwidth to handle your needs and those of your family members.
- It will never feel perfect. The enemy of amazing is the idea of perfection. There will be times when you are productive and there will be times when you will make mistakes. No matter how diligent you are there will be distractions and slip ups. If you have kids home from school, there is no way that you can ignore them. They might need lunch or a snack. However, you can limit those by setting the boundaries. We shoot a lot of informational videos and there were times when my kids walked in on a live video. There’s even a video of a person doing an interview on the news and the toddler came into the room.
As we navigate our new and hopefully temporary reality, we need to be aware of how to address and how to remain productive.