How to Thrive in the Work-From-Home World

Career Blog

Like many, I’ve thrived in the virtual work world. The increased flexibility, focus time, and financial perks associated with ditching the commute far outweighed the loss of face time and water-cooler gossip.

Of course, I’m an introvert. My people adore quiet. And while no one misses the heartbreaking reality of COVID, many of us lament the absence of the convenient social excuse it provided. “Oh… I’d love to go, but you know, it’s a little too ‘peoplely’ outside #staysafe.”     

I will confess however, that working from home as a single 20-something had fewer challenges than navigating the same terrain as a father, husband, and executive. Luckily, the skills I acquired as a lifelong introvert, help me navigate the madness.

Find Balance

While your normal in-office day might be peppered with hallway banter and office drop-ins, the virtual world is ruled by the calendar and the To Do list.

Some of us have a natural project first mindset, while others tend to prioritize people. Both are needed of course. Focus solely on tasks and you’ll soon lose support for your efforts. Make it only about individuals and you’ll quickly become the most popular person on the unemployment line. 

That said, virtual work favors substance over style so ensure that pendulum tilts slightly to the “get it done” zone. Coming to a meeting with results not only ensures the session is productive, but it gives you a chance to shine the light on others and dial up the people side of the equation.

Managing Kids

Summer is tough. Not everyone has access to camps or childcare. One way to keep the kids engaged is to marshal their support in creating a summertime schedule. 

They’ll never admit this, but kids crave structure so design activities in half hour blocks. Yes you can have them watch a movie if you need an hour for a critical call or presentation, but otherwise keep things brief and moving with these two tips.

  1. Focus on Fun: Cool session names can pique interest. For example, twice a day you can join the kids for “Sports Spectacular” a 30-minute burst of exercise, which can break up the other activities. The strategy allows you to make memories and get exercise all within the confines of a normal lunch hour.
  2. Be Flexible: You may have to make up some time in the early morning or after the kids go to bed to operate at the same rate of productivity, but keep in mind that you’re also saving commute time so things will balance out. And even if they don’t, give yourself a break. In the end no one will remember how many TPS reports you filed.
Besting Distractions

The neighbor’s lawnmower, the incessant ping of social apps, and kids playing street football can easily disrupt a conference call. But these nuisances can be managed with a click of a button or a little neighborly finesse.  

The real distraction is the barely detectable hum of one’s refrigerator. Like a siren, it calls even the healthiest among us to snack between meals and those snacks add up. Forget the freshman 15. Without discipline, those new to virtual work can unknowingly pack on the pounds.    

So how can you battle this old school technology? With more old school tech. Stand up for meetings. Start your day with exercise and post a sticky note on your monitor that says, “Lunch happens at Lunch time!” or “You are NOT hungry.”

The fridge may be close by, but it doesn’t have to be opened.

Switching off Work

Don’t give into the notion that working from home means working all the time. If you want white space, you have to create it. One easy way is to banish your smartphone from the bedroom and the dinner table.

You can also create a “Don’t Do” list that reminds you not to engage in systemic soul-sucking challenges like getting upset about imaginary issues or rehearsing potential conflicts. It could also include practical actions to avoid such as: don’t answer emails before 10am or don’t give away your services.

Despite what your boss would have you believe, there are no urgent emails. If someone needs you, they’ll call. Our days are packed with communications and interruptions all joining forces to stop thought. But creativity needs space and time. Take them and you’ll produce more and of greater quality regardless of where you work. 

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Photo by Polina Zimmerman

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