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Making “Working from Home” Work

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In this COVID-19 era, where many of us are remote workers indefinitely, our workspace and home space are now blended. This can be further complicated by working around co-occupants of that space: parents, children, your partner, or roommate (or roommates). Maybe you have a pet in the mix too. So how can you work most productively? How can you separate your “work life” and “home life” at a time when most people are not leaving their houses?
Part 1 of “Work from Home (WFH) Success” is Creating a Home Office, which we outlined last week.
Part 2  of “WFH Success” is Creating Your “Work from Home Mindset” This mindset—and its key to your overall success—is established in steps.
The first step is the most important one of all, as it lays the foundation for others.
At its core, this mindset is about establishing a sense of control of your time and space. Here is how:
  1. Assess what Tools you Need for Success
  2. Clarify your Purpose and Stakeholders in Your Success
  3. Define your Goals, Outcomes, and Measures
  4. Schedule your Time
  5. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Assess What Tools You Need
What tools do you need to be secure and successful?  Consider all aspects of your job and then make a list. Remember, we want to do more than survive, we want to thrive! Is it technology, other systems? Look at what’s working and what’s not working. Take an inventory of tools already available.
What can you do to get the tools you don’t have? Can you ask for them? Can you borrow, rent, or buy these items yourself? Remember, this is about you controlling your outcome.
Working with What You Have: Identify existing tools and your ability to use them proficiently. Technology, first and foremost. While we might have had time to “learn on the fly” in the past, in today’s WFH era, when time is at a premium, we cannot allow this process to get in the way of our success.   If you need help getting up to speed, YouTube offers great shortcuts and tutorials on nearly any topic.
Clarify your Purpose and Stakeholders in Your Success
What is Your “Purpose?”
In this WFH world, what are your focus areas? Have your role and responsibilities changed? If so, look for what has changed and why.
Who are the Key Stakeholders in your Success? 
Identify who they might be. Can these stakeholders help with professional development? Be accountability partners? Give you feedback and/or encouragement?Can they help build your skills or gain access to resources?
After you identify these stakeholders and answer these questions, reach out to those stakeholders. Have direct conversations about what you want and why.  Remember the negotiation principle:  If you don’t ask for things, you don’t get them.  If you need help, ask for help. If someone is in a supervisory role or mentorship role, ask how they feel you can improve. Ask what skills do they feel are essential to your performance and personal/professional development?
Define your Goals, Outcomes, and Measures
What are Your Goals?
How do you determine your goals, and how do you measure progress? Make a list of your goals. Then look at your performance metrics. Are you measuring the right things?How can the metrics be adjusted? Will measuring a new way add what impact to the outcomes? If so, how?
Schedule Your Time
Scheduling: It is all about what you do in the time you have available.
Block out your time. What are your goals, and what time are you setting aside for your goal attainment?  If you don’t make time for these items each day, you will never attain your goals. 
Set yourself up for success. A best practice is before you finish work or before you leave the day or weekend (Sunday evening) is this: think about the top three things you need to accomplish in the week and then for the day. 
Have all you need ready to go in the morning. Locate files, jot down steps to take, conversations and outcomes to have, people you need. Review your schedule to see when you can start.  Maybe you scheduled an 8:30 meeting.  How will this meeting impact the rest of your day? Schedule priorities accordingly.
Map out your day. If you find the beginning of your day is the part with the most energy, use this energy time to get focused. You want to begin your work day at 8 or 8:30.  How can you be prepared to use this high energy time to take action on your number one priority?  Maybe that means meditating or working out before your day begins.  Did you set yourself up for success the day before? 
Perhaps set aside time specific time to go through your inbox. Figure out the best time. Maybe 9:30?  If so, you can communicate with your key stakeholders: set your office email auto responder to indicate you are in the office and will be reviewing email at that time.
PRIORITY—Schedule your “you” time, and block it out. Want to exercise?  Meditate? Read?  Move?  Make time for it. During your workday, set timers / reminders for regular movement – a best practice is to set the timer to go off every 60 to 75 minutes to stretch or move around for at least five minutes. Not only is it a form of exercise and self-care, but changing your position adds energy to your brain.  March in place, walk around, focus on your steps for the day. This one change will add up to 40 minutes of movement in to your day.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Learn How to Say NO.  This falls under scheduling AND communication. Think it is impossible?  It is not.  In fact, the best help you can give to another person is one of honest communication—whether it is a boss, a coworker, or anyone else involved in your success or impacted by your performance.
If “NO” is the answer, help find solutions.  Ask what you could do immediately to help since your availability is not until a later date or time.  Can you identify another resource?  Can you make that introduction now?  Remember: “No” is not forever, it could mean “No, not now.” It could mean “No, I am not the best resource—maybe a member of my team wants to gain visibility or gain this skill – wouldn’t they be perfect for this opportunity?”
Make your Availability Transparent. Block out time on your calendar and make your availability known to others so they can potentially work around your availability.  If this isn’t possible, make sure you share your priorities with others.
Creating a WFH mindset is all about maximizing your workspace and available resources—your connections, technology, and a working schedule—for maximum success, and taking an inventory of what things you need to help with your success.
What strategies are working for you? What “best practices” are you are using to help with productivity in this WFH world? We’d love to hear—email us at psminfo@docs.rutgers.edu.
Kathleen Cashman
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