It often went like this:
They: Oh, you work from home? That must be so fun!
Me: It can be fun, but also challenging and difficult.
They: What’s difficult about working from home?
Me: .... *Deep breath*
I last had this conversation in March, just before a business trip to Utah. Before the world shut down, before masks were worn, before everyone had to either work/stay at home. It’s been six months since that conversation and while no one is asking that question anymore, everyone I know has had to adapt to a new normal in life and their work. I’ve been working in this way for over eight years, and there are still struggle points. Let me say that again. I still struggle. So, if you’re reading this six months into a work from home experience that’s still challenging - It’s OK, girl. Take a deep breath, forgive yourself, and take the space to reset. I hope this helps!
What can I tell you that you haven’t already heard?
I am sure that you’re an amazing human who can google anything you need to know. But if you’re like me, having a trusted source is a big deal when you’re researching how to tackle a new problem. Here are some observations and suggestions that have helped me as well as other women in the music and entertainment industry. We’re all experiencing it differently but we're in this together, so let’s dig in.
Claim your space. True at the gym, true at home. Claim a corner and tell yourself that this is the space you go to be amazing at your job. If this is a shared space, I highly recommend headphones (noise cancelling if financially feasible) to help separate you from the living and relaxing areas of the house. Speaking of relaxing, I know I can’t unwind with an evening of Frasier if my laptop is staring at me. Try putting your computer to bed at the end of the day, either closing the laptop or throwing a tapestry over the monitor. If you have a separate office or a room that involves shutting a door, you’re a step ahead, but try to keep that space work-specific and don’t forget to walk away!
2. I’ve got all the time in the world, right?
I think people can get a little time drunk on the flexibility available in working from home. I’m not judging. Flexibility is sexy. If you’re a one-woman show without a team or client that relies on deadlines, go nuts with that flexibility. Find what works for you. For everyone else though, let me tell you that there is FREEDOM in structure. Decide when your workday begins and ends, and then plan your work and personal life around that time frame. You need to give people the chance to respect your boundaries. Set available work hours with your team, and then abide by those boundaries. This might take a little self and team re-training if you have a history of being that indispensable, available-all-the-time team member. For extra credit, try calendar blocking so your team knows how you’re spending your day, when you’re available for collaboration, and when you need to focus. Once upon a time you may have stopped your work to answer that call, but no more! You’ve blocked time in the calendar; you are unavailable. If they call you, ignore the call and respond later. It will train other team members to check the calendar first before calling or asking for immediate help.
**For Hermione Granger levels of extra credit, set your phone to Do Not Disturb during focus blocks.
3. Creating transparency and trust in a virtual workspace.
When that visual element of a workplace is gone, you have to rely on systems and trust to create transparency. As the Director of Operations at Al McCree Entertainment, it is my job to create systems to help the team function efficiently and smoothly. The systems I use daily are: Asana, Filemaker, G Suite, Calendly, Dropbox, Slack and Emma. If you break it down, these are variations on task assignment, contact management, scheduling, organization, and communication. While you may use a lot of these systems in an office, having project transparency is priority when working from home. Your manager can’t boop her head over the cubicle to see when you’re working on a project or on the phone with a client. So, you need systems that can replace what we observe visually in an office. Systems can only do so much, though. You need to have a team enrolled in that system, and you need trust that while a system can’t create 100% transparency, your team is getting the work done. And remember, if you try a system and it simply doesn’t work - that is ok! Find what works for your team and keep trying until you get it right.
4. Zoom Fatigue.
It’s a thing, trust me. Communication does not mean meetings. I can’t stress that enough. It’s a natural reaction to clamp down when you’re in the unfamiliar, but if you’re a team leader I would encourage you to unclench a tad on the Zoom meetings. There are other ways to check in and be present to your team’s needs and productivity. Use a system like Asana to virtually oversee project management and task assignments. Utilize Google shared calendars to see your team member availability when they’re engaging in professional development or in a meeting. For quick messages back and forth, try using Slack. It’s less invasive than a texting group, and you can set the Do Not Disturb hours easily to mirror your calendar work hours. For file organization, try using Dropbox to sync and update folders across team members. For living collaborative documents, try using Google docs to see instant edits and comments from team members.
Lastly, remember to communicate with your team members on a human level. Encourage each other, support where you can, and hold each other accountable when something can be improved.
5.You are not alone.
Don’t believe me? I talked to dozens of women in the music and entertainment industry this week, getting their take on what working from home means for them. Here’s a sample of their observations and advice, based on real lessons learned:
What has been your biggest struggle in adjusting to working from home?
What would you tell yourself six months ago to make the process any easier?
What do you enjoy about this type of work environment?
Advice and Encouragement.
Congratulations on pursuing your goals and making it work during a global pandemic! This kind of creativity and determination is not for the faint of heart. To all who are so inclined, go reward yourself with something chocolate and caffeinated. Do you want more information about what systems could work for you and your team needs? Are you struggling to make that home office space work for you? Is there a special project that needs a strategy? Reach out to me! Any WCM readers are welcome to schedule a 30-minute discovery call with me. I’m cheering you on, and I look forward to hearing from you during my scheduled breaks!
Written by Erin Faith Erdos :
Erin Faith Erdos is an Artist Manager and Director of Operations at Al McCree Entertainment where she has served the team for over eight years. Based in Nashville, Erin is also an OBM Strategist and Consultant with a new website launching in the fall. When Erin isn’t creating a system or nerding out over a special project, she’s usually cooking, making a new flavor of cake pop, playing flute in local orchestras, or watching a lot of Frasier (or Office, or Parks & Rec…). When Erin isn’t doing any of that, she’s a Travel Agent for anyone and everyone that wants to go to Disney World or Universal Studios - a laughable passion project during a pandemic, to be sure, but still fun. Erin also considers Die Hard a perfectly acceptable Christmas movie and will not be moved from that opinion.
CONNECT WITH ERIN : Facebook | Instagram | Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
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