Thriving From Home: Dos and Don’ts for Finding Success
Welcome to our new reality.
For the foreseeable future, many of us will be working from home.
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, I want to offer some virtual support to everyone who may be working from home for the first time, or going from a flexible schedule to fully remote.
I’ve been doing both for almost 7 years, and they have been the most productive years of my career. The adjustment from the physical office to the home office was just that: an adjustment. I am an introvert with a social job. I love being around people but I need to recharge and focus on tasks (like writing this blog post) alone. Here are some do’s and don’ts I’ve learned along the way.
Getting Your Day Started
DO: Have a routine
This is my work from home routine: Wake up, have a shot of espresso, exercise, get ready, make a cup of coffee and a light breakfast. Sometimes my exercise is walking my dog. Sometimes it’s a Pilates class or a Peloton ride. It shakes off the cobwebs and helps organize my brain. I also have a schedule written out for the day on my desk where I can see it. It includes time blocked off to eat, after work recreation (such as a creative or learning activity), and a set bedtime routine.
DO NOT: Roll out of bed and straight into calls.
It’s tempting and easy to do, but I promise you that you will feel foggy and scattered, and you may not know exactly why. It’s because your body didn’t physically register the switch from “home” mode to “work” mode. Which brings me to my next point.
DO: Get Dressed
Getting dressed is a very easy cue to your body and mind that it’s time to work. What should you wear? At minimum, whatever you’d wear to accept delivery from UPS. But ideally? Be video-ready for a 1:1 with your boss. I use Rent the Runway for all my work clothes. I joke that it’s my suit of armor, but it really is - putting on a DVF wrap dress, a sharp blazer, or a tailored blouse is a sign of respect to my customers, even if the meeting is conducted without video.
DO NOT: Work in your pajamas.
That satisfying feeling of changing into comfortable clothing at the end of the day? That has to be earned. There are only a few times where it’s ok to stay in your pajamas all day: weekends, sick days, and the week between Christmas and New Year’s where no one knows what day it is and you eat cake for breakfast.
Set Some Expectations
DO: Assume that working remotely will sometimes be lonely and isolating. Plan to get ahead of this.
When I joined Qualtrics, my mentor Kristen said something incredibly valuable to me. I now pass it on to all new team members and everyone I interview (thanks Kristen!). In one of our first 1:1s, she said, “There will be times when you feel lonely, and that’s totally ok and understandable. Reach out! Put some time to connect times on any of our calendars. Join any call that looks interesting. You don’t have to ask before joining.” I had never heard anyone acknowledge the isolation factor so openly, and it made a big difference in making me feel supported and reassured.
DO NOT: Isolate yourself from your community.
So how do you feel less isolated?
Well, if you followed my earlier advice, you’re professionally dressed and camera-ready. Try to conduct your meetings via video, and not just by phone. It will help all of us feel more connected during this global change, wherever we are in the world. Zoom even has fantastic virtual backgrounds you can use, so a messy room can disappear like magic. You can also add your own from Google Images. Right now, I conduct all my meetings in front of a rustic chic brick wall and many lovely plants. It’s a Pinterest dream!
Set regular check-ins with your teams; not only to discuss business, but to check in on everyone and see how they’re adjusting to this new world.
DO: Try to separate yourselves from others in the house and have a designated space.
You might have to shuffle around some furniture or do some Kon Mari, but try to create a designated space for yourself to work.
This can be challenging with little ones and pets, but is totally doable! At my house, my husband works upstairs at his desk. I work downstairs in my office. If you have a door you can shut, this will also help you maintain normal working hours.
Depending on the type of work I’m doing, I sometimes work from my favorite coffee shop. The ambient noise is perfect for demo builds. Use your best judgement here. Some work can be completed from coffee shops, but certain calls should be done from home - for example, if the content of the call is highly confidential.
DON’T: Work from your couch, and definitely do not work from your bed.
Again, this is all about cueing your body that it’s time to work, and a table where you can sit in relative comfort is key.
If you prefer to stand but don’t want to splurge on a standing desk, you can get scrappy and make your own. (Scrappy is one of Qualtrics’ company values!) I’ve seen standing desk setups where people stack crates, books, or shelves to create their own standing desks, although there are also converters you can buy online without investing in an entire standing desk.
I like to stand when I demo Qualtrics and pace when I talk and answer questions.
As for background noise, use your best judgment. If you know that music with words distracts you, you can use apps like Noisli and Coffitivity, or find a nice instrumental station like piano or classical on your favorite streaming service. Save the Taylor Swift singalongs for a much-needed break or after work (and you better invite me!)
Being "All Right" is All Right
DO: Go All In
“All-In” is another one of our values at Qualtrics. In these uncertain times, it means bringing the same energy and drive no matter where we are in the world, or how much our work situation has changed. I’ve seen this across the board from various Qualtrics teams and it makes me incredibly proud - everyone banding together to support each other and support our customers. It’s this all-in mindset that led to the recent release of our free COVID-19 XM Solutions, specifically released to help support companies right now. You can start with:
- Remote Work Pulse: The Remote Work Pulse helps you understand if your organization is prepared for this shift, and if your employees have what they need to succeed in this new environment.
- COVID-19 Pre-Screen & Routing: An online, guided COVID-19 pre-screen questionnaire to identify high-risk citizens and then route them to the appropriate resources. It also provides low-risk citizens instant access to the information most relevant for them. Automatic reports that identify gaps in current information availability.
More solutions available here: https://www.qualtrics.com/here-to-help/.
What else can you do to help support each other? Perhaps you can start a Slack self-care channel, where employees can post all of the different resources they’re using to stay healthy, learn new skills, and stay connected with one another. Or you can start a Slack channel inviting everyone to share photos of their workspaces - kids, pets, plants, hobbies, and cool Lego structures included!
DO NOT: Succumb to a negative mindset
This is a tough one. Easy for me to say, and far easier said than done. But I promise that you can achieve the same levels of productivity (and better!) as long as you plan, prepare, and try to roll with the punches. Will your dog occasionally bark as they are protecting your home from squirrels, package deliveries, and other urgent intrusions? Yes. Just go on mute for a second and bribe them with a treat. It’ll be fine. Will your kids possibly make some noise? Sure. Just go on mute for a second and bribe them with a treat. It’ll be fine.
Jokes aside, embrace the potential challenges rather than fighting them. Have compassion for one another and keep in mind that these are not typical work from home days, when kids are at school and spouses are at their own offices or traveling. As our CRO mentioned on an all-hands call the other day, we have people in a wide variety of different situations - single parents, families without their usual childcare, people caring for elderly loved ones. We are all doing the best we can.
Over the last few weeks, as we’ve all adjusted, I’ve sometimes heard my colleagues’ kids in the background and it is a delight. Everyone’s face lights up on the call (I know, because I can see them on video). Why? Because it’s deeply relatable and a reminder of everyone’s humanity.
DO: Get the practical things right
A proper setup is key to success. Here is your checklist:
- Make sure that your workspace has all of the technology and hardware you need - your headphones of choice, additional monitors, chargers. If you live with others and know they might swipe your USB cords or any other tech, order extra and have them on hand!
- If you need VPN access or anything else to be able to connect to your company networks outside the office, make sure that is set up.
- Check that your profile is up to date on your company employee database, including your mobile number, and make sure you have colleagues’ mobile numbers saved.
- Keep your calendar up to date, including any administrative time to prepare for meetings or heads-down work such as responding to RFPs.
- Track your deliverables. You should know where you stand, where you need to go, and what you need to do to get there. If anything pops up that is outside of this framework, it can usually wait.
- Stay on top of logging sick leave, PTO, expenses, and all that paperwork that helps work run smoothly.
DO NOT: Develop a reputation for being hard to reach
The #1 question I get asked when I’m interviewing new Qualtricians is not about the team or day-to-day work in technical sales. It’s always: “So, what’s it like being totally remote?”
My answer is always the same. It’s my preferred way to work. I get a lot more done than I ever did working in an office. But the tradeoff is that people can’t just walk up to my desk, and so I am ultra-sensitive to that and never want to be perceived as unavailable. To mitigate this, I stay on top of all communication channels, even if it’s just to let the person know that I’m traveling or at a client meeting, and communicating a reasonable time for when I will respond to their message.
This ties back to my earlier point of being all-in. I’m not saying you need to respond to people immediately, nor that you need to be tethered to your devices outside of normal working hours. Your individual and team SLAs should be defined between you and your leadership, but they should absolutely exist.
Whether you’ve worked from home your entire career, or are just starting out - tell us how you set yourself up for success! Let’s crowdsource some ideas so we can all stay connected in these uncertain times and beyond.