I have been asked by family, friends, and peers how to work most effectively from home. Why do they ask me for help? Because I have been working in and out of home offices for most of my career and started WFHAdviser.com, a site that helps remote workers thrive at home. Given this ample experience I have gone through the growing pains and ups and downs of remote roles. I want to pass on my key learnings and guidance to you in the hope that these effective and simple best practices can help invigorate your work day and provide you with better personal and professional outcomes in your own home office.
Tip 1: Remote Networking
Talk about the health of your network. Are there any aspects of your network that desire more attention? Do you have any blindspots pertaining to work critical information? Choose the approach you wish: if you work with others perhaps a quick check-in via Slack will work. Or would you prefer to set up a meeting? Think about how important it is to access people and the information you need to do your role. Request authorization. Networking will help you obtain resources. A shortage of networking will all too often leave you empty handed.
On a practical note, don’t just book time on someone’s calendar — reach them first via Slack, Hangouts, or email to make sure they have the time to engage. Make it personalized. Let them know why you are actually reaching out to them and what you would like to discuss. Establish a cadence. Make it a point to discuss how you will carry forward the relationship in a way that will work for you both. Follow up. Act swiftly. Network with purpose.
Tip 2: Be Empathetic to Others’ Situations
We all want to know that we are doing ok – especially in the times of a global pandemic. Psychologists call this “normalizing”- letting people know that it is normal for them to experience what is happening. That allows the central nervous system to calm down when people feel heard and their experience is normalized. Keep in touch every single day. Even because yesterday everyone was all right, that doesn’t mean today they are all right. Make sure you are asking for help. Set a precedent by seeking support from others too. And be patient and forgiving. Anyone missed a deadline? Is someone doing something you don’t appreciate or like? Default to curiosity, not judgement. Ask clarifying questions to better understand what may be contributing to a delay or outcome you find injurious to your interests. Make it okay to not be perfect. Dogs barking in the background? Family members interrupting your meeting? Demonstrate grace to your colleagues and remember that they are all doing their best.
Tip 3: Practice empathy for other home workers
Using a prompt or template for updates to your peers can be helpful. Start a meeting by asking: “how are you doing”. This question in American business English is usually leveraged as a generic hello. Pause. Actually and deeply inquire how the other person on the call is doing. We are operating in extraordinary times but there are ways in which we can live productively and effectively despite all the tension and anxiety. Here are some of the best strategies to hold in mind when you are practicing empathy:
Practice emotional intelligence and control overreacting
Focusing on the positives and not the uncontrollable
Don’t seek perfection and practice self-care
Tip 4: Prioritize & execute
During Covid19 we have all experienced more ambiguity at work and in our personal lives. While we can’t control many things, one way to lower a sense of uncertainty is by clarifying our expectations and chunking them down to expectations we can accomplish. Leaders more than ever need to clarify the goal to which their team should focus. If you are a team lead, practice this. You can also conduct this conversation without being in a management position. Ask:
What is our customer/user (internal or external) main need right now?
What can we do, this month or quarter, to provide the most value to that customer/user?
What about the other goals we need to accomplish?
Prioritizing and executing the most important work requires us to focus on less to accomplish more.
Top 5: Secrets to remember for your virtual meetings
Did you know only 7% of a message is conveyed by words? The remaining 93% consists of the tone of voice and body language. These 4 tips will ensure that your next virtual meeting is a success:
Maintain good posture
Practice with the camera
Make eye contact
Be aware of facial expressions
Tip 6: Build your resilience
Our ability to bounce back in the face of change, a challenge or adversity is resilience. It’s not the road bumps that we face in life that describe us, but rather our reaction to coping with these. Being resilient starts with being able to cope with a growth challenge and a mindset focused on the future. Ask yourself these questions the next time you feel stuck with a problem:
How have you handled something like this before? (What was the outcome?)
Are you focused on what’s wrong or what’s right?
Is what you are thinking a story or the truth? How can you find out?
Tip 7: Working through uncertainty
Connect: Ask the individual you are speaking with how they are doing or ways they would like to receive support. Recognize that times might be hard for others in unique ways even if it is not happening to you or you have not seen it happen.
Listen: Take the opportunity to listen without any biases or conclusions. When they finish, lead with empathy. Some examples are: “I’m sorry to hear that, it must be difficult.” or “This is very new to me and this is a learning opportunity, how can I learn more?”
Model Behavior: The more you ask the more you will learn and better support individuals. If you see this from others, reward and reinforce this behavior. This can happen at any level and could be as simple as a direct message of appreciation.
Tip 8: Give Feedback, get feedback
Feedback is intended to help people “find more success” so it’s crazy to think it’s just the job of a manager to give feedback. Feedback is uniquely important for the remote, home office worker. It’s important to check in with ourselves before providing feedback to ensure we’re ready to provide feedback in a way that creates confidence and collaboration.
The more specific we are when providing feedback, particularly when sharing the impact of somebody’s actions, the easier it is for the recipient to understand and take action with the feedback. This also leaves less room for confusion about what our message is about. If you engage in a feedback conversation, leading with empathy and curiosity can build confidence and a greater sense of trust.
When entering into a feedback discussion, it is important to remain empathetic. We don’t know what other people are dealing with behind the scenes, or how they will receive our feedback. Below are a few tips to remain empathetic while receiving feedback:
Check-in: Find ways to connect with your colleagues and get an idea of the stressors they are dealing with. This can provide insight and helpful context, to strengthen your feedback.
Decide on timing: After you have a lay of the land, decide if now is the right time to give them feedback.
Start with a micro-yes: A short but important question. Something like, “do you have a few minutes to talk about how that presentation went”? This lets them know that feedback is coming, but also that they have the autonomy to say no if they are not in the right headspace.
Get out of “task mode”: remember your recipient is an individual. It’s easy to be in “task” mode when working from home, and move quickly from one item to the next. This may prevent you from pausing to remember the person to whom you are giving feedback with fears, flaws, and vulnerabilities is a human being-just like you. Take a few minutes to clear your mind and prepare yourself before you jump to a conversation.
I hope that these 8 best practices will empower you and lead to better work and life experiences. Thank you for reading.