Technology / 03.23.20
Five Tips on How to Make a Home Office Work for You
With the coronavirus outbreak, more people in the ticketing industry and other related businesses are working from home than ever before out of necessity, employers’ orders or government mandate. It’s a big change for many, and the transition has had and will continue to have its bumps. Fortunately, INTIX members, you have someone like me and the two talented professionals I’ve interviewed for this article to walk you through some of the basics.
I’ve been a full-time telecommuter since 2011. Working from a home office through nine years and two U.S. presidents has made me well prepared for a zombie apocalypse … or a COVID-19 pandemic. As long as I have electricity, I can be a productive worker, an asset to my employer and a regular columnist for the INTIX readership. Finally, at long last, I have real wisdom to pass down.
So, here goes:
1. The Home Office Is an Actual Workplace
Everyone in the house should know that the home office is a place of business, and it should be treated as such. On the classic CBS sitcom, “WKRP in Cincinnati,” news announcer Les Nessman believed he should have his own office apart from the rest of the radio station’s staff. Repeatedly denied his request by management, he put masking tape around his desk and work area and called on his co-workers to imagine the tape as his office walls. He wouldn’t even acknowledge someone unless they knocked on an imaginary door.
Well, you don’t have to go that far. But your spouse, your kids and anyone else in the home should know that whatever space you make for your home office is unlike any space in the house. It should be respected, especially when the door is closed and you are on a phone call or video conference or are just buckling down and meeting an imminent deadline and cannot tolerate any distraction.
And for those not fortunate to have a dedicated room for a home office? Tessitura Network President Andrew Recinos says, “It is important to carve out your own physical workspace. We have folks who work in their basement or in a guest room. I happen to work in the attic! For those with less space, even if it is a portion of a room that has some sort of physical demarcation such as a floor-standing screen, it helps remind you and others in the house that this is work.”
2. Continue to Act Like a Professional
With the coronavirus pandemic, it looks like many of us are going to be working from a home office for quite some time. Believe me, it’s very easy to just let yourself go and work in your sweats or a T-shirt and shorts or your PJs. I have found it’s OK to indulge in that every once a while. Maybe even do your own version of casual Friday. But, ultimately, this is one urge that needs to be fought and conquered. When I’m on the work clock, it’s “go time.” And I find that wearing, at the very least, business casual attire keeps me in the proper work mindset.
Mardi Dilger, Director of Ticket Operations for the Miami Marlins, concurs. “Do not work from your bed or couch if possible,” she says. “Get up, shower and prepare yourself for work. Working in a too-relaxed environment does not lead to productivity. Most importantly, keep your day structured.”
3. Keep a Work-Life Balance
I worked from an actual office for nearly 20 years before I became a full-time telecommuter. I soon found that I was much more productive in a home setting than in the office, because I didn’t have the usual “water-cooler” distractions. I wasn’t being pulled into every meeting and workplace discussion group. I was never late for work due to traffic or felt the impulse to leave early because I’d heard the commute home was snarled. It was easy to put in a lot more hours.
I soon learned that this was not the healthiest way to be, for either myself or my employer. So, I took steps to keep more regular hours; take short breaks during the day; and leave my smartphone at home when walking the dog, engaging in after-hours family time or going out for a meal.
Recinos calls this “carving out your mental workspace.” He says, “We all struggle with always being on with our smartphones, but this can take the work-life overlap to a whole new level. ‘Clock in’ and ‘clock out’ of work, set expectations of response times with your co-workers and remove your brain from work.”
4. Technology Is the Home Office Worker’s Friend
When I first began working from home nearly a decade ago, I was up on all the basics. I knew how to log in to my company’s network and email system, surf the web for needed data and information, use Microsoft Word and WordPad, fill out timesheets and so forth. When the internet would go down, I would head to my local library or Starbucks and do my work there in a pinch.
One day, it went down very close to a crucial deadline, and I was freaking out. Fortunately, my wife was home at the time. She has always been the more tech-savvy of our little twosome. She calmly handed me her iPhone and showed me how to set up a Wi-Fi hotspot. I was back online in seconds! Since then, I have made sure to be up on everything from Zoom meetings to Trello, a website and app that creates a sort of real-time bulletin board.
Tech can also support the work-life balance discussed earlier. Recinos says, “If you utilize a chat tool — and I recommend that you do — remember to update your ‘Status’ in chat as a simple reminder. ‘Do Not Disturb’ or ‘Kid Time’ are totally acceptable in our world.”
5. Make Sure You and Your Employer Are on the Same Page
This is really more for the bosses reading this. I couldn’t have been and continue to be the successful remote worker that I am if it wasn’t for the fact that my bosses have made it easy for me in their policies, planning and technology. You would expect an organization like the Marlins to be top-notch in this department, and they are. Dilger says, “Make sure there is a help network to allow workers to call in and get assistance with their network. Also, check in on employees regularly, but do not hover, and trust them to achieve their goals.”
For Tessitura Network, this time of upheaval has been easier than for many firms and organizations. It was founded as a complete work-from-home company from day one in 2001 and now has home offices in 33 states and five countries. “Our 240 team members are all ninjas at home working,” Recinos says. “We’ve found the team members who adopt work-from-home practices most effortlessly are our younger folks. Millennials and younger are digital natives already, so the idea of communicating with everyone via chat and webcams is just another day for them. If you are looking to promote a positive work-from-home culture quickly at your company, deputize some of your younger folks and let them lead the way.”
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Tags: Leadership , COVID-19 , Coronavirus