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Business Insights from Andrea Hill

Navigating the Coronavirus: Working from Home and Planning Your Future

22 March 2020
Andrea Hill gives specific guidance and tips about working from home, and reflects on one way to make this experience as positive as possible.


Right now, the first is that you need working hours. Now, a lot of people think when they start working virtually, that they're not going to work enough. But what I've found is that most people actually work too much. There's this compulsion to stay at your desk or your bench or your computer and put in as much time as you can because working from home doesn't quite feel like working. So it's almost like people feel like it's not quite as legitimate and it's not healthy to work all of the time.

So set some working hours and convey that schedule to your family and your friends and stick to that schedule. That's the first thing. The second thing is that you need a space for work. And it's not just about a place to put your computer or put your tools or whatever it is you're doing for your work. It's also about making the mental transition to work. You need to gear up to work, and the faster you can make that mental transition to work, the more productive your day will be.

If you have a big place and you can set aside space to work, that's great, then dedicate that space. But I know a lot of you are working with smaller houses, more people in the house and small apartments where you don't even have an extra room to work in. That does make it harder to dedicate space to work, but it is not impossible. I travel a lot for work.

Just last year I think I was on the road 110 days and so I'm working in hotel rooms a lot. And what I realized early on is that in hotel rooms I wasn't being very effective. So I would sit down to work, but I wouldn't be focused, I wouldn't be as clear. And I discovered it was because I couldn't make that mental transition to working in my hotel rooms.

What I figured out to do was that I would always set up every hotel desk, no matter what kind of hotel it was, no matter how different the desk was, I started setting up my hotel room workspace exactly the same way, so that as soon as I got to a hotel and I set up my workspace, it was familiar and it involved including a couple of familiar things and it involved the way I arranged that workspace. But once I got good at that, I could sit down in a hotel room and I could immediately get to work.

You can do that with a small home space as well. You can set up your kitchen table exactly the same way to work every single morning, then break it down at the end of your working schedule and return it to its other purposes. But create a space to work because you need it to help you make that mental transition to work. The other thing is that you need to do meaningful work. And I know that sounds like a silly thing to say, but it's really important, perhaps even more so right now, where we're trying to figure out what our meaningful work is.

So if you sit down in your space during your work hours and you don't carve out meaningful work for yourself, work that you can set goals for work that moves you forward in both your personal and professional and business goals, then you'll feel like you're sitting in your workspace just wasting time and spinning your wheels.

And that is a terrible feeling. Don't do that to yourself. So pick meaningful work to do. If you can't figure out what your business looks like 12 weeks from now, make that the work, make part of your work being developed to devising multiple scenarios for how you think the world might be and then what you can do within each of those scenarios to earn your living or set aside that time for learning. Learning time is worthy time. So study something you've always meant to study, study skills that you know you need for your business that you haven't had time to invest in.

Make that your meaningful work. If you don't have meaningful work to do, don't sit in your workspace. Go do something else because you'll feel much better about that time later. The next thing that I have to share with you is no jammies. It might seem like a great time to start working in the most comfortable clothes you own, but that doesn't necessarily put you in the best mental space for working. We don't wear shoes in our house. We've never worn shoes in our house.

And I realized shortly after I started working from a home based office that I was going to work in slippers and it didn't feel right. I actually felt like I was totally unprepared for work, for something as simple as shoes. So I bought a pair of shoes that I could wear just inside the house so that when I was at work, I felt dressed for work.

So I have a personal schedule that matches your schedule for going to an office or your store.

Get up in the morning, put on your makeup, get dressed, put on your shoes and get to work feeling like the version of yourself you want to be when you are being really productive. So those are my guides for how to get yourself in a routine of working from home. So now what about this thing that I took a few days off to ponder?

It seems to me that if we treat this time as an absence of a good life, if we treat this time as if we are pausing everything we love and know about life and simply waiting for life to get back to normal, then this time will be the most negative possible version of itself. I'm not saying it's easy to find peace and happiness in in a world where jobs are disappearing and money is frightening and we're worried about the health of ourselves or our family members or our communities.

So I'm not suggesting that it's going to be easy to find your happy place, but you can find a better place. And to me, I always feel more positive, more optimistic when I feel like I have some control over my situation. So the approach that I'm going to take is I'm going to figure out what this new version of my life can look like, not as an absence of all of the things that I normally love to do and can do, but rather within the current constraints.

What's the best version of life that I can have? And it could be very different than my normal life. There's no risk in approaching it this way. So I'm learning new things I'm applying myself at. Work a little differently, we we've set up new routines for family life that take into account that we're all, you know, stuck together in the house as opposed to being able to run out and do our thing and come back together in the evening.

We're determining what our new normal is and we're making it the best version of the new normal we can. If it turns out that eight or 12 or 16 weeks, the world goes back to exactly what it was before. We haven't lost a thing. We just made the best of the time we had. We found our new normal for this period of time. But there's a really good chance that we're going to find some things to do and think about and act on in this new phase that we can carry forward into the next phase of life, whatever that looks like.

So I'm working hard on not treating this time as a loss or a pause or simply a wait until I get my old life back. I'm going to approach this as what what could my life be the best version of my life be right now? What can I control? And hoping that I can learn some great things that I can carry forward into the future, whatever that looks like. So that was why I wasn't making videos for a day. I was sitting and plotting and planning and and thinking about the best version of my life and then discussing all of that with my family so we could make those plans together.

So that's all I have for you right now. I hope that you have a peaceful end of the weekend and beginning of the week, and I'll talk to you soon.