These are some strange and stressful times. Not only are we dealing with a lot of change in our personal lives but also with our work schedules. There’s been a whole lot of adjusting being done. Some of us find ourselves back to an old way of working…. If you recall, I used to work from home full time a few years ago…. others of us have had to quickly become teachers to our children while at the same time holding down the fort at home and in the office. A lot has been asked of all of us and it’s no surprise that some are feeling completely out of control.
I don’t have all the answers. Although I sometimes think I do. But, I do have some tips for those of you who are working from home. Nope, not about how to be a teacher. Let’s just say your kids are lucky I did not embark on that professional path. But I think I can help those of you working from home for the first time to find a little sanity in all the chaos.
As paralegals we all know that project management and time management are two of the most important things we bring to the office. Working from home is a combination of both. You have got to me meticulous about your project management skills and you have to be a mamma bear over your schedule while also understanding that certain things are going to require you to be flexible. Here are Five tips I’ve come up with during this time.
Meetings are going to increase
Your calendar is going to “explode” with meetings. It’s probably slowed down a bit since you started working from home but you are still going to be on the phone or on video calls a bit more than you used to be when you were in the office. Realize that while in the office there were those impromptu check-ins as you passed your attorney or one of your team members or managers in the hallway coming back from getting a cup of coffee. Well, since that is no longer happening people feel that they have to touch base or check in more often on the phone. This should have died down a bit since it’s been a few weeks now and most of us are getting used to the new reality. Don’t get frustrated, make sure you are prepared for the calls and make your attorney or colleague feel comfortable that you are on top of the work. One way to decrease the amount of check-ins is to be proactive and send updates as often as you can. Once they are comfortable that you are on top of the work the calls should slow down.
Be Proactive About your Calendar
Related to the increase in meetings. You are going to be more on top of your calendar. People tend to schedule meetings according to what works for them and, if it works for them they don’t think twice about squeezing a call on your calendar when you were planning on going to grab your first cup of coffee. They have no idea that you have been working since the early hours in the morning and you were so looking forward to that caffein jolt. Anyway, the solution to this is to make sure you take a look at your calendar the night before and schedule blocks of time for focused work and don’t forget to schedule a few shorter times for a cup of coffee or, I even block time for lunch. This is super important. Especially for those of us who have team members in other time zones. Most of the time we are not thinking about difference in time and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone without lunch when someone in a different time zone schedules a meeting on my calendar. So, take the time to block “me” time on your calendar and protect that time as if it was a meeting with someone else.
This one is just as much for the office as it is for the people you share your home with. At home, make sure everyone understands that you need to focus when you are at work and that unless the house is on fire or there is some other emergency you are not to be interrupted. It is cute, sometimes, when a child walks into the view of a Zoom call but if it keeps happening it quickly becomes old and it makes the other people lose track of what they are saying causing the meeting to run longer and longer. On the work front, make sure everyone knows that you have work-hours. Just because you are not at the office does not mean that you are available all day and all night. Of course, there are going to be those occasions when you will need to work a bit longer than normal but that should be the exception to the rule. Working from home should not be any different than working from the office.
Stop Feeling Guilty
This one is almost the same as the “setting boundaries” above but I think it needs to be said. We often feel guilty about being home and feel as if we are home already so there is really not reason why we can’t do that one other thing. When those feelings come up check yourself and ask “Have I really given my 100% today?” Maybe there’s something there. Maybe you really didn’t. If that’s the case perhaps that day you can work a little longer. But most of the time we are probably feeling that others may be wondering if we actually did what we were supposed to be doing all day and our way of making sure they know we are working hard is to work all day and all night. This is a sure way to burnout. So….. I think a good way of dealing with those guilty feelings is to send a memo to your manager or to your attorney once a week with a report on what you have done. Or take the opportunity to schedule a 1:1 with our attorney or manager and let them know what you are working on and manage expectation (both yours and theirs)
Be Flexible and Compassionate
We are all going through our own stresses and you don’t know what someone is going through unless you are walking in their shoes. And since we are not walking in anyone else’s shoes we need to take a deep breath and realize that emergencies are going to come up. This one is addressed more at managers but it can be applicable to anyone. Sometimes an employee or a team member is not going to be able to focus for one reason or another. Make sure you are there to help and understand. As a manger, my job is to make sure we are all rowing the boat in the same direction and we are all healthy and able to keep the boat stable and moving in the right direction. I have learned that there are times when one member is not able to row as fast as others so it’s my job to align the work accordingly even if that means I will take on a bit more of the load (that’s why they pay me the big bucks right?)…. Right.
I hope this was helpful. Let me know if you have questions and please feel free to give me some of your tips that you’re using while working from home.
I hope you are all staying healthy and safe. See you all very soon.