Recently, I was on an early morning Zoom conference call with a client group, all of us in The Brady Bunch format on my screen. The conversation was active and engaging. About halfway through the call, in the middle left box, I saw a bed-headed, pajama-wearing toddler come into the background of the room where his mother was on the video call. “Mommy, who are you talking to?” the child asked. I watched as the mom’s face filled with fear about the unprofessionalism of this situation while the remainder of the team smiled and said “Good morning” to the toddler.
For many, officing from home has become a necessity during the current climate, and it can be very effective and practical. Here are 10 tips to help you become more comfortable with the transition to officing from home.
- Be prepared. Make sure to test out your workspace. Discuss your plans with others in the household; it is better to do this in advance rather than on the fly. Ideally, you can create a designated workspace in a separate room or little-used section of the house.
- Dress for success. I know this may sound silly, but how we dress can reflect our mood. I recommend dressing as if you were going into the office. If you want to wear fuzzy slippers, okay, fair enough – but showering and preparing for the day can make a huge difference.
- Enjoy your commute. This is one of those positive, unintended consequences where you are getting some time back. Good for you! As most of us use the commute as a time to transition from home to work, consider finding a similar ritual during this period. Trying walking around the block or sitting on the patio for a few minutes to get your head on straight for the day.
- Implement a closed-door policy. In other words, a closed door means mom or dad is at work. It may feel ridiculous the first few times you make your “commute” to the basement in a suit and fuzzy slippers, but you can still be very productive. Let each person in the house know what you are doing, invite them to see your new workspace, and show them how a video call works. Finally, inform them that when the door is closed, it means mom/dad is at the office and only they should open the door. Usually, once this is explained, everyone is respectful. You may have to remind others a couple times, but remember to be patient – this is new for them, too.
- Be intentional. When working from home, it is easy to get distracted and start multi-tasking. For example, you go to the kitchen to get coffee and see that the trash needs to be taken out. While in the garage, you notice the kids’ toys should be moved, so you start organizing a few things, and before you know it, an hour has passed! You would not allow that to happen at the office, so don’t allow it at home. When you are working, stay focused and time block your schedule. I have been told by many people that they are getting much more done at home. This does not mean you can’t still schedule a power lunch of Mac n Cheese and juice boxes with the little ones.
- Use simple, effective video setups. If you are working in an unfinished basement or a former child’s bedroom with unicorns on the wall, keep in mind that a plain white sheet makes a great background for virtual meetings. Lighting is also important to consider. Positioning yourself in front of windows or bright lights can make it difficult for others to see your face during a video conference.
- Eye level matters. Although this can be such a minor thing, looking down on the screen can make one appear to be domineering or condescending. I typically set my computer on a stack of books or a shoebox, which puts the camera at eye level. I try and keep my face fairly close to the camera so others can see my eyes.
- Practice presentations. Regardless of your familiarity with video conferencing, it is important to do a test run. If you will be sharing your screen or using multiple screens, practice these options before the meeting. Rehearse your presentation and transitions, too.
- More energy. It takes a bit more energy to lead a video session than to only participate in one, which can be a challenge for some. If you are running the meeting, make sure to stay focused on the participants, maintain your energy, and keep the engagement high. Try not to get distracted. Be sure to continue checking in with the other individuals. Remember, this is a new habit; it may take a little time to become great at it.
- When you are done for the day, stay done. At the end of the day, enjoy that long, quiet commute up the stairs from the basement office. Shut the door. Do your best to leave work in that office. Remember that you are home now. Just because you can work all the time, doesn’t mean you should. Now you can be present for those who depend on you. What remains at the office will be waiting for you tomorrow.
I have had a home office for years and I find it to be extremely effective, if I am proactive with how I approach it. COVID-19 is forcing us all to adapt quickly, and I believe this additional quality time with loved ones may actually be one of those positive, unexpected gifts.
Have you moved your workspace from the office to your home? Are you interested in making the transition smoother? We can help with that! Reach out to us today to learn more.