Staying Engaged in your Work

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In wrapping up our tips for working from home we’ve got our team member, Audra Brown, on how to stay engaged while working at home. Take it away, Audra!

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 11.08.19 AMThere are days when I can honestly say I miss my life in a cubicle, when getting my job done required little more than the subtle motivations of the workplace: my boss sitting in the glass office across from me, my co-workers entrenched on similar projects, and the constant team meetings, lunch, and water cooler breaks.

Working from home with two small children means that getting my “office” work done with excellence is a whole lot more exciting to accomplish! My role as a work-from-home mom requires me to operate in an environment of constant demands and a timetable that is variable at best.

Although organization (what’s that again?) and time management (wait, you can manage time?!) are key pieces to meeting my deadlines and ensuring I am focused and engaged, I have also found that motivating myself properly is a significant piece in achieving success in an otherwise, as I like to call it, hostile work environment.

It has been said that the best jobs are the ones you love and happen to get paid for. Who doesn’t want to have the best job? I try to make mine just that by finding ways to love what I do, even if that connection isn’t naturally there in the beginning.

Here are some ways I try to engage myself with my work:

  1. Find the areas of each project/task that play to my strengths. How can I exercise my strengths to not only do a good job but possibly take it to the next level?
  2. Define why I care about the outcome and/or the people that will be on the receiving end of it
  3. Discover pieces of my work in which I can incorporate slices of fun, interest, color, or insight
  4. Figure out if I can grow myself as a person through this task and come out more skilled or learned on the other end
  5. Reinforce my vision of the end goal and how I want to feel at the end of it. Recognize what it is going to take to get me there

Lastly, I would add that remembering that I control this project and my attitude towards it (and not the other way around) always takes a bit of the pressure off, allowing me the freedom to truly enjoy my work and take it where it needs to go no matter what hour of the day, night, or weekend I’m working on it!

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Boundaries

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We have been hearing from our team on strategies in working from home. This week, we’ve got another one of our team members, Sheila, to talk though how to keep your personal boundaries while having the flexibility of working from home!

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 7.22.41 AMI love working from home, but it does present a challenge managing work/life balance. I read an old proverb that cautioned against the moving of ancient boundary stones. Those ancient stones communicated, “This belongs to me and that belongs to you. No trespassing, please.” The boundary stones were of time, life rhythms, and space.

Although I am not ancient (contrary to my children’s opinion), I am old enough to remember a different kind of normal as it pertains to office work. When “going to work” involved a drive to the office, a desk, a phone connected to the wall, and paper files stored in a cabinet. When the day was finished, I left the office, the phone, and the paper and went home. If my phone rang after I left, the issue had to wait until tomorrow, as I physically was not present to handle it. It sounds like an ancient boundary stone, doesn’t it? “Work” stayed at work while “home” stayed at home.

The first boundary stone – time – is an important boundary now that I work from home. Technology has made communication much easier – phone calls and emails are now delivered to the handy phone in my pocket, sometimes during office hours and sometimes while I’m spending time with my family. On the other hand, a disruption at home during work hours can distract me from the task at hand. I try to check my thinking and my actions often. Have I moved the boundary stone? I will be healthier and happier, and more effective at work and home if I carefully respect the boundary of time.

The second boundary stone – life rhythms – takes a particular significance when working from home. Vacations, sick days, PTO, shutdowns, and holidays are opportunities to unplug! Last summer, I headed to the Northwoods for some much needed rest and family time. I mistakenly took my computer, and rather than fishing, I hunted for a good internet signal and answered emails. Upon my return a co-worker asked about my vacation – and I realized my mistake. I had lost the opportunity to unwind – and moved the ancient boundary stone of life rhythms. My lesson learned? Make sure my responsibilities are covered, communicate my status of OOO, leave my computer at home, and turn off email alerts.

This leads to the final boundary stone – the boundary of space. One of the joys of working from home is the flexibility! On a beautiful spring day, I can move my “office” (aka computer) to the back porch and enjoy some sunshine. Or I can work from Starbucks, enjoying a hot chai latte as easily as I can work from my office. One aspect I’ve learned about myself is I need an uninterrupted flow of work wherever I am working, to ensure I have my full attention on the appropriate matter. To do this, I’ve carved out a corner of my family room (mostly unoccupied during the day); the family knows that I am “at work” when I’m at my desk and on my computer and/or phone. Respecting the boundary of space creates a healthy balance in my life, making me more effective at both home and work.

There are no hard and fast rules to working from home. I’ve found intentionality that lends to healthy boundaries between work and personal life is integral to my success as a work-at-home employee.

Take a Break!

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We’ve been focusing the past few weeks on how to be most effective while working from home – from getting organized while working from home to recognizing and staying at your productive peek.

But what if you’re too focused? Our team member, Jocelyn Dove, is here to help!

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 7.32.59 AMOne hurdle I have been striving to accomplish is taking breaks! What’s a break? When you are in an office environment you may not realize that you have several breaks…the “coffee break”, the “bathroom break,” the “random peer coming to your cube break”, the required “lunch break”, and then the “end of the day/work is over break”.  

I really didn’t realize how many “breaks” I was truly afforded when working in a traditional office environment until I started working from home! One morning I made breakfast and sat down with my cup of coffee to start the day and then BAM! It was 10:46 PM and my coffee cup was dry and I couldn’t recall the last time I went to the bathroom or had a glass of water. But now it’s too late to eat dinner because I should be going to bed soon, but realize “why not?” because I’m just going to wear yoga pants anyway…

Ever done that before? That was a big wake-up call that I had to get some structure around taking breaks. Here’s what I’ve done to help myself that might apply to you:

  1. Added a break to my work calendar with a reminder. I’ve even made it look like an official meeting on my calendar so people know they can’t steal my time!
  2. Made plans to leave the house – I’ve set up a lunch date with friends, planned to go to the grocery store, got my car serviced, haircut etc. SOMETHING that get’s you out of the house in a planful way
  3. Found a workspace outside of my home office to devote a couple of hours to a day. It doesn’t have to be fancy – a museum or coffee shop will work just fine!
  4. Get a pet (I haven’t done this, but I’ve heard this helps!). A pet needs love and maybe a walk at some point during the day – a perfect trigger to take a break

Thanks, Jocelyn! Can anyone else relate to not prioritizing yourself throughout the day? What tips do you have on making sure to take breaks?

Pace Yourself

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Working from home can come with many challenges—it’s part of the territory! However, there are just as many benefits, and as the world continues to convert to a predominantly digital space, working from home is a new challenge that many people are facing every year.

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 11.52.43 AMOur Team member, Jeff, has some helpful tips:

I used to work from home 1-2 days a week until recently, when I converted to working from home full-time! It has certainly come with it’s challenges, but the benefits outweigh these ten-fold. Here are a couple of ideas and strategies that I’ve used to help this process go smoothly.

Thought #1: Use your Time Smartly

Is there a particular time of the day where your creative juices are really flowing? Maybe there are certain times of the day that you find yourself more self-motivated than other times. Find that time, exploit it to your benefit, and plan your day’s work around those times. Is it in the morning? Do the draining tasks then! Save the motivating work, the work that gives you energy, for the time of day that you’re struggling to stay on-task.

For myself, I’m WAY more motivated in the morning. So this is the time that I save for time-consuming tasks that don’t inspire me, they don’t give me energy, but they simply have to be done. Once the clock hits 2:00PM, my morning coffee is wearing off, and my eyes start to wander to the book on my table, or my mind towards the many pleasure of the Netflix app. This is when I do the tasks that inspire me, that give me energy, and feed my brain and soul. I have meetings in the afternoon, and am re-inspired by these tasks and these people to finish the day strong.

Thought #2 – Pace Yourself

Throughout each day I always remind myself this: pace yourself. Know that every day will not be the productive, butt-kicking day that you want it to be. You’re not a task-churning robot, and that’s okay!

Be okay with failing at productivity some days. Don’t beat yourself up. Push through it, and know that tomorrow can be better! Some days I’m extremely motivated; and other days I’m not. Some days, I get 10 hours worth of work done in 5 hours. Other days I get 2 hours worth of work done in 7 hours. And often, these results are no different when working in a traditional office environment.

Thought #3 – Don’t Do it Alone

Lastly, if I’m really struggling to finish a report that has to be done that day, but my Motivation Meter is reading 0, I’ll video-conference a co-worker (or friend!) and ask them if I can “sit” with them while I finish this up. Just being able to have some banter back and forth can help “humanize” the work and get me through that home-stretch.

So let’s recap:

  1. Use Time Smartly – Do the right tasks at the right time of day
  2. Pace Yourself – Don’t expect perfection, it’s okay to fail some days
  3. Don’t Do it Alone – Develop a work from home group of friends, and support each other through motivation and virtual relationships

Thanks so much for listening, and I hope that these ideas help you on your adventure in the growing group of people who work from home!