Managing with a Location-Independent Mindset
Problem: Millions of workers will continue to work in location-independent ways for the foreseeable future—maybe forever. And the businesses and managers they work for are still largely ill-equipped and unprepared in structure and practice to support distributed teams.
Opportunity: Disconnect management from geography and time and reassemble work habits and structures that support asynchronous collaboration and interdependent work.
Resolution: Reframing work and management into a more flexible framework will enhance the capacity of an organization to remain agile, adapt consistently, and champion outcomes rather than tasks.
In an instant, the entire American workforce was faced with what became the challenge of a lifetime—learn how to work and lead in location-independent ways.
That single shift revealed just how antiquated our work and management habits have become in the information-based economy. Let’s face it, most people were unprepared.
But sometimes it takes something truly cataclysmic to pry our minds away from standard operating procedures and finally let go of practices grounded in assumptions that were true a generation ago but are no longer productive nor profitable today.
So, here is my best advice shared in what became a widely popular LinkedIn series over the past year as the working world went (and continues) to work—at home.
10 Tips for People Working Remotely
Designate work hours. Just because you changed your venue doesn’t mean you shouldn’t maintain similar hours.
Find a place in your house—or somewhere—that you can dedicate to work. This physical space will help you mentally separate.
Get dressed like you you’re going to the office. It will remind you that you’re working.
Make sure you have reliable internet and wifi. This is non-negotiable.
Get comfortable with video conferencing. It minimizes the distance between in-person interactions.
Utilize business chat technology to avoid mixing business messages with personal text messaging threads. Boundaries!
Use browser-based document tools to be able to collaborate in real-time and ensure everyone is working from the same file version. Sanity!
Use a team-based project management tool to visualize your work. Knowing how your work relates to others reinforces how others are depending on you to deliver.
Practice self-care. Exercise and take breaks as needed. Make sure you give yourself time for lunch.
Avoid the temptation to mix business and personal tasks. Otherwise, you’ll be doing personal things during work time and work things during personal time.
What Every Leader and Manager Needs to Do
For many professionals, today will bring a tremendous amount of interruptions and adjustments as they juggle a home workspace, kids, family, etc.
Here are some suggestions for every leader/manager:
Check-in with your team regularly. They need to hear from you. It doesn’t always have to be a 1:1. But everyone appreciates even the small outreach attempts from their managers. It says, “You matter.”
Give your team a weekly update. Help them stay connected. Use video email to personalize the experience.
Give some relief and grace when your team members might be late to a meeting or miss a deadline because of logistics. Everyone understands!
Do what you need to do to equip your team to work remotely. Provide training, tools, etc. Not just once. But ongoing.
Talk with your up-line about doing something small but meaningful. (e.g. Gift card for an online movie rental, buy everyone a book and read through it together, or even cover a membership fee to a home grocery service.)
Consider having an “after hours” meeting once a week to encourage social time. You choose your beverage. Just don’t talk about work!
How to Set the Course for The Next 90 Days When “Business As Usual” Isn’t An Option
Here’s how you can make the shift to make working remotely work for you (and everyone else):
Think outcomes, not tasks. Let your productivity be a derivative of the results you want to produce.
Identify what outcomes and key results (OKRs) you need to accomplish in the next 90 days. That’s about as far as anyone can see right now.
Break down your 90-day goals into monthly milestones.
Turn your monthly milestones into weekly commitments.
Use those weekly commitments to shape your time allocation each day.
Taking this approach keeps the focus on execution, measurement, and response. That affords you the opportunity to pivot as often as necessary.
If you’ll do this personally and as a team, you’ll avoid wondering:
Who is working on what?
What does someone else need from me and when?
How do I prioritize my days and weeks?
What is urgent and what is important?
Less time wondering “Who’s on first?” means more energy is directed at prioritizing and executing what’s most important right now.
Think about this: Within every fiscal year, you still have four quarters to meet your annual goals.
You can do this! Just focus your team around on the next 90 days. That’s about as far into the future they can see anyway.
12 Self-Care Suggestions and Personal Disciplines to Keep Your Sanity When Working Remotely
Don’t work around the clock. You will be tempted to do so, but maintain a normal schedule.
Set expectations with your family. Work is work. Renegotiate weekly early on.
Decide what is most important to accomplish BEFORE you start the day. Stay focused. Reset when you need to.
Don’t schedule back-to-back meetings. You need time for personal needs and to mentally reset.
Use a different web browser for work than personal. This will help you keep each context separate.
Know when to call it a day. Sometimes you just need to stop and start over tomorrow.
Use video conferencing as a default. Seeing people helps you keep work human.
Meditate. Slowing your mind down between meetings and projects will help you transition quickly.
Buy a larger monitor instead of only using your laptop screen. Your eyes will thank you.
Give yourself permission to schedule life appointments. You need to be the best you possible.
Change your workspace when you need to. We all need a change from time to time.
Do what works for you. Give yourself permission to try things, change things, and stop things.
The Emotional Curve Every Remote Working Professional Goes Through
“This is a royally bad idea.”
“I just don’t see how this is possible.”
“This will never work. I know it.”
“Who does this?”
“OK. That was better.”
“Maybe this will work.”
“I like this. I’m rockin’ out my to-do list.”
“Wait?! I’m in front of more people now than I was before—just virtually.”
“My team is collaborating more efficiently now than before.”
“This is working. I’m going to be fine.”
“Why did I ever think I couldn’t do this?”
“Go to an office to work? Who does that?”
Think about this: You once had to learn how to work in an office environment.
And think about this: Just months ago, you had to creatively figure out how to LEAVE the office to get REAL work done because of all the distractions an office brings.
Context shouldn’t limit work. That’s what being a professional is all about.
Be patient with yourself and others.
Be open to how technology can help you bridge the distance between locations.
Be willing to adapt as often as you need to.
Be human. Always.
You can work anywhere. You were already doing it. The rest of the workforce is just admitting what we already knew: Working remotely is not just possible—it’s mainstream.
No Going Back
At some point, the world as we know it will attempt to resume where it left off. In fact, it’s already happening.
The only problem is:
Workers will realize that their unusually long commute times to an arbitrary office building won’t seem worth it anymore.
Managers will realize when they adopt the technologies that are readily available to them that they will be better equipped to help their teams deliver on their goals and outcomes.
And executives will realize the bottom-line boost that comes from reduced travel, fewer expense reimbursement requests, and the potential to reduce capital expenditures for real estate and the resulting utilities, furniture, and equipment will become valuable assets to be redistributed to growth initiatives.
Some work will never be able to be accomplished in a location-independent way. Those realities will become edge cases. The rest of the workforce will realize that work can be done from anywhere.
It will require consistent learning and persistent adaptation. But when workers are less stressed and more focused, the product of their work will be more valuable. And that is the surest path to gaining and maintaining your competitive advantage.
Ben Stroup is Chief Growth Architect and President at Velocity Strategy Solutions where he helps leaders design, develop, and deploy smarter business growth strategies. Ben is a futurist, disruptor, and data champion. He leads a team that takes a structured learning approach to business challenges, which allows them to assist leaders in bridging the gap between ideas, innovation, and revenue—taking ideas from mind to market.
Velocity Strategy Solutions is an on-demand, next-generation business strategy and management consulting firm which provides clients with a relentless focus on data, execution, and results that positively impact the bottom line. Velocity delivers integrated people and revenue strategies combined with a disciplined approach to growth architecture that elevates the capacity of leaders, teams, and organizations to succeed and win more.