Yeah, COVID-19 reality stinks.
You CANNOT work the same way you did before. Expecting people to “just” pick up where they left off? Nah. Unreasonable expectations.
Here's what you can do:
Tip 1: Frame the Days as Experiments
You will not have the same productivity as you had in the office when all you had to do was focus on work. Everyone—team members, managers/leaders, executives—will suffer from this fact. You are in the middle of total disruption. You cannot “manage” your way out of it.
You will split your focus on:
- The people you love, regardless of whether they live with you.
- The people in your house. Especially if they are small children who demand more attention.
- Your work.
- Possibly other communities you serve.
Let me discuss small children and their needs first.
If you have small children who cannot read independently, first organize their days.
What schedule can you create with them? I do mean with them because otherwise, you will not be able to work at all.
Small children require adult supervision. And, they need to eat, play, sleep, and maybe even learn something. It depends on how old these children are.
I love routines and schedules. And, when I had to work from home with sick children, I could work while they slept or lounged around like zoned-out zombies.
With any luck, your children are not sick. That means you negotiate for a little work time when they are awake. If you have another adult in the house, negotiate with that person as to who does what and when with the children.
My experience? You'll be lucky to have an hour or two of work during “regular” working hours during the day. I had to work mostly at night to do any work at all.
Tip 2: Create a Schedule and Retrospect Every Day
Let's assume all the people in your house can read independently. Now you have the challenge of a schedule, but people can take some responsibility.
Everyone needs their own screen. Children need to learn. The adults need to connect with work.
And, if everyone doesn't have their own screen, you will need a schedule even more.
As you create your schedule with your people, add in these specific times:
- Eating times. Can you extend enough trust that people might take responsibility for planning and making a meal? (It depends on how old the children are or how capable the older people are.)
- Play or exercise times. Can you go outdoors?
- Connection time. We (almost) all need to check on other people to make sure they're sane if nothing else.
At the end of each day—maybe after supper—ask reflective questions.
You might use the original four retrospective questions:
- What went well?
- What didn’t go so well?
- What have I learned?
- What still puzzles me?
You might try an ORID debrief (See Using Behavior-Description Questions as a Starting Point for a description and a link.)
Tip 3: Replan Every Day Until You Find a Routine
I have a routine for my days, and it has evolved over the years. Here are the consistent pieces of my routine:
- Make time for exercise. I walk and strength-train now.
- Make time for meals away from the computer.
- Make time to connect with people outside my house.
As we practice social distancing, I've had way more Zoom calls. And, with the realities of remote work, more people have asked me for podcasts, opinions, etc. (I have plenty of opinions. No problem there.)
Even though I have a routine, outside events interrupt even my well-established remote routine.
We need adaptability and resilience at this time. Not predictions and commitments. (See the Team Resilience Series.)
Extra Tip 4: Exercise Empathy
If your managers are similar to my clients, they're in total chaos. They feel tremendous pressure to deliver. Extend them empathy and focus on outcomes.
If you and your team can finish one small piece of value every day, you will achieve your outcomes. I have a lot more to say about executive and management planning, and I'll do that in my newsletter.
Expect and Embrace Change for this “New Normal”
We have crazy-high uncertainty about everything right now. I embrace that uncertainty by:
- Finishing one small thing every day. That one thing is in the service of long-term goals. (I use Personal Kanban.)
- Checking in on my loved ones. I text, email, call various people each day.
- Replan for the next day.
We can dampen the virus spread by practicing social distancing and working remotely. We can organize our lives (eventually) to create days that work for our families first, and then our employers. We can decide each day which one thing we will do and complete.
You can manage your newly-remote days. One day at a time. With a schedule that might have to change. And, so you can stay connected with your family, your community, and your work. (Yes, I put work last because in times of great stress like this, many people put work last. That's okay because work can also be a source of support and strength.)
That's about it. Yes, I'll be doing a series of indefinite length on this blog. I'm also writing a series in my newsletter for managers. I'm not done writing yet. When I finish the series, I'll collect all the posts.
Mark Kilby and I have a free online class, Rapidly Remote. Do join us and our online community. (Yes, we'll add an image soon! We wanted to get the class up fast.)
This post is part of the Collection of My Rapidly Remote and Managing in Uncertainty Writing.