Affiliates often operate as solopreneurs. Or perhaps, they have some help in the form of virtual employees or contractors that work remotely. It can be isolating to work alone – even if you have co-workers in other locations. Some of the biggest challenges of working at home include finding effective methods for communicating and being productive.
We understand. Chateau 20’s team of experts are spread across the U.S. Everyone approaches working at home differently. What works for one person, may not work for everybody. But here are some tips that help our team stay engaged and maximize productivity.
It can be hard to interact with others when you work alone. Luckily, there are so many tools and technology that can help facilitate communications. There are also plenty of proven tactics that can make communicating with remote co-workers, partners, and peers more satisfying and more effective.
Karen White, Founder and CEO: I think the biggest failure in communication with others, is that our first go to for most folks is email. Two rules I follow: If the discussion requires more than three sentences to discuss, I move to hop on the phone. If the communication requires less than three sentences, I use email or text.
Brandie Feuer, Director of Strategy: I’ve recently become a fan of Slack. It took a minute, but when you start using it, it’s awesome to chat daily with people on your teams or that you’re working with. I’m also a big believer in face time and try to video conference in whenever possible. I also love people who can make email conversations fun and have a knack for always inserting the perfect LOL gif.
Chris Park, Partner Relationship Manager: Telephone. Email. Text. Skype. Instant messaging. There are SO many ways to keep in contact these days, I try to keep tabs on how each contact prefers to hear from me. By doing so, I can expect quicker and better interactions. I’ve learned that with some contacts, a text or IM is answered relatively immediately, while emails take days or weeks for a response, if at all. It’s also beneficial to keep track of where contacts are located so you don’t call them early in the morning, or late at night. You used to be able to simply check the area code, but with people taking their cell phone numbers with them, now, that is no longer reliable.
Lisa Riolo Vice President of Operations and Special Projects: My best communication tip involves a set of questions–mostly related to the phone – that I use to facilitate effective conversations. I learned from a realtor friend to always ask: is now (still) a good time to talk? Give people the option to express if they can’t give you their full attention. I prefer not having the conversation if the other person feels as if they’re stuck, if it wasn’t scheduled, or ambushed. I’d rather set the moment as well-timed and we are both ready.
Years ago I replaced “do you have any questions” with “what questions do you have?” It gives people permission to ask. I do this during conference calls, training sessions, etc.
The third question is “how do I help?” This tends to focus a conversation and moves thinking toward a solution or path forward. Sometimes I phrase this question differently: what do you need from me? Is there an opportunity here we aren’t seeing?
I think there is value in collaboration and discussion. Open ended questions facilitate a dialogue. So the second and third questions on this list are designed to help information flow.
Tiffany Ponds-Kimbro, Publisher Development Manager: I like to look for points of similarity, whether it’s personal or professional. It really helps to break the ice and get others to open up. People tend to trust those who are more like them. And trust can foster honest, candid communication.
With no one looking over your shoulder, it can be hard to remain self-motivated and productive. If you’re working at home, there can be so many distractions. It’s crucial to find out what works for you and then create a routine that boosts your productivity.
Karen White: My Smartphone (iPhone 6 Plus) is my #1 communication tool. It would be the kiss of death for me to not be able to use it. I keep a running log of “To Do” tasks in my notes. I set priority/rank to tasks, as I jot them down. Each morning I identify my top three priority items of the day, and I determine how much time is needed to complete them. Once completed, I identify the next three priority items. Each morning, my priority might change from the day before, but I never concern myself with the idea of trying to complete my entire “to do list” or all the items on the list.
Brandie Feuer: I’ve really spent the last few years figuring out when I am my best self for certain things and work to structure my day around that as best as possible. For example, my creative brain turns on around 7pm. I kick ass at analytics between 9:30-11am. And I am a waste of space around 3pm. If I can do things in these buckets then I’m 10x more productive and efficient. For example, if I tried to brainstorm in the morning, it would be unfun, painful and take me a good 60 plus minutes to come up with an idea. But, if I brainstorm after 7pm, I’m jazzed and can knock out a great idea in 15 minutes.
The other thing I’m a big believer in – the Post It Note To Do List System. I make myself a Post-It Note of To Dos every day. Usually only 3 things fit on a Post It Note and they are BIG things. I believe that once you knock those things out, you’re good for the day. If you’re working from home, it’s an incentive to get things done or figure out ways to be productive. I can’t shut down until those 3 things are done, whether it takes me 3 hours or 10 hours. It’s also a way to prioritize your workload. If your tasks can’t fit on a Post It Note or they’re not in your top 3, then really ask yourself, ‘Why?’. If the task isn’t important enough to make it to your list, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing it. And, if you do think it should be on your list, then what do you need to remove from your priorities to make it happen?
I’m not always 100% at this, but another productivity tip that I work towards is “Be Here Now.” Whether you’re working on a task, in a meeting or on a call, really be present in the moment. When your mind is divided, it’s unfair to the other people in the meeting and it’s unfair to yourself and your work. Multitasking is not always the best. One app that helps you practice this is Headspace (another thing I’m a big fan of!)
Chris Park: I have a dedicated office space with a real door that keeps my officemates out (a yellow lab and miniature schnauzer) when I need it to be quiet. I also get up at the same time each morning, get ready to “go to work”, and then drive into town to get a cup of coffee. I did that every morning when I didn’t work from home, so it keeps me in the same pattern of going to work in the morning.
Lisa Riolo: My Not To Do List is as important as my To Do List. This approach helps me manage competing priorities, and make deliberate decisions about what actions are most or least valuable. I also recognize when items on the To Do list aren’t getting checked off. They might have to go on the Not To Do. I am forced to acknowledge when something is just not happening.
I also walk when I talk. Rather than sitting through every call, I realize a lot of conversations don’t require me being on the laptop. So I get up and start walking around the block. The fresh air and activity helps me maintain a higher level of energy, which keeps me productive longer.
Additionally, I Unsubscribe. It’s too easy to get bogged down by info overload. So quit pulling the info in. Just go get what you want when you want it. Stop opening the emails – just Unsubscribe.
Tiffany Ponds-Kimbro: I used to do it everyday when I worked in a corporate setting and stopped once I started working from home – a brain dump first thing in the morning. Some things I write down and some I add to the Notes section of my phone. It also helps to distance me from whatever may be going on in the house (the people). My other productivity key is music. It’s usually contemporary jazz instrumental. It helps me stay on an even keel even when I’m about to lose it, COMPLETELY. Instrumental is best because then I can’t sing the words that may distract me from actual linear thought.