As I write this, most of us have spent somewhere between a few days and a couple of weeks engaged in “social distancing” caused by the corona virus pandemic. We’re finding that some of our clients are struggling mightily with work-from-home, while others seem to be thriving. So, what’s the difference? Why are some people able to use this remote work time to accelerate their projects (and their careers) while others find themselves grinding to a halt?
Here are three recommendations for improved productivity and career growth, based on our observations of what’s working, and what’s not:
- Make a schedule for everyone in the household – and enforce it. Let’s face it, when everyone is at home, it feels like the weekend. But if you want your projects and your career to stay on track, you can’t allow your days to sink into a weekend pace, for yourself or for your family. One of my colleagues created a schedule for her young kids that ensures they are focused on their school-from-home studies, that they get exercise and play time each day, and that they get outside for a bit. And because they have that structure and have their own “work” to do, she has been amazingly productive with clients and with her own work, even while at home. Even though we don’t have kids at home now, I learned something from her and am forcing myself to follow a more rigid schedule that starts with exercise and ends with getting to bed on time, even though I’m working at home as the CEO. Scheduled work and family time have made a huge improvement for me, and I’ll bet it could do wonders for you, as well.
- Reclaim the time previously lost because you worked away from home. We’ve heard a few reports of projects that have ground to a halt because team members are out of the office. But we’re seeing several clients take advantage of having no commute, less in-office chatter, and fewer hours in meaningless in-person meetings, to advance their key projects (and almost certainly their careers). One client has made more progress on a critical project since being forced into work-from-home and remote meetings than they made in the entire month prior, because they’ve reclaimed time that was often wasted, and reinvested it in productive work. Their team and ours agree on work that needs to be done in scheduled meetings, with specific deliverables and due dates, and then everyone just gets to work. One person estimated that they had a 25% increase in available work hours because they didn’t need to commute, stand in line for lunch, or be disrupted by coworkers. This extra time is available to you, as well, if you reclaim those lost hours instead of squandering them.
- Challenge yourself to START NEW projects now, instead of waiting for things to return to “normal”. None of us knows how long we’ll need to practice “social distancing”. Estimates of two weeks seem exceedingly optimistic, and I personally think we’ll be well into spring or maybe even summer before things are really “normal” again. So, what happens if your company discovers that they got along just fine without you, or your team, during this downtime? And what if others in your company are finding new ways to contribute, launching new initiatives and projects, while you just sort of shuffle along? I think you know the answer to that question, especially if your company needs to save a few bucks to make up for lost earnings and productivity. Our most productive, high-achievement clients are calling us up this week to discuss new projects, even during the chaos caused by a faltering economy and having everyone working from home. When things do finally return to normal, they’ll be far ahead of their peers and their competitors. If you’re not figuring out ways to go on the offense now in terms of starting new ways to add to your company’s bottom line and shine compared to your peers, even while things are in an admitted state of chaos, you might find yourself well behind some of these folks in terms of career competition. This is not the time to sit back and wait, its time to start new, productive projects.
When all of this is over and everyone goes back to the office, there will be two groups that emerge, and both will be noticed by the company’s senior managers and leaders. One group will have essentially squandered this time, waiting for things to “return to normal”. They will have been paid during their time working from home but might not have much to show in exchange for their salaries. The other group will have moved things along productively, sometimes even better and faster than when they were confined to a physical office. If social distancing and working from home lasts for a while, those senior managers will be looking for fat to trim to make up for lost earnings. When that happens, do you want to be in the group that just got through those weeks, or in the group that made those “corona virus weeks” amazingly productive? It’s not a difficult decision when you look at it that way, and the hard truth is that we’re probably a few months away from that.