• Kurt Schmidt

Helpful Habits and Hacks for Working from Home

The word from Washington (and the word from here in Tennessee, too) is that we better get settled in to working from home for a while longer.  Even though I’ve been doing quite a bit of working from home over the years, it is an adjustment to be only working from home.

So, I reached out to a couple of my alums who have a lot of personal experience in working from home and working as part of a virtual team.

Key Work Habits

Corey Griggs, whose business helps companies build scalable web and mobile applications and integrates disconnected systems, graduated from our program a decade ago. He recently shared in an article at Medium the four work habits he’s developed from his experience working from home:

  1. Have a routine

  2. Keep your space clean

  3. Focus on client communication

  4. Stop working at the end of the day

It is a great read, and offers some good, practical insights for bringing these habits to life.

Corey also suggested a few additional hacks to facilitate successfully work from home:

  1. Stand up for phone calls

  2. Over-the-ear headphones for focus

  3. If you can, use a noise cancelling app that removes background noise from video calls

  4. If you have a client that doesn’t want to see your cat on a Zoom call, show them your name, company, and brand by generating a Zoom virtual background on ScreenBrander

  5. Keep it clean. If you eat, sleep, and work in the same place, you can’t create a balance. Cleanliness reduces stress when there’s less clutter.

  6. Stop working. If you don’t take breaks and separate yourself, you’re going to lose productivity for all of your customers. Recharging when at home is harder when you’re in the same room where you work.

  7. Exercise. I have used the 100 push-ups app and 100 sit-ups app for some quick, efficient exercises

  8. If you get distracted easily using something like the Freedom app can help

Virtual Teams Done Right

Chris Tompkins, Director of Sales for Rustici Software, graduated from our MBA program in 2009.  Although Rustici is headquartered in Nashville, Chris works remotely from his home in Seattle.

Since the outbreak of coronavirus, the entire Rustici team now works virtually.  Here are tips Chris shared with me about virtual teams:

  1. Work from the Cloud:  “We’re already paperless and serverless,” says Chris.  “All agreements, invoices, POs, etc, are in digital pdf, all systems are ‘in the cloud’ including email and internal tools.  We have nothing in the building that requires someone to be in the office.”  Fortunately, this is not something Rustici put together just to deal with the coronavirus.  They have been working toward this approach for several years.  “I’m proud that our whole company is back to fully-functional speed, within a week of a massive change'” adds Chris.  “Nearly every Rustician feels like we might actually be getting more done day-to-day, myself included.”

  2. Single Best Tool Award:  Slack.  “It’s a place to meet internally, have open-door rooms, converse on a topic, work as a team, and more,” Chris explains.  “If there’s one tool I’d point at, as our key to success right now, it’s slack.  I don’t know how businesses operate without it.”

  3. Video On By Default: “We’ve all got cameras, turn them on by default.  Remove the post it, flip the little cover over, put effort into your back-drop,” Chris advises.  “We’re all performing at work, the video camera provides a stage.  Turn it on, keep it on, even if the other side does not.”

  4. Create Fun Spaces: “We all need to goof-off and bond,” says Chris.  “Everyone does it, so I like to create places for us to burn work time together.  At least the team is getting some value out of the downtime we all need, if we’re sharing that down time with one another.  A successful team needs to create ways to ‘waste time’ and bond.  We’ve created slack channels for The Pets of Rustici, car talk, ‘ping-pong-room,’ and even a standing team video chat running where people can pop-in as they want.  Just because we’re all working remotely does not mean we’re alone, we’re actively working on ways to make sure the human relationship continues to grow, not just our remote productivity.”

  5. The Biggest Challenge: “Scheduled conversations,” Chris admits.  “We’re noticing that we haven’t solved for the casual drop in.  The open video room is one attempt, but Leadership has noticed that the additional step to ‘schedule a call’ means we’re not just walking office to office to organically catch-up, then casually dive into work.  Without this pop-in approach, it makes every interaction feel way more intentional and formal than someone sticking their head into an office, when it looks like someone is free-enough to chat.  Since we can’t visibly really know if someone is heads-down, the way our office doors signal in the building, it’s likely reducing the total number of interactions within the company.”

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