Be careful out there.
If you go online, you can’t avoid read articles about “working from home” from people with laptops who once connected to the wifi at Starbucks in 2017 and read their emails from a Lenovo laptop and an Outlook inbox.
It’s amateur hour for career advice. You’ve been warned.
The truth about working from home is that nobody knows how to do it properly. You need about 60 days to get over the feel of working in self-isolation—and doing it while feigning collaboration—to arrive at the place where you’re comfortable.
Because, for most people, it’s initially disastrous.
What seems easy and straightforward is much more involved. Beyond the complexities of children and animals who want our constant attention, we have new environments and routines that invite us to live and work in a manner that’s counterintuitive to the way we’ve been programmed to operate.
Suddenly find yourself working from home?
Here are three reasons why you’ll struggle.
- Old attitudes die hard. You have habits and patterns of behavior that are mapped on your subconscious like the memories of childhood holiday celebrations. You only know one way of working, and everything about working from home requires you to examine your understanding of physical space and personal communication.
- The value of time and money changes. Even if you’re a salaried employee who never counts hours, you sort of count hours and gauge your effort on a 40-hour workweek. That’s 2,080 hours each year of standard work. If you make $100,000/year, that’s close to $50/hr. How do we calculate pay when the old model, which we deny is still a thing but is very much a thing, is disrupted?
- Technology is terrible, and the brain is worse. My friend and mentor, Nick Morgan, wrote a book that every work-from-home-pundit and telecommuter should read. It’s called, “Can You Hear Me?: How to Connect with People in a Virtual World.” He’s the foremost expert on virtual communications, and his book teaches us that the brain doesn’t process Zoom and Skype very well. There are things you can do to create more connection and trust. But, short of following his recommendations, those video conference calls are mostly ineffective.
HOW TO MAKE WORK-FROM-HOME BETTER
The way to fix anything is to adjust attitudes and expectations, whether you’re a worker or a leader—or both. Here are three ways to improve the work-from-home experience.
- Priority mapping matters. Isolation and disconnection are real. To overcome it, schedule regular “alignment discussions.” Ask and answer—What’s important today, this week, and this quarter? What’s essential for daily operations, how do we maintain business continuity, and what commitments are critical for our workforce? What are we fighting for this month and this year?
- Trust but don’t verify. It’s easy to surveil workers at home by monitoring time on apps, having them check in at random times with photos or videos, or simply asking them to participate in virtual meetings that don’t need to happen. That’s not work—it’s an extension of the prison-like state of the modern workforce. The way you verify if someone is working? It’s to review the workproduct and to assess their attitude and character along the way, just like “best practices” in the office in 2020.
- Cut people some slack. When you find yourself irritated or annoyed with a coworker, ask yourself—Why do I feel this way? What’s genuinely bothering me? When else have I felt this way in the past? The things that upset you are a reflection of individual challenges, difficulties, and complicated emotions and often have little to do with the dude who is bothering you.
If you suddenly find yourself working from home and don’t know how to do it, remember how the first 60 days felt at your new job.
• You missed vital meetings because people didn’t know to invite you yet.
• People neglected to include you in emails, and the world didn’t explode.
• And in those early days at the new job, your brain felt taxed even though it was great. You were learning a lot but wanted to go home and take a nap at the end of the day.
It might seem like the biggest challenge of working-from-home is avoiding constant trips to the refrigerator for snacks, the biggest challenge will be managing your expectations and being kind to yourself and others.
It seems like working-from-home is a lot like normal work, after all.
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I was going to make another video about coronavirus and HR, but, instead, I really wanna say something about working from home: 𝗶𝘁’𝘀 𝘁𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵. Nobody’s gonna do it right at first. Kids are going to walk in and demand snacks, animals are going to hop up during an important meeting, and neighbors are going to cut their lawns in the middle of the day. Working from home or not, change is hard. Go slow. Cut people some slack. Don’t judge people based on time logged on chats and channels. If you’re lucky, you might get to see a uniquely human moment that makes the day a little lighter. #punkrockhr #roxygirl #workfromhome #workworkwork #hrlady #shrm #covid19 #coronavirus