Tag: Work From Home

How to Have an Effective Check-In With Your Boss From Home

Personal DevelopmentTelecommutingWork From HomeWorking Remotely

Image result for call from home office + free image

For many working professionals who work remotely, much of your productivity and success are reliant on your interactions with and relationship with your manager. It goes without saying that then having a good relationship with your boss is critical. One component of this is maintaining regular check-ins and ensuring that they are productive.

Maybe you’re a full-time remote employee, maybe you work remotely once in a while so don’t always have your meetings in person, maybe you work from an office but for whatever reason– you’re sick, your manager is sick, it’s the holidays, she’s in another location, whatever!– you’re having your check-in over the phone. Simple, right? Ehhh… Not always. Read these tips before you connect and you’ll showcase your ability to effectively communicate over the phone.

  1. Come prepared. To have a successful check-in with your manager over the phone solid preparation is key so that you can use your face-time–sans face–best. Preparation can be as simple as a list of topics or questions. For every check-in spend some time on your own reflecting on what you want to cover since your last check-in; this can include reviewing your current workload, development, areas (and/or people) in which you’re hitting roadblocks, upcoming vacations– anything. List it all off for yourself. If you have an agreed upon way to structure the conversation follow that but taking “inventory” of all the topics you would like to cover is important.
  2.  Organize your thoughts. After I lay out what I want to cover, I like to email something to my manager. This is usually not the exact same list I captured during my prep, often what I send my manager is shorter and a bit more high level. Try to keep it a manageable list for the length of time you have. Again, follow your manager’s and company’s preferences but I find this especially helpful during a phone check-in since your manager is likely in front of her computer so has the opportunity to multi-task. Whatever it is, having something down on paper (err– on a screen) helps minimize the chance that your manager is doing other things and helps her focus on you.
  3. Control the conversation and set expectations upfront. So now that you know what you want to cover and have communicated the topics in some form to your boss, ensuring you clearly express yourself to get what you need to get out of the conversation is key. Even if you have your manager’s undivided attention it’s easy to get off track and for whatever reason this seems to happen more over the phone. Combat it by ensuring you stay on relevant topics that you want to discuss. If something warrants a longer conversation but you still do really need to get to a few other “agenda items” it’s completely fair to recommend you have a separate, dedicated conversation about a specific item at a later point in time.
  4. Gut-check you’re spending your time the right way. My favorite thing to do during check-ins with my manager is to share what I call my “time allocation.” I literally share the main projects I am working on (bucketing similar, smaller ones together so to not get off topic) as well as what percent of my time I have been spending on each. I then ask my manager to confirm that he agrees I am using my time correctly. It’s essential for all professionals to ensure they are on the same page with their boss regarding priorities and how their time should be spent, but for telecommuters who don’t physically see their managers daily it can be even more important. Early in my career, while working from an office location, I would often connect with my managers on priorities two or three times a week, if not daily. But in recent years while working remotely I’ve noticed this just doesn’t happen as much so I’ve taken matters into my own hands.
  5. Brag. This is another one that’s important (though also hard!) for everyone but perhaps even more so for fellow remote workers: you must toot your own horn. Because you don’t see your manager as frequently as you would in the office it’s even more important to share your successes so he knows about them. Remember no one is as invested in your career as you are. Even the very best managers are not. Nor are the very best manager’s aware of what *exactly* you’re doing day-to-day. You must tell them.

Truth be told you should be doing all of these things during your check-ins whether you’re remote or not but it’s extra important to be upfront and communicative about your work and what you need from your manager. Your check-in should be your time, use it wisely!

Acing the LONG conference call from home

TelecommutingWork From HomeWorking Remotely

I’ve done it! Last Thursday to be specific I faced, tackled, and rocked my first working session while being a remote employee.

Now before you start raising your eyebrows and think, “Congratulations, you took a phone call.” Yes, I took a phone call. And right, we all do this. But more specifically I’m not talking about a 30, 60, or even 90 minute one. I am talking about a nearly 3 hour working session during which I had to remain engaged, proactively share my thoughts and opinions, oh and did I say remain engaged for nearly 3 hours?

Now I’m lucky in that not *everyone* on the call was in the same location. There were attendees from different offices and others working remotely. This is important since those who were in the office were attune to the needs and hurdles remote employees, like me, were facing. But still it was close to 180 minutes on the phone, talking about the same thing, thirty feet from my television and a room away from my bed.

I won’t lie, it was difficult; I had to actively work to keep myself engaged. But it was something I knew would happen sooner or later and something that I knew would greatly predict my ability to do well in this new role. I’ve been sort of waiting for this to happen to use it as a gauge of how easy or difficult this whole, working remotely full-time would be.

So the verdict was that it went well, but what does that really mean and how did I do this? Glad you asked…

  1. I walked around. Here’s where one big advantage of WFH comes in– I can move around often without anyone knowing. I’m not saying I went on a full-blown stroll around the neighborhood, though that does sound nice and I know people who swear by that for status calls. But I moved around. Blood flow helps brain flow, or something like that, but really it is science.
  2. When I zoned out I caught myself. Let’s be honest, this happens in person too. But when you’re at home you have to be accountable to yourself since there’s no one who will give you a hairy eyeball for having a glazed over look on your face or scrolling through Facebook.
  3. To that end, I stayed off social media. It always shocks me how many people can be found scrolling through Facebook or Instagram or worse (read: dating apps) quietly under a table on a meeting or presentation. DO NOT DO THIS. Just don’t. Even if your manager or the presenter doesn’t see you someone else (like me during that team meeting in the office two weeks ago…) may and it doesn’t make you show up well. Anyway, while working from home this is an easy trap to fall into since no one can you see right? Maybe. But maybe you’re friends with them on Facebook and they see that you’re online (okay, I get that this would mean that they too were online, still, just don’t do it).
  4. I was aware. I firmly believe that being self-aware or simply aware contributes to 90% of showing up well to everything; okay, I actually have no idea how to quantify that in terms of a percentage, but for me I think the state of simply being aware is huge. And it applies here. I was aware of the fact that this was an important meeting and that this was a situation that might be challenging. Because of those things I was able to keep myself in check by the other above tactics.

What about you? Have you taken a long conference call from home or had to participate in a “working session” from afar? How did it go? What did you do to remain engaged and focused? Share in the comments below.

How to survive a new job while traveling

New Job

So I mentioned in my first post that I have been spending the first few weeks traveling to my new company’s headquarters before I settle into the full-time remote life. Friday marked the end of three weeks of straight travel. While I feel so fortunate that I get to do this before jumping into a full-time remote role, traveling over 90% of my time while also starting a new gig has been a shock to the system to say the least.

Starting a new job is always mentally exhausting but the physical travel has been HARD. On the plus side I’ve been able to shut everything else out and not worry about missing dinner plans with friends or my favorite workout class. But on the flip-side, not being able to retreat to my own space after a long day has been a challenge.

I’ve been trying to focus on keeping as much routine during my travel as possible and to take advantage of the face time. Below are some of the ways I’ve been keeping myself sane during this transition. Many of these are good tips for anyone traveling regardless of if your job is new or not or anyone starting a new job, regardless of if you’re traveling or not.

Physical health: I try to keep to a regular gym and sleeping schedule. I do my best to hit the hotel gym a few times a week but keeping in mind that I don’t want to exhaust myself so much that it impacts me during the day at work, which is my top priority right now.

You are what you eat: I’ve always been a relatively healthy eater and have employed what I consider to be an 80/20 approach to life: live as healthy as possible 80% of the time and the other 20% do what you like! This is especially important to keep in mind while traveling for work since grabbing a latte versus a coffee and making it a vente then deciding to have a cookie (or 2…) after dinner since I’m not covering the tab is tempting. Sticking to the types of foods and meals that I eat “normally” is a helpful guide for me. This means fresh foods and limited, if any, booze during the week. Portion control is also really important so I buy things in smaller, prepackaged sizes.

Ditch the booze: while I greatly enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail (or 2+ !) I have steered clear completely this whole month. Largely for the same reasons as anyone who decides to go without alcohol for the first month of the year. And while there have been moments when I’ve wanted a glass of wine the truth is they have been very few and far between. This in itself has made me realize that many of the times I am craving wine I really am not (mind blown?!). And while sometimes grabbing cocktails with co-workers or clients is an important bonding time limiting this while traveling will really help maintain mental clarity and focus.

Time management: I have been quite aware of using this time wisely, “this time” being my face-time in the office. All working professionals know that time management gets even more important when time or face time is scarce and in this new job face-time will be scarce. So while I’m in the office I’ve been trying to meet as many people on my team and partner groups as possible. Even if I don’t anticipate directly working with someone immediately it’s important to me to make genuine connections.

Mental health: trying to make the most of my time in the office often turns into over-extending or over booking myself. In past roles I would simply power through and while that’s been a bit of my reality right now I have tried to remain aware of what I personally need to operate at my best. Sometimes that means something as simple as taking the long route to grab a coffee or a refill on water so I have a longer moment to myself. Sometimes it means blocking off 15 or 30 minutes after a marathon of meetings just to be able to collect myself. I’ve realized over the years of my professional career that these small moments in which I re-center myself are critical to my sanity and performance and therefore worth taking the time to do. I know this is especially helpful when starting a new job.

Fight mental exhaustion: but when the exhaustion hits (because it will!) I embrace it and allow myself time to get past it. How have I been doing this? The popular concept of mindfulness.  I’ve dabbled with meditation since grade school but never committed to a practice. A good friend of mine introduced to a great meditation app (called Calm, which I highly recommend) over the holidays and shared that she had been using it for weeks consistently; she even would find time to practice daily at the start of every day on vacation. I decided that this new job and routine during the new year was a perfect time to start a regular practice. I believe it’s been an important component to staying centered and focused, and operating at my best.

Maintain your routines: striving to maintain your own life in the midst of continued traveling is important. I’m a firm believer in your job being a part of your life, not the other way around. One big example of this for me is working out. I’ve always used workouts as a way to de-stress and while a chaotic schedule can sometimes make you stop hitting the gym I strive to do the opposite. I find when I succumb to the excuses of “I’m so busy” or “I’m so tired” it ends up hurting me more than anything else because I lose the energy and mental clarity that regular workouts give me. Another example that’s not exercise related is that I have gotten into the habit of having peppermint or chamomile tea at night at home. It’s been a calming and relaxing way to end my day which has become a bit of a ritual. To maintain some consistency in my life I have been bringing my favorite caffeine-free tea with me so I can have it at the hotel as I’m winding down. It may seem small but this act has been hugely helpful in maintaining a sense of normalcy in my life right now.

Making hotels home-y: this is another thing that may seem small but something that has really helped me maintain myself and calm throughout this week has been making my hotels home-y and my own. Biggies here have been to actually unpack and have certain things with me that create a sense of home. I’m not saying to bring pictures necessarily (but if that’s what you want!) but for me it’s the simple things like having my night-time tea that I like to drink as I unwind at night. This applies to any sort of long travel, whether you’re starting a new role or not, but considering the added stress of being in a new position I have found it to be especially important for me.

Whether you’re starting a new gig and commuting in full-time, working from home full-time, or doing a mix of both the first few weeks of a new job are mentally taxing to say the least. These have been some of the ways I’ve managed to keep my cool. How have you handled starting a new job? How do you handle traveling?

Testing. Testing. One, two…

Uncategorized

Hi there! I’m Jane and you’ve stumbled upon my first post on my new blog, The Working Girl From Home.

So, what are you reading and who am I? Well, I am a working professional who recently began a role in which I will be working remotely full-time. Now I’ve worked remotely in jobs before. The company I worked for right out of college was pretty flexible and it wasn’t uncommon to work from home one day a week (or so). At my last company it was also quite common; towards the end of that experience I was working remotely sometimes 80-90% of the week.

Still, being in a home office or work space, away from your colleagues who are mostly in an office, is a different and unique experience. For that reason after accepting this role I began to scour the Internet for tips, advice, and hopefully to come across an experienced work-from-home professional I could turn to (by way of reading the archives of her/his blog) to learn the ropes.

But I found nothing.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I found posts on the major career-focused outlets about ways to be efficient while at home, ways to ask your manager to for some flexibility, ways to handle working remotely while children or pets are in the home, and the benefits of changing out of your jammies and actually getting dressed. But I didn’t find my guru.

Which is when I decided that I would be my own guru. And hopefully be able to offer some guidance to others by blogging along the way.

A couple of notes: I have just started this new gig so I imagine my first couple of posts will reflect that new-ness. Also I will be traveling to my company’s headquarters periodically, and to start for the first month. Other than that I will be full-time in mi casa working away and sharing the experience.

So this is it, post one. No major tips or advice here just yet other than supporting the feminist idea of being your own hero and defining your own parameters (more on that another time…)

So with that, workers near and far– happy Monday, go forth and kick butt, wherever your desk may be. And of course keep checking back for more.

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