As the coronavirus pandemic continues, life as we know it has been severely disrupted and most likely, irrevocably changed. Among many of the required shifts, we’re now seeing millions of professionals adjusting to working remotely from their homes. For some, it’s a relief to be near their loved ones and they’ve found ways to build new work-from-home habits and structures that help them execute their functions and balance their time with family without too much struggle. But for most professionals I’ve heard from, it’s an enormous emotional and behavioral adjustment that has turned their worlds upside down. They’re finding this new way of work confusing and challenging at best, without the technology, support and connection they’ve come to rely on.
I’ve worked from a home office for many years now since I left corporate life after the tragedies of 9/11, and I can honestly say that it took quite some time to find my groove. But once I figured it out, I’ve absolutely loved it and I’m far more productive, effective and balanced now than I ever could have been if I stayed working full-time in a corporate setting. I’m a huge fan of it.
To learn more about how we can speed this adjustment process along and work from home more successfully, I caught up with Dr. Ivan Misner who is a master at managing and leading large, successful initiatives and teams while working from home.
Dr. Ivan Misner is a bestselling author, founder of a global company, and a highly experienced work-from-homer who has been working from home on and off for over 30 years. In that time, he built the largest business networking organization in the world, BNI.com, which last year alone facilitated over 10 billion dollars’ worth of referrals for its members. He’s also written several New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books, as well as started the BNI Charitable Foundation, for which he was named “Humanitarian of the Year” by the Red Cross. If there’s one thing Misner knows how to do, it’s how to be productive in a home office setting.
Here’s what he shares to help us become more productive and effective and experience more reward working from home:
Kathy Caprino: What are some of the top things people are struggling with right now as millions have begun working from home due to the health crisis?
Ivan Misner: One thing I’ve learned over the years is that fear paralyzes most people. We don’t make good decisions based on fear. So don’t let fear paralyze you— let it provoke you. Provoke you to take action.
But how can you take action to connect with people when you can’t get out into the world and meet people face-to-face? The virus is serious, but panic is optional, so create a plan. Now more than ever, you need to activate your network. What I love about technology is that it flattens the communication hierarchy. It allows us to communicate with one another in ways that just didn’t exist when I started the BNI network in 1985.
Here are some things you can do right now to maintain a powerful personal network:
Set up appointments to talk to people in your network.
Connect with them on Zoom, Skype, GoToMeeting or another online platform.
Hey, get crazy and call them on one of those 21st century versions of what Alexander Graham Bell invented. Yes, call people on your phone. Some of my kids think they are just to do social media on, but you can do a lot more. It’s not the same as face-to-face but it will do in a pinch.
Be there for your networking friends. Find out if there are ways you can help them.
Ask for help. It’s OK to ask your network for help. Seriously, that’s why they are part of your network—to help each other.
Caprino: What’s are the three biggest surprises for people who’ve never tried working remotely before? Are they finding that it’s not as amazing as they thought it would be?
Misner: Thirty five years ago I started my business in my home. I learned that it was certainly convenient but there were things that I needed to do to also be productive.
Here are three:
Establish a dedicated area as your workspace
It could be a room or just a table. But that is your workspace. Don’t use that space for personal activities if at all possible. That is now officially, your “office” and needs to kept that way as much as possible.
Don’t get distracted. Since this space is now your office, treat your workspace like your office. Structure your day like you would in an office. Don’t get sidetracked by funny cat videos (or the hourly health report on the news). Focus on your business.
Plan your day
Schedule your work on your calendar, hour by hour. This will help you stay focused and on track. If you are doing phone calls or online calls, schedule them. Create a list and check off the contacts on your list as you make a connection with them.
Caprino: For parents trying to work from home with kids, please share about boundary-setting and other essential actions that help us thrive at home.
Misner: Communicate your expectations and ground rules with anyone else that may be at home with you (toddlers and younger ones may be an exception). Know that we are all basically in the same boat, so that big client won’t be shocked when one of your little ones shows up on screen behind you while you’re talking to them. It’s OK. Remain calm and let the family know you’ll be there as soon as you can.
Then, it is really important that you be fully present for the family as soon as you can. Working from home is a bit of a balancing act. Take a deep breath. You can do this.
Caprino: What are some of the traps (or bad habits) that people fall into when working from home?
Misner: Technology is great, but stay off social media unless it is directly work-related. Make sure to take breaks but no longer than you would normally take. Don’t make working from home your excuse for a two-hour lunch watching TV! Many people say to dress as you would to go to the office—I don’t. Hey, it’s really casual Friday every day of the week while you’re working from home.
I have a little secret (don’t tell anyone)—I have dress shirts that I keep handy and put on when I have online meetings. Just don’t ask me to stand–I’ll be wearing my sweatpants. Let’s keep that to ourselves though.
Caprino: What are some ways to make working from home more productive and satisfying? Any tips to share?
Misner: There are many benefits from working at home. When you work from home, you are at your desk in moments. Your schedule may be more flexible. You have no office distractions from other people. You can be more productive if you’re good at focusing. And hey, remember the sweatpants? There’s a lot to be said for comfort.
Remember to take breaks away from your “workspace” and hang out with the family, walk the dog, go to the park or yes, go watch some TV. One bit of advice, don’t obsess over the news. You’ve got this. Your safely ensconced in your home. You have a plan and you are working your plan. Again, don’t let fear paralyze you, and stay connected with others any way you can.
Caprino: How long does it take to get into a groove?
Misner: If someone consciously creates the space and a plan they will execute, they can get into the working from home groove very quickly. In fact, you are likely to find that you are more productive than you have ever been before. I know I am.
One final word of advice I’d love to offer, that comes from my inspiring friend and colleague Vivian Lee-Shiue—who is masterful at working from home with two young children—as we connected today via text from our home offices: Try to avoid extremes, of working 15 hours straight a day because you’re home, or not working at all because you’re totally distracted by everything.
Find your best balance and breathe. You’ll make this work.
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