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Real-Time Talk Tips for Working at Home

Published on Mar 27, 2020
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This is Mary Ellen Murrah, Vista Ops Consultant.  I know many law firm owners, managers, and team members are navigating remote work for the first time.  Vista is unique in that most of our team members ALWAYS work remotely when we aren’t visiting client firms.  We’ve had some time over the years to work out the kinks of isolation and daily remote work.  Here are my real-world, real-talk tips for how I approach my days working from home:

  1. Give yourself a minute!  When I first started remote work, I would jump up out of bed the second my brain registered an email “ding” on my phone, no matter the time.  NO MORE!  If I was working in the office, I’d have a commute to listen to music or a podcast.  I’d have a few moments to grab a cup of coffee and say good morning to my coworkers on arrival.  Now I approach my remote work days the same way.  I give myself some time to wake up, shake out the cobwebs, and ease into my day.  I grab a cup of coffee first, and then I get to work.
  2. Get “ready” for work. I’ve seen some posts recommending getting dressed and ready for work even when you’re just walking down the stairs.  Psshhht.  Real talk: Day pajamas and night pajamas are a thing.  Getting “ready” can mean brushing your teeth, throwing your hair in a bun, and switching from PJs to a tee shirt and sweat-pants.  Don’t sweat the getting ready unless you’ve got a client Zoom meeting (and in that case, just worry about waist up – you can be business on the top, PJs on the bottom!) That being said, we’re all different and succeed in different ways.  If you’re the kind of worker who needs to get snazzy to do your best work, by all means, get fancy.
  3. Have a dedicated workspace.  It can be as simple as a spot at your kitchen table, or as fancy as a decked-out home office.  But when you’re there, it means you’re at work.  Have your headphones and necessary paperwork at arm’s length.  I know I’m working when my chihuahua settles into my lap and falls asleep.
  4. Build in breaks.  Let’s face it, working in an office does not mean 8 hours of uninterrupted, focused working time.  Coworkers stop in to bounce ideas, we get up for coffee and bathroom breaks, and we have meetings.  If your expectation is to sit down for 8 hours of blissful, focused time, you’re setting yourself up for big disappointment.  I aim for chunks of focused time for projects, emails and client phone calls.
  5. Know thyself.  My calls typically don’t start until 10:00 am.  Other work projects lend themselves better to my “morning brain”.  Structure your schedule so you shine during your productive hours.
  6. Cut yourself some slack.  This may be new.  Most of us don’t master new things right out of the gate.  Be easy on yourself as you develop your best schedule.  Give yourself permission to experiment.  Find what’s working and what’s not, and adjust your time accordingly.
  7. Don’t be an island.  Vista has one of the best work cultures, and I don’t see my coworkers around the water cooler and only in person at our events!  We have to be intentional about being a team.  We stay connected via video conferences, annual kick off meetings, and lots of texting and meme sharing.  We care for and about each other, and no one hesitates to jump on a call to share ideas or troubleshoot client issues.  Culture still matters, even when we are scattered, so be sure to cultivate it.  At the end of the day, we are a team, even if we’re not together in the conference room sharing cupcakes (side note – the thing I miss most about working in an office is the abundance of snacks).
  8. Trust your team.  I have no idea what my coworkers are doing during their days, but I know they are working incredibly hard.  I don’t need to know their schedules daily to trust them to complete their part of a project.  The best way to know if you can trust someone is to trust them!
  9. Unless it’s required for the job, 9-5 isn’t always best.  I don’t work 9-5 each day.  I’ve got a lot of clients on the West Coast, so some days, I’m on calls until very late in the day.  On those days, I may start later.  On quiet weekends or late in the evening as I have uninterrupted time, I knock out client projects.  I take the time when I have it to get my work done.
  10. This is weird.  Some of us have kids home right now, and we are navigating working from home while also suddenly being in the throes of homeschooling.  There’s a lot of stress baking and just getting by.  Acknowledge the weird.  Embrace it.  We’re going to get through this.  Do what you can when you can and know it won’t always be like this.  Be kind to yourself, your kids, and your team.

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