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Five Ways to Make Working from Home Work for You

Posted by on June 2, 2020 in Business, Careers with 0 Comments

By Caroline Goyder

The working from home revolution is here, brought on by COVID-19. It happened so suddenly that most of us are still working it out. What seemed at the start of lockdown as a stopgap is likely to become a permanent option for many of us. Twitter has announced that employees can work from home permanently, and Barclays Bank boss Jes Staley has said that big offices may be “a thing of the past.” If working from home becomes your new modus operandi, how do you make it work for you?

If you’ve noticed how, after a day of video conferencing, you feel drained, or that your personal sanctuary has been slightly invaded, or scattered from juggling home and work roles, then you may be realizing that you need to take control. Above all, you need to create new rituals that allow you to move between roles.

For now, and possibly forever, the old rituals have been erased by COVID-19. Remember them? Getting ready for work, commuting, greeting your coworkers. Though you may have grumbled as you squeezed in with other exhausted commuters, the commute was a ritual that took you from your rumpled waking self to your pressed, prepared work self. And that ritual allowed you to feel confident and ready for your day.

What you may now be realizing is that, without the old rituals, you feel invaded or exhausted as your home mutates into your office, your conference room and your break room. Colleagues scrutinize your bookshelf or the room behind you while videoconferencing.

You need to create new rituals to take you between worlds, between selves, so that you can step into your work self with confidence and clarity, and then step out again to relax and enjoy home life. When they blur, both worlds suffer. You look less professional if you show up unfocused, sleepy eyed and pajama’d for your work meetings, and your home life suffers if you’re always reading emails and moving to the next assignment.

In the new COVID world, how do you create the new rituals of working from home (WFH)? You could of course, just put that suit on, and drive around the block to “arrive” at your desk at home. But if that feels a little extreme, you need to find new ways to transition between home and work.

Professional performers know a lot about moving between roles. Although we don’t want to be on stage at home, there’s a lot we can learn from the pros about moving between our home selves and our work selves.

  1. Costume the role. Actors have a ritual for getting into the role that involves dressing for the part. Costume, hair and make up provide a kind of outside-in confidence boost. Even though your audience on video conferences will only see your top half, take the same care with getting ready as you did in the days of in-person meetings. Put on clothes that make you feel costumed and confident. Look into the mirror and see that focused professional work self who walked confidently into meeting rooms. Let that self show up in your home office, too, for the meetings that matter.
  2. Find your calm center. It’s so tempting when working from home to procrastinate until two minutes before the call. And then, suddenly, you have to scramble. This is a mistake. You forget how to unmute yourself, or you left your headphones on the sofa. Borrow from the performance world and give yourself time to transition. Just take a moment to relax. Calm yourself and quiet your mind by breathing in through the nose for four counts, then out for six counts. Once you’re calm, set yourself an intention for the call — what do you want to achieve? When you start calm and controlled, you segue into your work self smoothly because you’ve given your system a transition time.
  3. Think short and sweet. Presenting yourself in virtual life is harder because you’re deprived of the subtle cues that you have in the real world. Still, the physical distance of the digital age doesn’t have to mean emotional distance. Replicate the interactions you had in the office by making your calls short, but often. Virtual morning or evening huddles can keep the trust and emotional closeness. Try to make virtual calls shorter than in-person meetings. With clients, apply the short and sweet principle, too. That hour face-to-face meeting can shorten to a 30-minute call. No one ever minds if you finish early.
  4. Plan like a pro. Another danger of blended lives, in which the home and work selves overlap, is not taking time to plan properly. Before, you would have thought about your meeting on your commute. But when WFH, you might be clearing up breakfast or teaching home school. This is why, so often, remote meetings are scrambled and ad hoc. Instead, take time to prepare and you’ll feel more in control and more polished. Clarify in advance the purpose of the call and what you want to achieve. Prepare an agenda, assigning times to each topic. Keep others engaged by planning short segments of content and, like good broadcast, give each a different energy vocally — serious, upbeat, thoughtful. As any producer will tell you, the more structured things are, the more you can relax and connect in the moment.
  5. Have them at hello.Your work self takes a little extra energy compared to your low-key home self. As you join in, make sure you start strong. A good rule for calls is to go first and create the energy you want for the call. It starts with your “hello.” Look into your camera and let a sense of delight at seeing everyone travel into your voice. People respond best to a smile in the voice — even if they can’t see you. Make sure that your first words are upbeat and energized, and that you maintain that energy on the call. To project your voice on video, think of sending your voice to the back of the room, even as you look at the screen. This gives you a boost of energy that will lift your audience.

When you commit to taking ownership of this new way of working, and manage your time, your energy and your delivery, you’ll feel more positive and in control. You’ll set yourself up for a new professional normal that may well be here to stay.

About the Author

Caroline Goyder has an international reputation as an expert speaker and trainer with senior management within organizations as well as private individuals. She worked for many years at London’s Royal Central School of Speech and Drama as a voice coach before launching her own company. She is regularly sought out by the media, and her extremely successful Ted Talk has had over 7.5 million viewers. Her new book is Find Your Voice: The Secret to Talking with Confidence in Any Situation (Penguin Random House UK, Jan. 30, 2020), along with previous books Gravitas: Communicate with Confidence, Influence and Authority and The Star Qualities: How to Sparkle with Confidence in All Aspects of Your Life. Visit www.carolinegoyder.com, or find her across social media: @Carolinegoyder.

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