Whatever your opinion on employees working from home, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it the new normal for most American companies.
The good news is there is a slew of research out there that shows at-home workers are actually more productive than their prairie-dogging contemporaries.
However, working from home requires a different motivational skillset than simply getting up every day and heading into the office where managers and peer pressure play a key role in maintaining and improving performance.
Most companies with successful work-from-home programs carefully wean their employees off coming into the office to give them a chance to develop new work habits while still receiving regular doses of supervision.
In the face of COVID-19, the potential for gradually migrating your employees to their new reality has been eliminated. It’s not an ideal situation but neither are the circumstances we now find ourselves in as a nation.
In this article, I’d like to offer you the next best thing: The tried and true 10 Commandments of Working from Home I’ve developed during my decades-long career in sales and sales leadership.
I’m sure following these important steps will help you and your employees adjust to your new world more quickly than going through all the trial and error I had to over the years. I’m also certain that by following these steps, you’ll come to love your new “workplace” and the high levels of productivity it inspires. Here are my commandments:
1. It’s time for a family meeting
Talk to your family about what the boundaries are while you are working from home. Make sure they understand that you are at work. While it may be cute to have your son or daughter interrupt your meeting internally, it’s important you can stay focused on the task at hand. Be as far away as possible from where they play. You can’t expect small children to be quiet all day. The same logic applies to pets and you might want to think about covering up the doorbell.
2. A home you call an office
Create a dedicated workspace that has a door, if possible. When the door is closed during the day, you are at work. No disruptions! Treat this area as you would your workspace in an office setting. Keep it clear of clutter and other distractions. Make sure you have plenty of internet bandwidth and good cell phone service
3. Set a schedule and stick to it
We are creatures of habit so set an alarm and do something every morning to get yourself in the right frame of mind for the day ahead. Make your bed. Ever wondered why the military does this? Leaders recognize the importance of starting every day with a consistent accomplishment. It also helps creates normalcy.
4. Act as if you were going into the office
When you feel more professional, you will act more professionally. Get up, take a shower, shave and put on what you would wear if you were going into the office (e.g. no baseball caps). Eat a nutritious breakfast and then go to work. Clean out your email before you start the day.
5. Video proof your room
Buy a good video camera with a mic. Use a video tool like Webex or Zoom to conduct online meetings and calls. Don’t forget you’re on camera and everyone can see you. Wear pants! Clean up the clutter behind you or better yet, use one of the program’s available digital backdrops. Use a headset or earbuds; they reduce outside noise. Make sure you look as professional as you would for a team meeting at the office. Even if it’s just audio, act as if you were on camera and stay out of the bathroom.
6. Prepare for Online Meetings
Just because it’s not happening in person doesn’t mean it requires any less preparation. As the salesperson, you are responsible for creating an agenda. Have a goal and take notes so you don’t miss any key takeaways. Keep attendees engaged by asking questions and sharing screens. Encourage your customers and prospects to interact with each other (remember, they aren’t together). Make yourself relevant. Eliminate distractions by turning off your phone and keeping your email Inbox closed or minimized. After the meeting, send out an email summarizing next steps for everyone who attended and suggest shorter (less than an hour), follow-up meetings to see everything through to resolution.
7. Invest in yourself
In an online work environment, it’s important you stay on top of your own professional and personal development. Fortunately, there are a plethora of personal and professional self-help and training platforms. Join Audio Books. Set aside some time daily to listen to or read a chapter or two.
8. Give to others
Just because you’re all not in the same building doesn’t mean you should forego teambuilding and camaraderie. Have a virtual happy hour. Select a self-help book that you can discuss with each other. Think of those people on your team that might be struggling more than others because of isolation or family issues. Make the effort to stay in regular contact with your team to maintain as much normalcy as possible.
9. Reach out to your prospects and customers NOW
People don’t care what you know until they know you care. Reach out to prospects and customers to see how you can help. Listen to them. Help them prepare to get back to business. Educate them on how the supply chain could have tremendous bottlenecks once this crisis has passed. Work through what they may need. Work on having orders ready to place to be first in line. Taking the time to find out what they’re going through personally and professionally will show them you care and help develop a lasting relationship that may be beneficial for both sides over the long haul.
10. Get energized
Take regular mental health breaks. Maybe dust off the exercise equipment in the garage or go for a walk. Take a YouTube yoga class. Watch something funny or inspiring. Help a friend or a neighbor with a quick chore. The possibilities are endless!
SUMMARY: Within reason, working from home lets you be the master of your own schedule so you can plan how to use your time to achieve peak professional performance. Following these commandments will help provide you with a whole new set of skills that will stand you in good stead when the COVID-19 crisis is over.
About the Author: David Sanders – Vice President of Strategy & Talent Acquisition at The Sales Coaching Institute: From small VC-backed firms to some of the world’s most successful technology companies, David has a stellar history of sales leadership success. He is passionate about leading sales teams and has a well-earned reputation in IT as a catalyst for growth. In environments characterized by constant change and organizational restructuring, he consistently raises the bar by optimizing salesforce productivity leading to double-digit year-over-year growth in newly created and integrated sales organizations.