Secrets of WFH Success
We had a Razorhorse team call recently, and we talked about ways we could contribute as the reality of COVID-19 becomes clearer with each passing day. Our team spans four continents. So, we have become accustomed to working from home (“WFH”) and the Gig Economy over the past eight years. In the tech and finance sectors, we are fortunate that our livelihoods do not depend on location, but most of you are new to working virtually. So, we decided to share our WFH experience.
- Quality time with loved ones
- Create and respect boundaries
- Have a sense of humor
- Learn to use collaboration tools
I’ve read lots of “how to,” and “best practices” articles on WFH, but none of them capture my experience. Working from home has distinct advantages, some significant challenges, and requires new tools and work patterns.
Quality Time with Loved Ones
Every day when my son comes home from school, he comes down to my office to say hello. Normally, it’s just a quick hello, then he’s on to the rest of his afternoon. One day in second grade, he had a bad experience at recess. A peer had given him a hard time for not being able to catch a ball, and he was upset about it.
That was the first time my son ever asked me if we could play catch! I had been waiting for that moment for years. I promptly canceled my upcoming calls citing a ‘conflict,’ and apologized for the late notice. We went out in the backyard, and my son let me teach him how to catch and throw a ball. The next day when he came from school, he couldn’t wait to tell me about the ball he caught at recess.
If I had been working outside the home, he might have turned on the TV and forgotten all about the playground taunt. We play catch and shoot baskets regularly now. If the mood strikes us in the middle of the afternoon, I can rearrange my calendar. Quality time like this is priceless.
After six months of WFH, my wife told me she wanted me out of the house. We talked about what bothered her about WFH, and the list was surprisingly long. The short version was that I worked everywhere in the house. When I was working on something that required thought, I was sometimes short with her if she interrupted me. When I was casually checking email, I didn’t mind being interrupted. It was the same with phone calls. Important negotiations, client pitches, fundraising, team calls, and calls to catch up with my network all sounded the same to her.
One morning, she taught me a lesson. I was leading an important call with several lawyers, and the CEO of a company we were acquiring. It was an early call, and I hadn’t quite finished toweling off from the shower when it kicked off. I ended up taking the call from our bedroom, dressing during the pauses. She was rightfully annoyed with me, and she announced in a loud voice, “He’s not wearing any clothes.” Everyone on the call heard her. No one knew I was working from home. That was my wife’s way of telling me I needed to respect her boundaries when working from home.
Sense of Humor
My wife taught me a second lesson when she made her proclamation on my conference call. Everyone on the call had a good laugh at my expense, and it still makes me smile when I think about it. She used humor to make her point. I also learned that no one cared. Everyone thought it was funny, and it didn’t undermine me on the call. If anything, the negotiations got easier after everyone had a laugh together.
With COVID-19, the world is learning how to use Zoom, Google Docs, and other collaboration tools. At Razorhorse, we use these tools every day, in every interaction. Externally, it used to take 10 minutes at the beginning of a Zoom conference call to get everyone’s tech working. Even most software company CEOs struggled. COVID-19 has forced everyone, including my 11 year old son, to figure out how to use Zoom. It’s becoming second nature, and the nature of work is changing as a result.
When we meet internally at Razorhorse, everyone’s video is up on the screen. For group calls, it looks like the opening credits of an episode of the Brady Bunch. We have all our tools in front of us, which allows us to work while we talk, and make eye contact (kind of). We share our screens, take notes, build spreadsheets, tweak presentations, and make action item lists. I find this type of interaction far more productive than old school meetings, but it has taken time to get used to it.