Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Home is Where the Heart is (and the Office)

I have had the extreme pleasure and been not just a little lucky to have found myself in a career where working from home is an option. Having started out in a traditional Denver ad Agency that was quick to step onto the interwebs superhighway, even with "dialing in remotely," life was becoming easier (we didn't even have email in college #GenX). 

Subsequently, it sure was easy to work from home until all hours. When I first moved back to Florida from the job I loved at Starcom/Leo Burnett in my sweet home Chicago, I telecommuted and flew out to bi-coastal clients and to the Windy City a few times a month. What an amazing, amazing gift to be able to continue to work for the company, clients and job I loved, while being in Florida with all of our family. 

Now, I have my own business and because I can work from anywhere and everywhere - I do. I still go to meetings every day, because we all know how important that is, (but maybe right now, it's a luxury) but I am working constantly - because I want to and I can. Again, this is all not without a little luck, too, in my chosen field. 

I do recognize this is not an option for the vital and dedicated employees in the service industry and it is my sincere hope that paid leave policies are put in place (and has been my hope way, way before this became our current reality - #PaidSickLeaveNow). 

All that said, as the nation is grappling with the unknown repercussions of what is now a pandemic, and legions of workers are being asked to work from home, this has the earmarks of a giant paradigm shift. At least, for my part, I hope it is. 

I have always felt - especially as a working mother, wife and volunteer board chair/member - the more flexibility an employee has in relation to work (an employee who never misses deadlines and is incredibly diligent) - the more productive they will be. The more loyal they will be. And the more they will achieve. When I work from home, I work intermittently around the clock, because I can and I love it. 

As an extreme Type A (with associated OCD), I was made to multi-task and stay on task. My upbringing was curated by a family in the "always on" newspaper industry - yes, before the internet. I don't feel relaxed or happy until all the emails are read and filed, all the work for the following two-days is done, and the speech for two-weeks from now is written. 

I recognize I am in the minority. 

It is HARD to work from home. Especially when there are little ones afoot. When there are parents who need transportation to and from doctor's appointments, when life is going on. Then there are dogs or cats on the keyboard who are occasionally falling into the pool during a conference call (yes, this has happened). 

So today, #AdWeek came out with the amazing A Guide on How to Make the Most of Working From Home During Coronavirus Outbreaks. This is an incredibly helpful and spot-on guide filled with tips and ideas to keep on task and on schedule and be as productive as possible. I will note however, that I do get laundry (and maybe a little shopping) done while at home, because in my field, taking a break for creative thinking and strategic planning is important - and something I can do in short blasts. And it is true - the best ideas do come to you in the shower. 

In addition, #Facebook came out with their own resource today under the auspices of - "businesses like yours may also be experiencing unexpected challenges, and we’re committed to providing as much support as possible." This is filled with ideas to stay in touch with customers and to keep up productivity - while helping customers navigate FAQs and any service issues. 

As I mentioned, I am hopeful we are on the precipice of a new mindset around working from home (#WFH) - where at least here in a smaller, less urban DMA, the option has been the exception rather than the rule. Where it has been stigmatized by previous generations as a vehicle for wayward employees to take advantage of the system. Where we are all Fred Flintstones sliding off the back of the brontosaurus as soon as the 5pm Pterodactyl sounds. 


To me, this shift will mean 1) Happier, more loyal and productive employees who will go the extra 25 miles for their employer 2) Employees who need to go to the doctor, take care of children, drop them off or pick children up from school, can do so without the extra pit-of-the-stomach stress of having their boss run around and say, "why aren't they back at their desk yet?" 3) Employees with a cold can stay at home and be productive, while not spreading it to the rest of the office and decreasing overall productivity and the bottom line 4) Employees with ill children are not forced to take those children to school, to become even more sick (sicker?) or to spread it around the classroom or to the teacher 5) Parents don't have to pay an extra $100 in childcare for the unexpected teacher work day 6) We can get one step closer to that holy grail of the elusive and much mythicized work/life balance! (*knocks on wood).

The real work is what can get done when an employee's greatest stressors are removed and when they are allowed the gift of freedom to be productive, effective and efficient for an employer who trusts them and values them .... 

And also, maybe a bit more shopping, just to keep the economy going. Obviously. 

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