The At-Home Office

Three tips to elevate your productivity and happiness while working from home

By Dawn Wiese

Work is changing for many as COVID-19 forces a shift in how and where people are working.   As a company headquartered in the Atlanta-area with an all-remote work team, our emergency work plan is Keep Calm and Carry On as we’re all well-accustomed to a home-office structure.  A lot of advice is suddenly popping up on adjusting to remote work, but it can be overwhelming to sift through tons of articles that share their top do’s and don’ts, especially if working from home is unchartered territory for you and your team.

Plaid’s focus is on the productive work environment – which is so much more than just getting the work done.  We also focus on each other and each other’s needs.   How do we do it?  

  • Employ Coffee Talk – When in a physical office space, you have chance personal encounters regularly and many of them you likely take for granted  — stopping by a colleague’s desk to ask about the weekend, sending an email joke to a colleague in the cubicle over, and waiting to hear their laugh, or simply taking a break together at the office Keurig. A home office does not have those built-in personal moments with colleagues you’d get in an office space.  As you may know, those small moments can make or break how one feels about the work environment.  As a remote company, we know that – and we work actively to create connections that lead to a more cohesive team. Consultant Kate Richey suggested a way to create more intentional social interactions, by suggesting (optional) 30 minute Zoom meetings to catch up outside of regular business, over morning coffee before the All-Plaid Staff Calls. Depending on your office ethos, remote work may allow for a relaxed dress code.  At Plaid, we dress for work when out in the field,  but when in our home offices, we’re casual.  And, that is how we are with Coffee Talk. For our first Coffee Talk, I put on a work blouse and some make up, yet that has since changed radically. And, as a team, we’re comfortable with our morning ponytails, backwards hats, cats on our laps, partners and spouses in the frame saying good morning and no makeup. We embrace the early morning conversations together to have a chance to hear what’s going on in each other’s lives – Kate’s upcoming honeymoon, Chris’ daughter, Vera, on his lap before going for a doctor’s visit, Callie’s update on her volunteer work with Girls on the Run.  Coffee Talk has become one of my favorite meetings  and when 9:30 am Eastern rolls around every other Tuesday of the month, I am eager to sign on and see my team’s faces to get a glimpse into their day to day. Try out some face time with your team as you’re working from home– even just informally to start or end your day. It can give you something to look forward to – seeing your teams’ work from home spaces and potentially catch up on non-business items. 
  • Have Intentional Communication – I addressed that Coffee Talk precedes our twice a month “All-Plaid” Staff Call.  The All-Plaid Call includes all full-time staff planning meetings every other Tuesday morning.  On the other two Tuesday mornings a month, the managing partners meet to make sure we are clear on strategy, next steps for major projects, responsibilities, and action items.  It is the responsibility of those in leadership to be deliberate about communication.   There may be a tendency to think your whole team should hop on the phone for staff meetings during your time at home.  I caution against this.  Your senior leadership team (C-Suite, or whatever you call them) should meet and make the decisions necessary to pave the way for smooth all-staff meetings.  The goal is to keep all staff engaged and productive.  Staff should not be required to use their time to sit in on conversations in which they are just listening to decisions being made, not participating.  Make sure your meetings include the right people and your agendas include the right topics.  Or, as said well by Bill Gates, “Being flooded with information doesn’t mean we have the right information or that we’re in touch with the right people.”  
  • Don’t Make Arbitrary Rules – Everyone working from home must find their own pace and ways to be productive. Fight the urge to measure productivity by setting specific office hours (unless required by your office), initiating a working-at-home dress code or sending out notices about turning off the television.  I, for example, sometimes put on the television because I like a voice in the background.  Some of our staff prefer to work on their back porches, and others in their office space. Measure productivity of employees by work product – not by setting arbitrary rules you won’t be able to enforce any way.  And, particularly if we all find during COVID-19 that we’re in home offices for a long time, you might find employees begin working odd hours to fill the time.  If we’re all going to be in our houses a lot – more than we normally are  relax! Encourage people go on a walk in their neighborhoods (if able), or do a chore around the house to take a brain break  during the day and catch up on office work at night.

We’re facing unprecedented changes to our work, and fast. Working from home takes time to adjust to – but if you follow these tips, you’ll have a happier and more productive team… Communicate, stay organized and be flexible, and allow yourself the space to figure out your new routine.  And, if you want to talk with Plaid about creating productive work environments through any challenge, give us a call.  Have other Work from Home tips that you employ for yourself or your team?  Let us know in the comments!

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