Working from home. You're doing great!
Updated: Apr 26, 2020
So, you're now working from home thanks to Coronavirus playing havoc with the world and it's completely RUINED your Spring/Summer season. We've decamped to our living room, dining room table or at worst, your using a stool in your kitchen (a true story for a friend) to run your Box Office. This blog is going to look at some ways to help you cope with a team at distance, or even as a one-person band.
After joining INTIX's Wednesday Wisdom this week it inspired me to spend some time thinking about the best ways to work from home, how to manage your workload, and how to continue supporting your team.
You're totally used to having the whir of your ticket printer in the background, the phone ringing, chattering audiences at House open, but suddenly it's quiet, you're at home alone (or trying not to strangle your loved one!) and suddenly life for ticketing people is very different. Operating alone isn't what we do! Our data feeds directly into conversations with our Marketing teams, informs our Executives on performance level, tells FOH how many staff to rota, lets Development know when extra funding is needed, and Producing what our audiences like. Now you're feeling like an island and your team are like pirates of the coast!
We're going to talk through some ideas to help you in times of isolation that are going to help you look after your team, but more importantly yourself.
First, we'll start with the most paramount item on the agenda. YOU.
During this strange time, you might not be feeling yourself and it might have taken an affect on your mental health. For some people you'll have to deal with this for the first time and that might be hard. As someone who tends to have good mental health, it took me some time to admit to myself when I've found things tough and all you need to remember is that it's ok to not be ok, truly.
As a group of people, we are data-driven, process obsessed, we find peace in order, but now that has been thrown off balance and it can feel very unsettling for us. Ensure that you are taking the time to identify where you are mentally and what steps you can take to put your mind at ease. Watch your favourite TV show, do some daily exercise, talk to your friends and family, sit peacefully in a quiet room, or spend some time making a plan - there is no right way to feel, so do what feels good for you. You're not in this alone.
If you work as part of a team (perhaps in the same office) and you're now working remotely you might feel like you've had some limbs cut off! That's natural, so don't focus too much on it. Adapting to a new way of working might take a little bit of time but you'll get there. The key, now more than ever, is adaptation and process.
We become so used to being able to ask ad-hoc questions in the office that it becomes habit but now we're needing to adapt and learn how it's best to process these without overwhelming someone's inbox. You'll need to first weigh up how important your question is. If you think it's something that can wait then wait. You might find it's answered later on. If it's a need to ask question then where is the best forum to ask? I've found Slack to be an excellent management system (if used correctly) and it's free. You can create channels for topics.
The team I work with has a channel for each department and separate channels for Q+As. Information posts from the Managers of each department go into their department and each message can become a thread, helping with easy management of a subject plus everyone can see the same information. Everyone gets the same message and message reactions help you keep track of who has seen the post. There is a bunch of plugins too which work well if you use Asana, Trello, Google Drive, etc. Slack can be the ideal place for your question and for someone to reply to, sharing the information with everyone rather than just overhearing it in the office.
Why haven't I recommended just sticking to email conversations? Well, email trails can be difficult to track down among lots of requests from different departments, and you're no doubt dealing with lots of emails about exchanges and refunds too. Forward the wrong half of an email and it might get very confusing. It's helpful to keep things separated.
Creating your workspace is important. If you're working form the dining room table make sure that the area around you is clear of other clutter, and that if you need to move some of it to make space make sure that they find a new temporary home while you're here. This is your space now.
Undoubtedly you'll have bought a bunch of things home from work with you so try and lay them out how you'd have them at work. I have my favourite mug and coaster!
If you're used to working with a screen instead of a laptop, try and make sure that your laptop is at the right height for your usual eye line. Order yourself a wireless keyboard and mouse if you don't have one and put your laptop on top of something to lift it up. This will really help.
If you find yourself working from a room that isn't ideal, or even a lap tray, try and find ways of adapting some furniture so that you have a desk. Use your TV stand, coffee table, bookcase on its side, get creative! Just be careful of how you're sitting, nobody needs a bad back during all of this! (Get those stretches in your daily exercise!)
Now is not the time to rush. You might have your team members coming to you asking for more, but now is your time to prep properly. Miscommunicate something and it could lead to an awkward situation and which might be difficult to come back from.
Set aside the time at the
beginning of the day to write yourself a list of things you need to achieve today. This will not only help you focus in the unusual surroundings, but it will help you keep a sense of achievement for each day. You might find that it's easier to do this weekly, but either way, be sure that you take some time to reflect on what you've achieved in that time.
Keep connected with your team while they're at home. It might be difficult to keep your team motivated and focused during this time of upheaval. Regular catch-ups are important. They'll help you understand what your team is going through and perhaps you might find that some of your team really thrive at home in a calmer atmosphere, or it might be that working at home is difficult for some because of a number of other factors. This could be a great time for individuals in your team to shine, so don't be afraid to challenge and develop your team members - and absolutely do not "do it yourself because it's easier". Allow your team to step up to the plate and take the time to invest in them.
Zoom is an online video meeting platform that will allow you to set meetings for your team (there's a Slack integration too!). Join by computer or by mobile app, there are lots of settings that will be helpful to manage your meeting. Be warned though! Make sure you don't join a meeting in your PJs, or worse naked! The camera is on!
You might decide that a daily morning meeting is a good way to start off your work at home life, but be sure to come prepared with tasks or agenda points for discussion so that the meetings are useful and not just time-consuming. You might find it useful to round out your day with making some notes for tomorrow's meeting.
My last thought on today's post is to not distract yourself with things you'd not normally get to do during work hours. It might seem like a good idea to just pop the washing on after your meeting or to throw something in the oven for later, but this will distract you from your work pattern and will be disruptive to your day. Try and stick as near as possible to your regular working day. Take your breaks, pop to the 'green room' for a cup of tea when you need to, take a lunch break, and try not to let home life get in the way. If your friends who are at home off work ask you to join them on Houseparty, let them know when you're finishing work and you'll be free to join them later if they can wait - set a time for a virtual glass of wine and catch up, something to look forward to.
In case no one's told you, you're doing great and I understand what it is you're going through. Contacting full databases of customers and either having to cancel their show or exchange them to a new on later in the year is no mean feat, no matter the size of your auditorium. You're doing the best with all the tools you have available and working at your fullest capacity to ensure it happens smoothly. You deserve that glass of wine with your friend. I am proud of you.
- Take some time to reflect on how you're feeling. Remember it's ok to not be ok. We're in this together.
- Think about how you'll best communicate with your team. Download Slack and start a workspace for your team.
- Create your work space. Try to resemble your desk at work where possible.
- Organise regular catch ups with your team. Use Zoom to lead a meeting (ensuring that you're wearing clothes!)
- Don't let home life interfere with your day. Try to separate your work tasks from your house chores.
- Remember you're doing great.
If you're struggling with mental health during this turbulent period, reach out to friends and family to talk. Or me, I've got a good pair of ears. We're in this together.
Exercise is really important for mental health and the NHS has some excellent recourses and exercise classes in the NHS Fitness Studio here. There's also plenty of at-home workouts too, I'm following Joe Wicks' PE Classes on Youtube because they're fun and high energy.
The Samaritans is a charity that has 24 hour help, 365 days a year, available should you need it. Look online for more information or chat over the phone on 116 123.