The (In)Convenience of Working From Home

At this initial writing, we are at a crossroads in the global workplace. While many consultants, home-based businesses and independent small company owners have been doing it for years, it has finally become critical for people to be working from home. Thank you to all of the business continuity experts who have tirelessly worked on disaster recovery plans for all these years! Nobody saw this coming. To see how we as humans have adapted, however, is remarkable – even in the midst of the chaos.

Today, the rules have changed.

Early in my professional career, I recall a great deal of kurfuffle surrounding “casual Friday” followed by the eventual adoption of “corporate casual”. Now, it seems, there is no need to bother even wearing pants….just ask the girl in the Zoom conference video that’s been shared around the world – she forgot the camera of her laptop was on and literally broadcast her trip to the restroom to her entire team. Poor Jennifer.

Here’s a rule that has NOT changed…

If your meeting could have been an email, please send the information as an actual email….not ANOTHER Zoom / Microsoft Teams / WebEx meeting request!

People are adjusting. And we are not all “there” yet.

Look around your house (I know you can, because you are likely reading this from home right now…at least if you read it soon after it has been originally posted).

Your working spouse is trying to work from home. Your kid(s) school is now a virtual/distance learning program – terrific if you are in high school or college, but my second grader is still not self-sufficient, nor do I expect her to be. While the dog is happy to see you all the time, your cat keeps giving you the side-eye. OH…and getting help? Nobody is allowed to come over to help, so you are stuck.

Now is the time to practice the tried and true technique of the most sustainably successful managers in history: demonstrating empathy.

Some tips to pull this off:

  • Schedule standing meetings to check in on team progress. One useful technique I often recommend is a Level Ten meeting. Here’s a nice explanation of how to run one. [I also recommend regular 1:1 meetings just to check in…not always about the “work”. Check on the person.]
  • Beware of virtual meeting fatigue. While many teams are used to seeing one another all of the time, virtual meetings stacked back-to-back-to-back are exhausting. If you MUST have lots of back to back meetings, ask “could we do this meeting WITHOUT the cameras on? (This should be an exception, not the default.) Schedule a few “meetings” to be handled by phone instead of virtual platforms…the change can be refreshing!
  • If the meeting is “informational” and does not require interaction, be okay with people watching or listening to the replay. Maybe ask them to take a certain action during the meeting so you know they listened. (A little sneaky, but get creative…make it fun.)
  • Block out times throughout the week during which meetings and calls ARE NOT TO BE SCHEDULED. People have lots of extra responsibilities at home right now. [Our second grader is in a dual language program and half of her day should be in spanish…a language neither my wife or I can speak fluently!]
  • Be focused on accountability and engagement, not meetings and micro management. If your people are in virtual meetings all day, they may begin to feel like they have zero flexibilty at the very time leaders could earn favor and build loyalty. A little bit of flexibility in these times of adjustment will go a long way in the longer term.
  • Last, but certainly not least, build in some fun. Have human moments. Working remote (even for the seasoned WFH personnel) is simply different when EVERYONE is doing it. Take time to connect with your team. Learn about each other. Share struggles, a-has, laughs and lessons learned. Your team will reward you with loyalty and engagement.

I’d love to hear what YOU and your company’s leaders are doing in this time of transition and uncertainty to address the “human-ness” of these moments. Leave a comment below!

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Scott Cooksey is founder and senior consultant with Cooksey Connects | Leadout Performance Group. Want to say hello, or explore how his team can help yours, schedule a no-obligation call and just get acquainted at www.ConnectWithCooksey.com. If you like this article, please share with your network!

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