People Who Think @ Home: Advice from a Working From Home Veteran
In this uncertain and rapidly changing moment, our agency is doing its best not to miss a beat and continue providing creative solutions for our clients. At the same time, we’re making the health and safety of our team a priority. All of us at People Who Think started working from home. And, while it’s been a remarkably smooth transition, it’s a major shift for most of us.
For one of our newer team members, though, this work-from-home stuff is old hat. Jamie Miller, the Florida Director of our political division, Innovative Politics, has been working from home for years. In typical People Who Think fashion, he decided to help out by sharing some of his accumulated wisdom with the rest of the agency. It was such good advice that we thought we’d pass it along. Hope you find Jamie’s advice helpful as your team balances keeping people safe and business running as usual.
Jamie’s Advice on Working From Home
Designate space for your work. For instance, if I work from the kitchen table, I sit in a different chair when I eat lunch. Believe it or not, this little mental break will help you reset for the afternoon.
Make/Keep Your Routine
Take a shower when you would normally take a shower. I shower and prepare for work each day like I’m going to the office. No, I don’t wear a tie at home, but I do put on clothes that if I have to run out at a moment’s notice, I don’t have to waste time getting dressed or showering. In other words, don’t dress like you’re going to the gym, doing yard work or, even worse, don’t stay in your PJs.
I try to make a list of proactive items and likely reactive items.
My proactive list consists of client calls, cold calls to prospective clients/vendors or checking in with team members about the status of ongoing projects.
My reactive list includes things that might be on someone else’s plate, but will likely become work for me that day. For instance, when web design is finishing their work on a proof, but I need to be ready to send that proof to the client later that day.
One of the great things about working from home? You can get chores done during the day! Use this to your advantage. For instance, I have a client who loves to talk, talk, talk. The good news, I enjoy this client. The bad news, I can easily lose an hour, or more, talking to them. So, I put this client on my “proactive” list and before I call, I put a load of laundry in. When the laundry is done, we’ve talked long enough.
Water Cooler Time
During this time, this is truly important. Some of us will thrive working from home, others may feel isolated or even depressed. It is important that you put one team member on your proactive list every day. This is someone who you don’t normally interact with during the course of your work but you see him/her in the kitchen or at the water cooler. Call and make small talk with them. Ask how their work transition is going, make sure their family is doing well…you get the idea.
Put TV or music on in the background. Some people like the History Channel, “The Office” or “Gilmore Girls.” I prefer “Law and Order.” Whatever you do, do not watch the news all day. Watching news all day is a learned skill. There is nothing that will depress you more or faster than watching news all day if you aren’t used to doing it.
This is one of my greatest distractions. When I have major deadlines, I log out of accounts for four hours a day. Then, when I go to check them, the frustration of logging in keeps me from getting distracted and I get back to work.
Eating & Exercise
Don’t forget to do both! When you eat snacks, put a serving on a napkin. Why a napkin? I found that if I use a regular plate I end up eating two or three “servings” of snacks. If I use a napkin, I throw it away after one serving, go back to my desk and go back to work. If I eat chips or cookies out of the bag, the whole darn bag ends up being a serving. Also, don’t eat or snack at your “desk.” If you need a break, get a snack and eat it, but not at your desk. I will even put out what I plan to eat for that day that is non-perishable.
Go for a walk or, at least twice a day, do 10 squats.
Not only is it good for you if you’ve been exposed, it’s just good for you. Drink lots of water. It also ensures you leave the desk once in a while for those trips to the restroom.
Ebbs and flows—prepare to take advantage of your “high energy” times. The busier you are, the more you will get done.
Communicate expectations to those who are home with you—just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean that it’s a staycation. Set boundaries and stick to them. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have flexibility, but utilize the flexibility to your advantage. Try to deal with family issues during your “low energy” work times.
Don’t forget to stop. Pick a time when your work is done and call it a night (unless, of course, the boss calls).
Keep your chin up. We’re all going to get through this; and through adversity comes opportunity.
Florida Director, Innovative Politics