This week's topic: Rules for success when working from home.
Working from home used to be relegated to just a few roles or organizations. Now, knowing how it's done effectively is suddenly relevant to millions of workers across the globe. The sudden change from an in-office environment to one that takes up every inch of space on the family kitchen table is one that a lot of us are still getting used to, no matter what kind of work we do or who we do it for.
That's why Episode 2 of CFO Weekly featured the CEO and Co-founder of Australia's fastest-growing independent book publisher Pantera Press and one of Australia's "100 Most Influential Women", Ali Green. Green was also named one of Sydney's Young Entrepreneurs of the Year in 2019. Over a decade ago, when Pantera Press was still in its most nascent stages, Green worked exclusively from her family's kitchen table to help get it off the ground.
That's part of what made her such an obvious choice for a guest on this week's episode of CFO Weekly, where she shared her ten rules for work-from-home success with host Megan Weis – VP & General Manager, FAO Services here at Personiv. You can subscribe to CFO Weekly and listen to the latest episode on Apple Podcasts.
Why it's So Important to Make a Schedule While Working Remotely
More than one of Green's rules emphasizes the importance of creating a schedule during work from home hours and maximizing the hours in your workday, even when that workday looks a lot different than what you're used to. In a normal office environment, Green explained, there's a lot that can keep you on schedule, particularly the social and visual cues of coworkers arriving and departing at the beginning and end of each workday to keep us on time or remind us when it's time to pack it in.
Without those cues, the temptation to simply roll out of bed and log on or the possibility that your day will expand past normal working business hours both grow. That's why Green suggests that a consistent schedule, which you'll communicate to your colleagues, managers or clients – and you'll adhere to with an alarm on your phone to gently remind you when it's time to "clock in" and then out again -- is key.
Green also emphasizes the importance of similar reminders to take small breaks and a lunch hour during your workday so you're not simply "powering through" from your workstation all day long. "In an office, you would never sit down and work uninterrupted for eight to ten hours," Green reminds us. "It's so easy when you're working from home to just let work bleed into every hour of your day," Weis agrees, "and that's just a recipe for getting burnt out."
Another rule of Green's also deals with the allocation of time, though it's outside of what most people consider part of their workday. Few remote work newcomers mourned the loss of their commute with the widespread shift to working from home, but Green reminds listeners that the time we usually spend in our cars or on public transportation actually has a pretty important job. It creates a clear barrier between our work and home lives, and functions as a time to mentally prepare for the workday ahead at the commencement of our day – and one that facilitates mental decompression at the end.
For that reason, one of Green's rules is to use "commute" time wisely. Allow for it, schedule it in, and spend the time you'd typically spend sitting in gridlocked traffic walking your dog, cultivating a productive mentality in the morning, or getting out of a working headspace at the end of the day.
What it Means to 'Separate Work from Sanctuary'
Back in 2008, when Pantera Press was still a just-born company and Green was working from her kitchen table, she started to notice something odd. Even when the workday was over, any time she sat at the table, whether it was just to have a cup of coffee or to socialize with the other members of her household, her mind would wander back to work. Even just being in the space she spent hundreds of hours a month working put her in the same frame of mind actually sitting down to work did. Not only did this have a detrimental effect on her downtime, it made her less productive at work, too.
That's why she says it's vital to find a way to separate your work from your sanctuary. In an office environment, you'll physically step out of your working space. That gets much harder when you're working from your home. The boundaries between the place where you work and the place you relax have to be intentionally created, or before too long you'll find it nearly impossible to do either.
With that in mind, there's one place Green insists is off-limits for everyone, in every line of work. "Avoid working from your bed at all costs," she advises. "You should never sit on your bed or lie on your bed with your laptop to do work ... never. Your bed needs to remain a sanctuary for stress-free sleep. Ideally, you wouldn't even work from your bedroom."
Still, Green knows from firsthand experience that in many cases, people have a limited number of options in a limited amount of space, particularly when they're not the only newly remote worker in a shared home. In instances where you can't set up a dedicated workspace, or a workspace outside of your bedroom, separating your work and sanctuary spaces can be done by breaking down your workspace when that alarm on your phone goes off to remind you that the workday is over. That can mean putting your laptop into a bag or case or clearing off the surface you've been working at, so long as the remnants of the workday are cleared away and reminders of tasks yet to be completed are stashed out of sight until the next day begins.
The Key to Managing Your Team Remotely - Rules for Success When Working From Home
A big piece of the work from home puzzle is navigating a new set of relational standards when it comes to the people you're working with, which can mean colleagues that you're no longer able to interact with face-to-face and the members of your household, who may not work with you but are suddenly an ever-present fixture in your new workspace.
For this, Green recommends a healthy dose of realistic expectations buttressed by a whole lot of patience. "When it comes to managing people," Green stresses, "one of the key things is actually just being kind and understanding. At this point in time, life is very difficult for lots and lots of people and the world is very stressful. Recognize that we're all doing the best we can. This is not business as usual – we need to be kind and supportive of everyone."
These few touchpoints are just a few of Green's comprehensive set of ten rules for work from home success. To hear Weis and Green discuss them all in detail, be sure to subscribe to CFO Weekly on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your favorite podcasts. You can also see a webinar that covers Green's rules that she put together in conjunction with Personiv here on the website. Be sure to connect with Megan on LinkedIn and follow both Ali and Pantera Press on Instagram.
Like what you heard on this episode? Don't forget to leave CFO Weekly a review on Apple Podcasts and get in touch if you'd like to be a guest yourself.