Working from home tipsI've been working from home for over two years. At first I found it difficult, but now I love it. Here's my tips to help you...
Working from home for years – tips
I’ve been working from home for the last two years, at first I found it very difficult, but now I love it! Here are my tips:
A little over two years ago, I started working for NIODA offering a real, dinky-di, fully accredited Master of Leadership and Management degree (teaching the people side of things) with an average student age of 48. I started from home and at that stage, I had meetings in the city one day a week. Initially, I found it very difficult to get a grip of the organisation’s culture, ways of doing things, approval tree and how to take up my role. In the beginning, the days in the city were vital to my development in my role within the organisation and connection with staff. All meetings were face-to-face or over the telephone or voice on Skype. If we were working on finalising a document, would speak on the phone, one would read it out and the other edit it and then email it to the other person to check for errors.
Oh, how times have changed!
We introduced Zoom into the meeting space. This enables us to meet with a number of people together ‘Brady bunch style’ and one can see the faces of those who are speaking and interaction is deeper than via the telephone. We also started using Google docs, allowing a number of people to have a document open together and to edit and comment on it together in real-time whilst across the telephone (or Zoom if two or more).
Let me give you an example:
Late last year we needed to create a committee to address the sexual assault and sexual harassment that a new study revealed was rife across the university sector. We put together a task force including: a lawyer who had worked on the development of the legal definition of rape in Victoria; a retired gynaecologist who had headed up the rape trauma centre at the Royal Woman’s Hospital and was a member of our human research ethics committee; a male student who works in the leadership space; and a member of the teaching staff who is also the student advisor. If we had chosen to meet face to face, with travel times, each member would have had to take half a day off work. However, we elected to meet over Zoom and therefore each member only had to schedule an hour from their busy work schedule to attend. So we met together with regularly scheduled meetings on Zoom. Each meeting began with ‘reflection time’ or a ‘check-in’ for ten minutes which enabled everyone to express where they were at and what they were bringing to this meeting, and then we got down to business. We achieved all that we set out to do. We developed the Sexual Misconduct policy on Google docs over several meetings. The implications of each section of the policy were discussed at length and edited in real-time to the approval of all in attendance. We then developed a webpage specifically covering advice and information pertaining to students and staff and sexual misconduct and determined the best methods for training techniques and programs for staff and students. All this whilst building a level of camaraderie amongst the committee. We connected and then got down to business to address the areas required of us.
This is just one example, this happens across different areas of the organisation every day.
Working from home tips:
Tip 1: Core essentials
I have school-age children and each day (until COVID-19) either drop them off or pick them up. On occasions, meetings are scheduled near to school drop pick up time. So I drive to the school early, connect my computer to my phone via hotspot, open Zoom and Google docs and get started, all whilst sitting in my car. Often the meetings finish just as my children arrive. I drive them home and then return to my desk to finish the afternoon.
Tip 2: Find a quiet spot
I am fortunate to have a lovely workspace in a studio, separate from the main house, so I can work without interruption. That being said, my dog has barked on occasion in the middle an important meeting (I have got much better at using the mute function). I get up early and get my household chores done, and then ‘leave for work’ this helps me focus. So I encourage you to find a space in which you can work uninterrupted.
Tip 3: Headphones
I have a good set of headphones and microphone, so if my kids do barge in, they cannot hear what is happening in the meeting and I let them know what time it will finish and I can help them then.
Tip 4: Work a normal day
It is easy to pull out the computer at any time and work. However, it is important to switch off and have family/hobby/relaxation time. I don’t send, check or respond to emails outside of my normal work hours, including the weekend. Whilst working I stay focussed, so if I have a chore to attend to, I will do this during my lunch break.
Tip 5: Reach out to colleagues
If I am struggling to complete a piece of work, I now know I can call on my colleagues to find someone who can help me within it. We schedule a meeting and open in it Google docs and get down to business. This helps to get those jobs done that I keep putting off because I have some sort of block to attending to them. Often, we just get started and then I am fine and can complete the task on my won.
Tip 6: Schedule zoom meetings
Humans are social creatures. We can do so much more together. Meetings are vital and these are scheduled throughout the day and this keeps me and everyone on track. Visual meetings (on Zoom) are great to see everyone on screen. There is a much stronger connection than speaking on the phone. It can also be awesome to screen share.
Tip 7: Check-in ‘reflections’
The ten minutes check-in ‘reflections’ are a wonderful time to stay connected and to ensure the pulse of the organisation is a positive one, or if not, those who are struggling can be supported.
Tip 8: Either all face-to-face or all virtual
It is difficult to manage a meeting with some in the room and others online, as those online often miss what is being said, or get forgotten as the meeting progresses. I prefer meetings that all either all virtual or all face-to-face.
Tip 9: Anything is possible
Although somewhat hectic to get the tech sorted, NIODA changed all face-to-face classes to live interactive online sessions, without missing or cancelling a class. Just recently we held an online public lecture with an international leader in the field with 78 people on Zoom, and it was interactive!
Before COVID-19 I was catching the train to the city once a month and now that is not happening at all. Yet I am still able to further the organisation and develop within my role at work. I am connected to fellow staff. I work a full eight-hour day and am still available in the evenings and mornings for my family. I don’t have to pack or buy my lunch (I love reheating left-overs). I don’t have to travel or an hour each day. I have reduced my global footprint. Google and Zoom are my friends. Life is good!
Ms Sally Mussared
Director of Administration, NIODA
6 April 2020
Working from home for years, tips
ps Are you a leader or manager and would like to learn more about what NIODA is all about? Have a look at the NIODA Master of Leadership and Management (Organisation Dynamics) course.
Working from home for years – tips by Sally Mussared