This article was initially published at Crosslink. The news site for Petrolink in March 2020.
Whether we are enjoying solitude or missing our co-workers it is important for us to take certain steps to navigate the new reality of working from home whether it be several weeks or months ahead. Each of us will have our own ways of thriving so this article just aims to set out some of the latest thinking.
In the mid-1920’S the economy reached a crossover point where more people were employed in the provision of services rather than the production of goods.
As we enter a new decade, the ‘knowledge worker’ has become the norm. One could argue that outmoded attitudes still need to catch up. Some would say that in the age of the knowledge worker it is bizarre to be confining them to 9-5 office hours.
Designing your day
Central to Dan Pink’s book Drive is the argument that much of our motivation at is intrinsic. To flourish at work employees need three things—not higher salaries or perks (these can actually be counter-productive) but autonomy, mastery and purpose.
Autonomy- Our innate desire to be self-directed. Having control over when, where and how you work.
Mastery – An urge to acquire skills that you can see improve over time.
Purpose – Perhaps the most elusive but equally the element which is the most satisfying – creating something of meaning be that an app, article or artwork. Often it will benefit the wider industry, society or world.
Cultivating these three factors within an organisation produces better customer service and happier employees.
Night Owls and
Many of us will know that some of us are larks and others night owls. As a rule, we are typically most productive for an 1hr or so mid-morning before attention wanders. It’s easy to fire up Outlook and get straight into the email- but this can set you back – you’re immediately working on someone else agenda. Why not park the daily reports, and route tasks for the inevitable post lunch afternoon dip?
Enjoy being able to design your own environment:
• No fluorescent strip lighting
• Your own music (at whatever volume you like)
• Control over the temperature- these may seem trivial- but taken together can improve productivity.
Finding your flow
It is worth introducing the concept of flow; we’ve all experienced it when working on a complex problem- say a presentation or report that requires getting the message just right. Away from work many people describe a similar feeling of focused attention when running or cycling. Above all the feeling is enjoyable and time passes quickly without realising.
Athletes are familiar will cultivate ‘getting in the zone’. Tennis players describe this even during the final points of a gruelling five setter -being able to move effortlessly to hit the perfect winner. The point is we can all experience this at work.
Some will say that employees can’t be trusted to work from home – they will simply slack off or miss important deadlines- with productivity falling off a cliff. This feels a bit like the headteacher and pupil dynamic which we have all left behind. I prefer to be optimistic and given a little more flexibility we can find the headspace to create our best work.
Others will say that this kind of distributed remote is fine for small organisations 10-15 people or so. Mark Mullenweg developer of WordPress is a big proponent of remote teams- so much so that when starting Automattic in 2005 no one worked from the office. That is still the case today with over 1,000 people on the books – even hiring is done by using online tools like Slack.
The global health crisis we are currently living through has forced many companies hand into rapidly adopting remote work. In reality the technology to support this has been at scale for some time.
We have adopted asynchronous communication with Confluence. It has done away with a good chunk of email threads- no more needing to worry about choosing who to CC. Emails although still vital tend to be overly formal- with MCB and Scott’s Farquhar Confluence the information silos between departments have been broken down.
• More remote meetings -less flying- got to be better for the environment. If not my Rolls-Royce Shares….
• Teams docs- everyone can see the meeting notes being typed up in real-time. Rather than being distracting this can reinforce messages so action points are clear.
• Machine learning apps like Krisp can block incoming and outgoing distracting background noise- Dogs, kids etc
We will be relying on instant messaging apps more than ever. Whether via Microsoft teams or PHD it can be tricky to get the tone right. So, follow the acronym API (Assume Positive Intent) you can always add emoji’s to illustrate your point.
• If there is too much back and forth then jump on a call together, you’ll be able to pick up much more from talking.
I think the best thing about working remotely is the ability to let ideas marinate- just by doing something simple like taking a walk. It can seem counter intuitive to step away from the screen – after all we tell ourselves that we just need to focus harder to solve the task at hand. Often the result of letting the brain relax is that the ideas have re-arranged themselves and a way forward becomes clear.
We do lose a degree of creativity when not surrounded by colleagues. Some moderately successful companies (Apple Inc) realised this when designing their campus. To allow cross pollination of ideas one pair of bathrooms were installed on the ground floor- meaning workers from different departments would be brought together by the call of nature.
A challenge for managers is the absence of visual cues to see how an employee is getting on. One solution could be to schedule 1:1 time each week for a quick catch up.
The ongoing pandemic has thrown us the working from home curve ball, and we are all scrambling to adjust.
Let’s try and see this as an opportunity not only to have the shortest commute of our lives but to take our work to the next level!
Books- (Amazon Affliate Links) Cos Jeff aint rich enough…(!)
You see it really is possible to get up out of The Projects.
Are you finding it tricky not having a clear physical division between work and home?
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