Lessons of 10 Years Spent Working From Home

Working From Home - Sites Professionals

My phone rings at 12:35 PM, every day Monday through Friday. It has since about 2010, when I began building my first business. I was based in Los Angeles, I had three partners in North Carolina, and we supervised development teams in Ukraine, Utah and Venezuela. I worked from home in a 1960’s-era two bedroom apartment I shared with my wife.

At first I was allowed the guest room as an office but then something incredible happened. In the midst of all the stress and uncertainty of having quit my job to found a startup - not paying myself, fretting constantly about my ability to provide for the two of us - we had twins.

I lost my office and about 4 months worth of sleep. Already in an agitated state, I started to forget lunch. Using the phone alarm as a reminder to eat started as a New Years’ resolution to take better care of my health. It was simple enough (and programable) for me to keep at it.

In 10 years of working from home I’ve picked up some habits that I hope you could find useful or at least entertaining.

One thing about managing remote teams is that the in-person tools we use to motivate and hold people accountable do not always translate to the virtual work environment. What does work? The answer is highly dependent on the members of your team. I wouldn’t presume to be able to tell you what to try with your team in an anonymous internet post like this one. In a call, perhaps. Until then, here are some thoughts:

TRUST: Trust your team. Set clear expectations and firm deadlines but relax on the supervision. We are all facing unique work-from-home circumstances and unless you are in TV or radio, it probably doesn’t matter when the work is done as long as it is completed on time. Many are now home-schooling their children. Challenges with shopping means that maintaining the household is spilling over into weekdays. All of us have earned a nap now and then. By now, all our work-days are likely to be fragmented. Define the goals you have for your team in simple terms, set deadlines and make yourself available for questions.

PATIENCE: Cool it with the video conferences. Two per day is plenty, even two could be too much if they drag on. If you have mental health practitioners providing services via telehealth for the first time, be mindful of the added challenges this presents. Working over video is still a fairly isolating experience and it requires adaptation. Even without technical glitches the pace of discussion has to slow to account for network latency. It is easy to step on each others sentences mid-thought when the video lags. We can also lose a lot of information normally communicated non-verbally. You may be surprised how much information we share by our posture, eye contact, pace of breath, etc. It takes time to get acclimated to reading non-verbal cues in this digital format, but it gets easier. We have had the pleasure of working with many practitioners who have thrived using telehealth. It is a wonderful tool and a skill that can be mastered. Do what ever you can to reduce technical problems, including providing new equipment if possible. Be patient, and understand that all of our jobs have become more complicated.

EMPATHY AS THE DEFAULT RESPONSE TO CONFLICT: Lastly, obviously, none of us have experienced anything like this before. Remember that we all react to change differently, and we adapt to it at different paces. Our adaptation will not always be linear, we will regress from time to time. If you find yourself in conflict with someone on your team, I would encourage you to first try to reframe the problem using empathy. Our goal should be to help one another. Together we will succeed.

Thank you for reading. I would love to hear your thoughts. Peace, and don’t forget to eat lunch.