Events like the Coronavirus come at you pretty fast. With the latest choruses of “out of an abundance of caution…” and learning to bump elbows as an unnaturally new act of greeting, or feeling embarrassed about “touching your face” (I feel weird just writing that), it’s pretty clear that many of us are going to have to get used to working from home for a bit.
Are you ready?
In my case, I’ll be doing the thing I’ve been doing regularly for nearly twenty years. You see, the last time I worked in a real office -- with my very own dedicated cubicle -- was in August of 2002.
Or, said differently, “my couch has been my cubicle” for almost two decades.
And I’ve never looked back. Both then and now, I saw it as the future of my own work, the way that I can do what I do best (that is, when I’m not in big metal tubes that fly, meeting customers or speaking at conferences. Which was often, until the past week or so).
When it comes to telecommuting, I wouldn’t have it any other way. For those that don’t do it regularly, FWIW, here’s a few tips that I jotted down, and maybe they’ll help you in the days ahead:
- Remotely, WebEx can be clunky, especially on the connect times; use your computer for audio, not your phone, and don’t be afraid to (politely) assertively ask “all those not talking, please go on mute”.
- Slack may be for the "cool kids", but it’s an attention-suck. Use good-old-fashioned e-mail to your advantage. Strategically turn it OFF if you need focus and project execution
- Diligently avoid random placement of 30-minute meetings in your Outlook calendar; group them together if possible. If you get paid to “think”, you need unencumbered "think/write time" vs. 100% "manager time" – if you chop your day up into 30-minute increments out of sequence, you can’t think.
- Know when to "push back from the laptop" to change the energy to help avoid the trap of diminishing returns.
- If you have a dog to walk (instead of inane water-cooler talk), take an excellent business audiobook with you; if a thought-bubble comes to mind, catch it quick! Use Audible’s bookmark feature (with voice-notes!) to your advantage, and put those ideas to work when you get back to your desk
- If your team is global, count yourself lucky if you can engineer an early morning start time, as opposed to the late-night slot. They are the best! Midsummer sunrise times make it a lot easier too.
- Discipline, discipline, discipline… (which probably means having a kegerator in your home office is a bad idea)
Many of you reading this probably have been working from home for a long time too. Yet a surprising amount may have only been able to dream of doing it (at least, until COVID-19 dropped into our lives). And of course, many, many people that aren’t “knowledge workers”, the drivers, dishwashers, janitors, plumbers – and yes, doctors and nurses – that don’t have a choice. Be kind to them, and keep them in your thoughts -- as always.
So give the next weeks and month your best shot. Make the most of it. As we said in our piece “From the Cubicle to the Couch” in From/To: “Collectively, work from home saves money and gives us more time and consciousness to contribute business value. It helps shrink our personal carbon footprints and lessen road congestion.
Workers of the world, awake. You have nothing to lose but your cubicles. Just as farms of old emptied out, so will our modern cubicle farms. But veal fattening pens are going the way of the dodo, and being seen to be stuck in one might mark you as a dodo, too.”