Smith’s beautiful lounge area is very quiet these days. To maximize social distancing we only have one person in the office each day. It’s a sad (hopefully brief) new reality. Fortunately, Smith’s ability to serve our clients has not being disrupted at all.
Since our inception in 2005, every Smith employee has been set up to work remotely. Some of us do it all of the time. Some of us choose a hybrid model, where we both go to an office and work from home.
We know a lot of you have been thrust into working from home and you’re figuring things out. Over the years we’ve learned a few tricks. Here are a some tips that might help you navigate this stressful time, with sanity, humor and success.
Set the Stage
My grandfather was a professor of theology who often worked from home and sometimes conducted classes in his home office. The office had two doors. His eight children — eight! –understood that if the first office door was open, they were allowed to knock on the second office door. If both doors were closed, they were to keep on walking.
So when we built our house, and I knew I wanted to work from home, I had French doors installed on my office, and tried to teach my twin girls roughly the same system. It worked some of the time. The most notable failure was the time they got into a screaming fight right outside my door while I was on a conference call with a client. I had to go on mute, scramble with my laptop upstairs, and finish the call from the master bathroom with the door locked.
I have a standing desk and try to stand for at least a 1/3 of my day. Helps my back!
Maximize your shared drive. At Smith, we’ve been using Google Drive for a few years. This service lets you access files from any device, online or offline. It makes it easy to collaborate with others (at a distance), retrieve deleted documents and restore earlier versions of documents.
When I need to laser focus on a topic, I close the door to my office and turn off all electronics. I have a couple chairs in my office and when I am really busy I put a backpack and a box on them to prevent visitors from sitting down! Mean … but effective. 🙂
My desk faces the window. So my back is to the door into the room. If I don’t turn around, Jay knows not to venture in. Lastly, I’m trying to Marie Kondo my desk so it won’t look overwhelming in the morning.
I work in different areas of the house to change up the scenery. Helps with my creativity. If it’s nice out, I work on the front or back porch, or on the deck. I’m typically home alone. But if someone is home with me and I can’t be bothered, I lock myself in my office.
If there’s a storm coming, I work while my laptop is plugged in. If I lose power, I can continue to work with a full charge. Best to do this on a surge protector.
I also never answer the front door during my work hours. It sets a standard for neighbors, friends and/or solicitors that I don’t want to be bothered. Those that really need/want something would text first.
At the end of each day, I aspire (don’t always succeed) to straighten my desk and make a to-do list for the next day, including work and personal items. This way, I walk into the office the next morning and can immediately begin work.
My wife and I both work from home. We placed our offices on opposite ends of the home—cuts out noise and distraction. Another thing we do is hang a hotel’s “privacy” sign on our door when we can’t be interrupted.
Create Healthy Habits
A couple of years ago, Allison gave everyone “Dammit Dolls” for Christmas. They come in handy sometimes. Make a little room for frustration. It’s going to happen and it isn’t the end of the world.
I try (emphasis on the try) to maintain a normal eating schedule. In other words a regular lunch and not snack every hour.
I don’t know if others struggle with this but because I am home, people will call wanting to “ask a quick question” or come into my office “to visit.” That just irritates me to no end!
Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been wearing a smart watch that, among other things, reminds me to pause my work and walk for just a couple of minutes each hour. Inevitably, when at the office, I often find it difficult to break away from my work at hand. However, when working from home, I have numerous more interesting quick destinations available to me — our mailbox, our garden, our bird feeder, etc. — that make taking 2-5 minute health breaks more inviting during my day.
I am in a rather unique situation. Last year, I moved to an active adult community, age 55+. This is important for two primary reasons:
Most of my neighbors are in the danger zone, age-wise if not health wise. So, we are having parties in the street in the early afternoon, remaining safely distant from each other, to sing happy birthday to our friends … including champagne toasts. Later this evening, we are having a block party … from our driveways, wishing passers-by well from a distance, and air-toasting each other with beverages of choice.
Our yard has never looked better — and is free of doggie presents. With compulsory outdoor time every day…we have picked up all the sticks, raked all the leaves, planted 300+ bulbs that were sitting in the mudroom for the last year (but will they grow?!), uncovered an old brick path, and last — but certainly not least — for the first time ever picked up dog droppings every single day.
Add Children and Stir
Mothers of a bygone era taught their children to identify plants that would help them survive in the wild, if necessary. This knowledge has been largely undervalued in recent times, but my mother did convey one key piece of wisdom that I’m especially glad I follow. She said, “Toilet paper will never go to waste,” so I’ve always kept a case on hand!
Summers working from home with little kids were always the most challenging. One idea that worked well was rolling a bar cart outside of my office door and filling it with crafts and games. When they wandered in my office to say they were bored, I could point them back out to the cart.
Now that my kids are going to school from home and husband is working from home, it has been a learning period for all of us. Most of the time, we are all on separate calls, in separate areas of the house. I mostly stay on mute when I am not speaking, but have had to exercise strategic use of the mute button to help with interruptions.
My daughter figured this out the hard way during one of her virtual classroom sessions. She was talking and accidentally stepped on a Santa Claus stuffed doll and it began playing Christmas music. She apologized for the disruption in the chat feature of her Google Meet call. A classmate responded in the chat, “Why do you still have your Christmas toys out?” Which raises a good question.
From my children’s online class meetings to ducking under the camera as I walk by Jeff’s Zoom calls, everyone in my house is becoming more comfortable with video conferencing. This is something many have resisted but can truly be uplifting, motivating, sanity saving in times of isolation. While there are many tips about how to feel better about being on video from using your app’s preview feature to inserting custom backgrounds as on Zoom, the bottom line is the more you do it the more comfortable you become.
Also blackjack with candy is good for math fluency.
My workday has changed now that I have my 7 year old who needs constant help with her schoolwork and is hungry every hour. We are both out of routine and trapped indoors which has caused us a lot of frustration. I sent her outside in the backyard to get fresh air in which she said, “That’s boring” and sat on the deck with her arms crossed pouting. I was forced to go outside and help her think outside the box. We explored areas of the yard we haven’t before, looked at new sprouting plants and blooms…along with many weeds. We collected sticks and looked under rocks, logs and plants for bugs. She even found a cocoon! As we went back indoors, she said, “That was FUN!” That fresh air really changed our moods!
I downsized into a two-bedroom home when I moved here. Shortly thereafter, my son and his wife moved in to live with me while their new home is being built. So, my daughter-in-law has all her computer equipment in the dining room, my son is floating from their room to my room to the living room with his laptop and phone, and I am primarily in my office. I am enjoying having them here, and we are having fun cooking, etc. My daughter-in-law is a gourmet cook so I am learning from her, and I am a “Southern” cook so we have a variety.
Before getting on conference calls I’ve learned to check on our dog, Charlie, to make sure he’s occupied and happy. Otherwise, invariably, he contributes his thoughts to the discussion!
We use to freak out whenever the dog barked. Now, even before the coronavirus crisis, it isn’t so much an issue because so many people work remotely.
Like Norine, I make sure the cat is happy. She has walked in on me during a conference call screaming that her food bowl is empty. Another reason to lock the office door.
I’ve heard it said that 2020 will be the worst year many of us have ever experienced. If you’re a dog, though, these are the best of times. My dog, Trooper, is loving a full house of people ALL day EVERY day; not to mention the seemingly constant parade of walkers (and other dogs) strolling past our house. He’s never received, nor given, more attention.More Ideas