Coronavirus has had serious consequences across the globe, with the stock markets collapsing along with everyone’s common sense. Yes, it’s a pretty shitty situation (especially for those who didn’t stockpile toilet paper) but the panic-propelled pandemic presents a silver lining for Millenials and young professionals worldwide.
For what feels like ages, we’ve been crying out for more flexibility; we’ve been asking to work from home for years. “Why won’t they just trust me to get the job done?” echo the complaints of thousands.
Well, ladies and gents, your dreams have come true.
Over the last couple of weeks, the headlines have highlighted more and more firms – large and small – encouraging/forcing their troops to work from home so as to slow the spread of the virus. It’s highly likely that yours is one of those. Just like that, where a month ago you were being told “sorry, client service is paramount” and “our clients want to see you out there” (even though you’re pretty sure they hate your guts) all of a sudden the tables have turned. Now you’re horizontal on the couch, reading Trench Life posts just to gear yourself up for the rest of the workday. Don’t worry, we won’t judge if this is your third post in a row.
Your golden opportunity
The thing is, guys, that while every bone in your body might be suggesting you can start work after “just one more” episode of Peaky Blinders, you’re far better off realising that this is an opportunity not to be missed. We have one chance to fast track flexibility in the workplace; one chance to prove to our employers that this can be the best way of working for many of us.
If you’re anything like me, a day of working from home means that you can often accomplish 8 hours’ work in 4, simply because you don’t have quite as many interruptions throughout the day. I truly believe that, for many people, working remotely can significantly boost productivity (and therefore profitability) and I intend to use this chance to prove it.
If you truly want more flexibility in the future, you’ll take full advantage of this opportunity, which has been handed to you on a silver platter. This is your chance to spend every day absolutely crushing it. This is your time to prove to your managers & leaders that you can be trusted and that client service doesn’t necessarily need to diminish if you aren’t there in person.
How not to waste your Coronavirus isolation
There have been countless posts written about tools & apps to use when working from home, so I’m not going to repeat everything you’ve probably read already. Instead, I’m going to talk about simple ways you can go about dominating your job while working from home so that when this is all said and done, you keep the freedom you always wanted and your employers are comfortable knowing they’re getting solid output every day even when you aren’t at arm’s reach.
We don’t often realise how much we actually interact with our teams on a daily basis when we’re in the office/at clients. This means that, for your manager, when teams work from home it can often feel like there are extended periods of radio silence.
Word of advice: Don’t wait for Mr. Manager to ring you up or pop you an IM saying “you going alright?”
Make your managers and teams feel like you’re on top of it by being available to communicate as much as possible and proactively reaching out with status updates, questions, etc. Likewise, offer your teams/juniors the same level of coaching and direction you would when sitting around a table together. Sure, you can’t slide your laptop up next to someone for a coaching session, but a quick screen share over Hangouts/Skype/Zoom works just as well.
Consider setting up a group IM for your team in order to provide an easy platform for quick updates, questions, and the odd joke, just as if you were all sitting together! Tip: You might want to turn notifications off to allow yourself focused periods of work
2. Swallow the frogs
My ability to procrastinate increases ten-fold when I am working from home. Netflix, Youtube and TED Talks are all a tap away and nobody’s around to judge me. Oh, what’s that? It’s Discover Weekly day on Spotify? Don’t mind me while I listen intently to every word of every song…
It’s often not even because I’m particularly interested in these distractions. It’s typically because I have a to-do list that never seems to end and I know that many of the things on that list are going to take some serious focus.
Because of the tendency for my energy levels to wane throughout the day, I aim to “swallow the frogs” every day. Simply put, this means to tackle the toughest thing on your list first thing in the morning. Not sure which task I mean? It’s the one you’ve been putting off for days and that stresses you out the most when you remind yourself you haven’t done it.
The result? Accomplishing my most difficult task first up makes me feel a thousand times better about my day and often gives me the energy boost I need to tick off a bunch of other things on my list. I’ve also probably done the work a whole lot better because I did it with a fresh mind early in the day.
Set aside an hour or two (no distractions!) to tackle your toughest task as the first thing you do once you start working and watch your productivity soar.
3. Don’t forget about your clients!
If you’re an accountant/auditor/lawyer or similar working in professional services, it’s likely that your firm is pretty well-geared for remote working. VPNs, great software, good technology, etc. are all par for the course in professional services firms.
Don’t assume that your clients have the same luxuries. Also don’t assume that they are as familiar with remote working as you are.
Where this is the case and your client is not as well versed in working remotely, this is the chance for you to collaborate with them and guide them through how they can still work with you remotely without impacting costs or the job taking several times as long.
Introduce them to your firm’s client-facing collaboration tools. Talk to them about how they’d prefer to communicate with you while we’re all stuck at home, and respect their wishes where possible. Schedule regular status updates with them. Look out for opportunities to help them improve their own remote working practices if you spot the opportunity to do so. Just like with your managers and teams, you want to aim to over-communicate.
If you thought the people to impress with your rockstar working at home prowess were your managers, think again. If you truly want ultimate flexibility and more remote work in future, the people you really want to impress are your clients. Once they realise what a blessing it was not having you depleting their coffee machines and using their WiFi to read Trench Life every day (shameless plug) you’ll have them be the ones recommending more of it to your managers/partners/leaders.
Working from home is all about trust
The above points are really all about one thing: building trust. With it, you will be allowed more flexibility to do your job in the way you want to do it. Without it, you’ll likely find yourself back in micromanaged territory and feeling more claustrophobic in your own home than you did in the office.
None of the points in this post mean anything if you’re not actually providing at least the same amount of output as you would be working at the office/client site. Make sure you’re working diligently and delivering on your promises every day.
Last, but not least
All the “golden opportunity” and “prayers being answered” themed rhetoric aside, please remember that the most important trait you can display in these uncertain times is compassion. People’s livelihoods are deeply affected by the consequences of the Coronavirus and it’s more than likely that teams and clients will be affected, whether directly or indirectly.
The real golden opportunity here is the chance to add value to someone’s life by demonstrating care and empathy. Where you’ve wanted flexibility all your life, they might need flexibility right now.
Be the one to help them achieve that, all while crushing your job from your couch, and know that you’re making the most of this shitty situation.
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