Can You Lower Your Volume?  5 Tips for Effectively Working from Home in This Brave New World

Posted on March 19, 2020

laura chandler

This guest blog about working from home is by ELGL member Laura Chandler with ClearPoint Strategy. Join Laura and ELGL tomorrow on the 9:00 a.m. PT virtual hangout to discuss #WFH strategies.

Working from home is not new to me, but I imagine it is new to many who are reading this.  Even for those of us who have been working from home for some time, the typical tips for doing so, while still very helpful, may not be fully applicable given our current environment.  

Organizations are abruptly transitioning from having no remote employees to being fully remote-run companies. This has been an uncomfortably sudden adjustment—from 0 to 100% remote work overnight.

In addition, there is this layer of uncertainty that has befallen our communities that affects our day-to-day.  And, if you are a parent (or suddenly co-working with a roommate or partner), that uncertainty, coupled with the fact that we are now working side by side with our families and children (many of whom are getting adjusted themselves to their “new normal,” including remote learning) can add an extra layer of…well, good ol’ fashioned stress.  

So, during this time, we thought it would be helpful to provide some encouraging, time-sensitive work-from-home tips.  

  1. Stay positive and embrace this time.  Before offering practical tips, I want to start off by saying— take a deep breath, and as much as you can, embrace this time.  Our states of mind and how we reflect this onto our loved ones can set the tone at home. This is an opportunity to take a step back and really focus on what is important—our families and friends and their well-being. 
  2. Give yourself and your loved ones room to make mistakes and laugh about it!  They say that laughter is the best medicine, and I believe it.  Having a sense of humor can lower your stress level in amazing ways.  Yesterday was my son’s first day of remote learning. Working from home while simultaneously homeschooling is not for the faint at heart.  At one point, while on a video conference with a cohort, my son tossed a crumpled up “love note” (as I’m calling it) my direction that read “Can you lower your volume?”  I couldn’t help but laugh, which in turn had my son laughing, and even my teammate on the video conference joined in. We got through another day. 
  3.  As much as you can, establish a routine.  Now, let’s get to the practical.  Routine and structure around your day is good for everyone—both you and your family members.  This is a common thread that I read in material providing recommendations for WFH strategies. On some days, I am excellent at it.  On other days…not so much (refer back to tip #2). As much as you can, however, set up a routine peppered with structured breaks throughout the day.This may mean that you get up in the morning, get showered and dressed as if you were “going to the office,” and start your day each day at the same time.  It may also mean that when lunchtime comes around, you set aside your work and take a full hour to reset. This is a great time to disconnect from work and connect with your family.  Eat lunch together and take your four-legged family members for a stroll around the neighborhood. Whatever you do, set work aside. This is very important.  When evening comes, shut down your computer, shut the door to the room or space that you now dub as your “home office,” and be fully present for your loved ones.  You won’t regret it.
  4. Maintain face-to-face connections as much as you can with your team.  Communication and collaboration are key for organizations to continue to move the needle, even when they’ve shifted their focus (as we know is the case during this chaotic time).  At ClearPoint, even though we are now fully remote, typically we have team members in five locations—one corporate office in Washington DC, one satellite office in Atlanta, and three remote team members (including me) —so we are adept at communicating and collaborating effectively and using tools, including our own, to facilitate this.We are especially fond of leveraging tools such as Microsoft Teams (especially with their great gif gallery—refer back to the importance of a good laugh to break up the work day), for instant one-on-one “pinging” and face-to-face video chats, and Zoom conferencing for larger groups.  With our larger groups, all participants enable their video capabilities, and each team member is displayed on the screen like the Brady Bunch. Being in a one-dimensional room where you can see each other is uplifting and can aid in minimizing the downside of what feels like isolation.
  5. Get back to center and be creative!  I love our organization’s core values, and during this time, I have found myself appreciating even more and more the culture that has been cultivated both internally with our team and externally with our customers.  As our team is now fully remote, activities such as our weekly trivia competition sent out via email and our third Thursday events, conducted by way of video conferencing, take on a deeper meaning. We also have a “Praise” option on Microsoft Teams where anyone can send out recognition to fellow team members for all to see and celebrate.  We have dedicated team members that facilitate these activities, and now more than ever, this is important.

All in all, the recent chaos has underscored the importance of being empathetic and understanding at work, as we should be doing regardless. It’s about reminding ourselves that we are human first, workers second.

And it’s about sticking together to continue accomplishing our shared goals in this new reality and helping our shared Community stay healthy and well.    

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