Insurance Academy

Top 10 Work From Home Tips, or How Not to Lose Your Job from Home

By | March 23, 2020

Many workers are being asked to do something that some have wanted for years while others have never wanted. It’s time to work from home. Not to worry, we have plumbed the depths of our WAH (work at home) experience and come up with these top 10 WAH tips (and if you’re exceptional, you can might find one more tip).

Here they go. You’ll figure out the order as you go.

  1. Have a morning routine. Your normal workday includes your normal morning routine. You might sit, have a cup of coffee and read some news. You might sit and scroll Facebook. I remember my dad would have a cup of coffee a bowl of honey-nut cheerios and read the newspaper. Every. Single. Morning. Well, you’re still going to work so you need your morning routine. In fact, since you no longer have a commute to consider, you can upgrade your morning routine. Maybe you can get 5-10 minutes more sleep. Maybe you can invest 5-10 minutes in reading. Maybe you can even add #2 to your morning routine.
  2. Make time to exercise. When you go out for work, many times, there is walking involved. You walk from the parking garage to your building. You walk up the stairs, or at least walk to the escalator or elevator. You walk to your desk. You probably have to get up and walk to the coffee pot. All that walking that you used to do is gone. You now walk from the bedroom to the bathroom to the kitchen to the desk. You need to make some time to get some exercise in, even if it’s walking around your block, around your house, around your property, or to the end of the driveway and back.
  3. Shower and dress for work. A lot of people have this idea that working from home means sitting in your PJs all day with your hair a mess and you only shower when you’re going out. Well stop it. I’ve done that trick. You know what it does? It makes you down. It makes you value your work less. It makes you value your time less. All in all, it doesn’t do you any good. So, you need to get up, get ready, and dress for work. No, you don’t have to put a suit and tie on, unless you really want to. You do have to settle on a work uniform, though. I had one work from home job where my working from home was an exception. Most people worked in the office and the office had a dress code. Gentlemen wore a shirt and tie to the office. No exceptions. Well, guess who didn’t wear a tie at home, except when we got on skype calls. I would usually wear a button down shirt and I kept a zipper tie on a hook nearby so that if I got a video call, I could put the tie on, or if we were having a meeting, I could wear the tie. Of course, the rebel in me would normally wear shorts when they made me wear a tie, but that’s another story.
  4. Have a casual day every week. I know that I told you to get up and get dressed for work, but once a week you might want to take it easy. Maybe you just wear shorts and a t-shirt, or even stay in your PJs. Have a day when it doesn’t matter what you wear. You might find that the break in routine helps you in some way. I find that having one day every week or so when I don’t care what I wear helps my creative side. Give yourself a little grace to have a day when you just don’t have to dress if you don’t want to. Just don’t do it on days when you have a video call, especially with a customer. That’s not good.
  5. Get outside at least 2x/day. You’re going to struggle with breaking away from work, especially if you work in an environment where everyone is trying to get used to this whole remote work arrangement. You may feel like you’ve got to be sitting at that desk, working on stuff all the time, from 7:30 am to 5:40 PM just to make sure that people know that you’re working. We’ll deal with the trust issues of a work from home arrangement soon, but for now let’s assume that you and your boss both trust one another. That means that if you happen to miss a call, she’s not calling out the national guard to make sure that you’re somewhere working and not sleeping in or binge-watching Netflix. You need to get outside at least twice a day. Get out of the house. Get out of the air conditioning. Get out from the heat. Go outside and feel the sun on your skin. Smell the outside air. It’s a little about getting the fresh air. It’s more about getting away from the work for a few minutes, taking a mental break from the work that you’re doing, and allowing yourself to reset during the day. It’ll allow you to make a clean break from one project to work on another or to take a break from a project so that you can get fresh eyes on your project. Whatever you do get outside for a little while.
  6. Stand up. When I first started working at home, I found that I was sitting a lot more than ever before. Combine that with the walking that I had lost out on from my last job and I put extra weight on, and my back started to hurt a lot more. Then I got a stand-up desk. Now, I try and spend at least a few hours every day, working in a standing position. I’ve even found that I can focus on writing better when I’m standing at my desk. I also take most of my calls standing up and whenever we have a webinar, I’m standing, even if I’m not teaching.
  7. Overcommunicate at work and with those in your circle. You need to connect with people. There’s been much said and written of late about disconnecting from work and how too much social media is bad for your mental state and those are both true. Especially if you’re not used to working remotely, you need to be talking. A lot. You need to communicate what you’re doing, not because people need to check up on you, but because it makes those natural fears of losing control of everything bubble up in many leaders who’ve never been here before. You need to allay those fears by very clearly communicating what’s going on. What projects are you working on? What obstacles do you have in your working day? When do you think you’ll generally go for a walk outside? When do you plan to lunch? How is your family dealing with this new arrangement? Use multiple ways to communicate. Have an instant messaging system that you can chat with the team. Use that to keep up with one another, like a virtual watercooler. Don’t rely solely on email and chat but pick up the phone even more since no one is used to being so separated. Use video conferencing technologies whenever you just want to see one another. Remember that until last week, you spent over 40 hours every week in the physical presence of this group of people. By the way, you need to be open and honest with your circle, too. Keep them informed about how you’re doing. It helps everyone involved.
  8. Build accountability with the team. One of the reasons that you tell your leadership and your team what you’re working on is so that they can check up on you. Be ready for people to ask how that project’s coming along. Be ready to ask others how their projects are coming along. Have real honest conversations about the work that you’re doing and how the work you’re doing is coming along. That way everyone can help each other to get stuff done. In some ways, it’s easy to be really busy, but not really productive when you work from home. You can hide in the inbox, or in the chats. You can push virtual paper around, but not get stuff done. Hold one another accountable to get stuff done. You’ll thank me for that.
  9. Build deep trust with the team. Learn to trust one another on a new level. It’s easy to get along in a low trust office because you can see one another, but in a virtual office, low trust turns toxic really fast. This goes back to overcommunicating with one another. That communication builds trust and that trust builds teamwork. When we overcommunicate with one another, we make it easier to trust that people are giving their best and they may just need some help overcoming certain obstacles.
  10. Semper Gumby. Maybe you don’t remember Gumby, but he was a flexible stretchy toy (and TV personality) from back in the day. All I mean here is to stay flexible. Back in my army days, we would be briefed about an upcoming event; a deployment, going home, a training event, or anything else. Usually a few hours or days later, we would be informed of some change that affected us (usually that we wouldn’t be able to go home when we thought). Someone would always lean over and say, “Semper Gumby.” Stay flexible. Things change and they will keep changing as long as we are in this situation. This is not like working in an office where you can keep a regular schedule all the time, at least not at first and at least not in a fluid environment like we are in.

Bonus #11: Do not (EVER) work in your bedroom or living room. Here’s an extra thought if you stayed around to this point. Do not set up your workspace in your bedroom or your living room. The living room is your place to binge-watch Hulu. You’ll end up sucked into a vortex of Office episodes and get nothing done. Or you’ll end up helping your kids with their schoolwork instead of doing the work that you need to get done. Working in the bedroom is a huge non-starter to me. The bedroom is a sanctum. It’s the place where no one comes unless invited. I don’t want to invite work into my bedroom. It’s where I read without interruption. It’s where I communicate with my wife. It’s where I leave the responsibilities of life on the other side of the door and find rest so that I can do it again tomorrow.

I hope that these tips serve you well. Did I miss something? Do you have more tips? I’d love to read your thoughts.

About Patrick Wraight

Patrick Wraight, CIC, CRM, AU, is director of Insurance Journal's Academy of Insurance. He can be reached at pwraight@ijacademy.com.

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