Conquering the New Challenges of Working From Home

Before you can lead others effectively, you must manage yourself well.

Recently I’ve been hearing from advisors who are working from home and sharing some of the challenges they’re encountering doing that. They’ve relocated out of their offices, and they’re trying to set up an office at home. And it’s really coming down to issues all around self-control – discipline, [yes,] but ultimately self-control.

When you think about what we do as advisors, we talk to people about financial planning, and a lot of times their spending habits, encouraging them to defer short-term spending desires for longer-term better positioning with their finances. While we’re talking to them about putting things off and deferring, what we’re really getting at is self-control. As advisors we have to exhibit that ourselves in our lives, especially right now.

Many people, with working from home, are encountering new challenges. For instance, having no set, defined office hours, so to speak. I want to encourage you to set specific times where you have your set up at home, you’ve got your computer set up. Have times where you leave that and walk away from that defined space.

To do that you’ve got to have a defined space. If you’re fortunate enough to be operating where you can have a room to yourself and shut the door, and get outside of that, that’s fantastic. But many people don’t have that opportunity, so they’re sharing living space with family members – significant others and children. You need to define that space so you can get up and get away from it. So, when you’re working and then take a break, take a walk outside or go downstairs and maybe interact with your family. Then come back to that office space.

Advisors are sharing about how the fridge is now a lot closer. That’s a real issue – it can be a challenge for a number of people. Often times in an office environment, we are working in the midst of people so we think twice about walking down to the fridge and getting that fifth bagel, so to speak. Whereas now, when we’re a little tired or a little bored, it’s easy just to go to the kitchen and eat, just to take care of that boredom. Be aware of this. You’ve got to self-manage during this time. It’s a totally different environment that you’re in relative to working, so you need to be aware of those little habits that start creeping in and master them out of the gate.

You also have family around. You have children, possibly, coming up to you. Here is a wonderful opportunity to show them a little bit of what you do, how you work, but to also remember they’re taking their cues from you. Now, most schools are out right now, so your children might be at home watching you, watching how you interpret what’s going on in the world and how you respond accordingly. They’ll frame that going forward, so when the next challenge comes along that challenges our entire community, if not the world, they’re going to remember this time. So remember you’re also not only leading your clients, you’re actually leading your family as well. Be mindful of that, and do bring them into your space and show them how you work. Then let them know this is now the time for work, and have that defined space.

I remember after 9/11 seeing some video footage coming back from Morgan Stanley executives who had relocated to a new building, but it was totally open plan. Just for some humor, they had taped walkways, they had taped where the doorways would be in people’s offices, so you couldn’t just walk by and talk to someone, you actually had to treat them as though they were in their office and show them that respect.

So, be aware of setting up your office space. Work in it when you’re there, and get ready to leave it when you need to. When you have something that comes to mind that you have forgotten to do or you want to write a reminder to yourself, just like you would do when you’re twelve miles away from your office, send yourself a text or send yourself an email. Don’t just walk back to where your computer is, boot it up and take care of that issue. If it’s six o’clock at night, hang with your family. Write yourself a text, and take care of it in the morning.

These are little habits that you want to discipline yourself to be taking care of now. We’re not sure how long this is going last, so build these habits now, and you’ll work far more effectively from home.

Now, again the challenge for many of us is the gyms are closed. So, it’s the perfect storm: we’re working from home, we’re close to the fridge and our gym is shut as well. You need to make sure you’re putting in time for exercising and trying to keep in shape as best as possible.

Finally, don’t finish off the day by looking at headlines. We’re immersed in these things all day, every day. Make sure you’re getting downtime as you’re approaching rest time – quality rest time – and just disengage from the headlines.

So, when working from home, like we’re doing right now:

1. Set very clear objectives [and boundaries] around your office space.

2. Make sure you follow them: work when you’re sitting down in front of your computer, then get up and leave it. Don’t be tempted to bleed office life into personal life.

3. Communicate this to your clients. If you’re working with C-suite clients who are going through the same thing, ask them, obviously, how they’re doing (we’ve seen a lot of information about that), but then suggest, “Hey, these might be some things you’d like to consider as a way to work through this.”

Hang in there. You’re doing a great job by your clients. Manage yourself well; you’re going to be a far more effective advisor for doing that.