An Anecdotal Account of Working Remotely for the Non-Remote PersonalityWritten by: Dave Drum
Admittedly, I’m a bit of a workaholic. I thrive in a fast-paced, interactive, “Let’s get it done” environment. I enjoy teamwork and the different (and albeit at times challenging) personalities as well as the problem-solving opportunities that arise while at the office and production facilities at DocuSend. And let’s face it, social interaction is a natural human “condition” that must be fed.
So, when COVID-19 reared its ugly head I had to make the difficult decision of pulling myself out of line and working remotely from home. It was not a preferred scenario, but due to underlying health issues, better to make adjustments now, in order not to fight additional battles in the future.
Sounds easy, right?
Well, as a seasoned professional I thought, “OK, no problem; same day, different location.” I couldn’t have been more mistaken. And through this experience I’ve gained a much better understanding and respect for our DocuSend employees in other countries that I deal with daily.
I’m sure for some this would be a dream come true. But for me, it’s a difficult adjustment.
Here are some of the hitches I experienced and some tips to help deal with them:
Quick and Easy Communication
While in the office, hundreds of conversations happen throughout the day. Many of those interactions don’t stop with a quick yes/no, all-is-clear encounter. A typical scenario:
The task gets completed in no time. Also, Dave and Jim are able to hear voice inflection and read body language, which further enhances their understanding of the request.
It’s not always convenient or practical to set up a video conference every time you need a quick response. So email is the tool of choice and necessity. We are in a fast-paced, information-driven business, which seems to be pretty much the norm today. At DocuSend, data flies in and out in the blink of an eye. Concise information exchange is essential to lightning-speed process completion.
Tip: I’ve found that it’s critical to provide specific information, whether you are the requestor or the “requestee” (not a real word, but it sounds cool, so I’m going with it).
This sounds basic and of common sense, but assuming that others understand what you mean leads to wasted time and, worse yet, the potential for unreliable or incorrect results. I am never insulted when I receive too much information. On the flipside of that, vague, open-ended requests beg for follow-up, sometimes multiple times, which isn’t very efficient via email.
Remote Work / Personal Life
The next nuance to tackle was the new normal: Work = Home and Home = Work. Maintaining separation between the two takes some practice and realization that boundaries need to be in place.
The first few weeks I found myself constantly sitting at my “desk” monitoring, typing, scheduling, checking email, contacting customers and completing the busywork in the evening. Even “after hours” a walk past the “office” meant swooping in to check email and USPS status, which is critical to DocuSend. Fortunately for us, our business partner (USPS) never closes. At DocuSend, we follow the same business model.
It occurred to my wife and me, who is also working from home (guess who got the home office?) that boundaries would need to be set. Accordingly, we established our work hours as if in the office as well as turning off our remote connections and mobile device notifications after hours. It takes discipline! I had no idea how easy it is to get pulled back into office mode just by hearing a ”ping.” Pavlov’s dog has got nothing on me! However, we did it, and it provides a sense of normalcy.
- Establish working hours
- Retain the boundaries you would have if you were physically going into the office
- Turn it off (literally)
Distractions, Distractions, Distractions
WOW! Where to begin on this one? I’ll cut right to the chase…we have three dogs at home. These fur babies are well behaved, but they’re used to waiting for us to get home from work before the licking, jumping and playing begins. For anyone with a beloved pet, I’m sure you get the picture. These days when I “head to work,” I’m greeted by The Three Musketeers, tails wagging, with big smiles, saying, “It’s playtime!” It makes for a most interesting commute.
Then there are the delivery folks, the morning dishes in the sink, the lightbulb in the upstairs bath, the activity outside the window, the refrigerator calling out… YIKES!!
I needed help with this one and found some GREAT TIPS at Techrepublic.com, in addition to my ideas that work for me.
These Tips Worked for Me:
- Break up your work – Take occasional breaks just as you would in the office.
- Each day, establish and modify a to-do list.
- Get out of bed and get ready for work just like you would if going in to the office.
- Leave the house occasionally. Not so easy with the current COVID-19 protocols, but even sitting outside to eat lunch provides a nice break and allows you to refresh.
- Work only in your “office,” whether it’s a home office, a dedicated table, or in my case the dining room table.
- Set up your home workspace as similarly to your onsite office as possible.
Here’s the link to a great article: https://www.techrepublic.com/article/11-ways-to-eliminate-distractions-while-working-from-home/
These are the three big ones for me. They certainly aren’t all of the challenges for office-centric people like me. But, by utilizing these tips, I can work from a home office effectively and less painfully until I’m able to return to my office at DocuSend.