In this post I will address what you need to work successfully from home:
Over the past week it seems second to articles about the spread of COVID-19, are posts about the challenges of working from home.
As someone who has worked from home for 25% of his professional career, I'd be in the ultra net worth category if I had a dollar for every comment I've heard related to 'how nice it must be to work at home.'
Now, I see comments related to all the challenges from pets and family members making unexpected appearances on video calls to either feeling isolated or spending too much time in the house with the family to not being sure how this whole WFH thing is supposed to actually work.
This is understandable. To start with an assumption, the people making these posts likely did not want to work from home. Further, they've been told to do so, with short notice and little guidance.
Additionally, their personal life has probably been in upheaval from school closures to necessary items being unavailable for purchase to eating at home because restaurants are closed (except for takeout) and all venues where people congregate have been closed making it rough on people in general who are more or less social beings.
Clearly it is hard to focus on a new work environment and way to work within this upheaval of everything else.
Here is what you need:
Connectivity & Redundancy
Almost goes without saying in this day and age that you need to have an internet connection with enough speed to handle uploading and downloading documents and streaming video. You also need to have a desktop or mobile device that can process business level workloads, or modify how you work to accommodate what you have.
Personally, I have a five or six year old Chromebook. This is not ideal for business, but it can work. Typically, I have three or four browsers open with a half dozen to a dozen tabs running on each on my business machine. This doesn't work on the Chromebook. I try to keep it to two browsers and less than six tabs per.
If my connection drops, it can take time to recycle a modem, so have your cell phone nearby to at the very least alert the office that you are having connectivity issues.
Your cell phone should be your redundancy to your home internet connection.
Typically, a wi-fi hot spot such as a public library, Starbucks or other location with free wi-fi is a good back up if your connection goes out for a period of time, but with COVID-19 that is not an option.
A Dedicated Work Space
I know people who like to take their laptop and sit outside on a nice day, but I've found that to be detrimental. For starters, I really like having my second screen and can't stand the touchpad on my laptop, so I use a mouse. I also like my bluetooth headset and that has to be plugged in and connected to my laptop, so it results in carrying a lot of stuff to another location.
The dedicated work space for me provides normalcy and indicates to my family that I am working. I have a desk, comfortable office chair, and the room has a door. When I first started working from home, my youngest daughter was still in elementary school, so I put in a french pane door. In this way she could knock and wave to me when she got home. If I was on a call, I'd wave back and if not I'd open the door and ask how her day was.
Not everyone has an entire room available to themselves, but find a space that you can call your own, that other family members identify as your work space, and that you use when you are at work.
If there are two or more of you working from home, attempt to find spaces far enough apart that you don't hear one another's calls and conversations or appear in one another's video background. Working in an open office environment, where everyone is working for the same company on similar work is one thing, having two people from two different companies working together will be distracting. Though it may also be enlightening.
Try not to use this same space for your non-work activity, at least until you get more acclimated to working from home and have a good sense of when you are on and off the 'clock'. If you do, the likelihood of working during non-working time will go up as you 'quickly' check email.
A Daily Routine
Your routine will change when you shift from going to the office to working from home. It is up to you to what extent it changes. When I first started working from home, it was hard to differentiate between work hours and personal hours. I'd get up, walk by my work space and 'just check a few emails'. For my first employer, I had to have an office phone in addition to my cell phone, so I'd see the red light flashing that there was at least one message for me. This led to me working very long days.
The routine helps create habits and allows you to distinguish the two worlds that are colliding in your home.
Wake up and get ready.
While it is generally accepted to be a bit more casual when working from home, don't take it too far too fast. Video conferencing is critical to working from home. Depending on your company culture and industry there will be varying standards for work from home attire, but more important to how you appear to peers, vendors and clients is how you feel about yourself.
So keep your pre-commute morning routine as consistent as possible.
Then, consider what time you'd leave for work. What is your commute time? If it is 45 minutes, maybe start work when you would normally leave and establish some breaks during the day for those 45 minutes. Same goes for the end of the day. If you typically end at 5:30 maybe extend your overall day to 6:15, but take some additional breaks throughout the afternoon.
Planned breaks are critical because when you work from home you don't move around nearly as much as when you go to an office and work in one (will discuss more in schedule). Think of the walk to your desk from the parking lot, walking to meeting rooms, to someone else's desk to ask a question or get feedback, to the cafeteria or going to lunch, and using the bathroom.
In an office building this can add up to a lot of steps in a day. In your home, probably not so many. Thanks to my Fitbit, I can confirm this.
Once your day is done, make it done. While there will be instances when you have to work outside of normal business hours, do it only for instances that require it. If the call or email can wait until the morning, let it go until then. How you define your work schedule can really help in this regard.
A Work Schedule
Working from home requires you to be better organized, because there are a great many more distractions at home than there are in the office.
As mentioned above, determine what your start and end time on a typical day will be. Let's assume a nine hour day, with one hour for lunch, beginning at 8:30 and ending at 5:30 with a 45 minute commute each way.
Your potential window of work is now 7:15 to 6:15, or eleven hours. No, the idea is not to work eleven hours, but instead to work eight of those eleven and carve time out of your day to compartmentalize likely distractions.
Maybe you typically rush out the door, well consider starting at 7:30 or 7:45 in order to start your day in a less hurried state, or end earlier.
Regardless of what time you decide to start, make it consistent. Be at your desk at that time, ready to go each day. Have your coffee or water with you, don't sit down and start the day with a break by getting up and walking to the kitchen right away.
Some people like to plan their day in the morning, others like to close one day by planning for the next. Pick one, it will make you more productive. Once you pick one, block time on your calendar for the time you need each day.
I prefer to plan in the morning after scanning my email, slack channels, and checking my calendar for the day. This allows me to catch anything that came up overnight.
Try to establish breaks for yourself throughout the day. Block time each day for lunch, since you are at home, maybe you want to use 30 minutes instead of an hour. It is your call, but put it on your calendar and stick to it.
It is really hard to focus on a single task for more than 50 minutes or so and on more than one for greater than two hours. Establish some 15 or 20 minute breaks throughout the day. Use this time to get up, move around, see how the kids are doing, get some fresh air, take the dog out, anything except sitting at your desk.
If WFH is new to most or all people and you have direct reports, have check-ins with them. It is likely that most people on your team are struggling with these changes. Depending on the number of reports you have, you could set up a 15-30 minute weekly call with one person, or have calls with small groups of people. Use these calls to see how people are doing, what do they need, what would help them do their work better, where are the gaps? While scheduled, keep it social like you ran into them in the hall.
If you don't have direct reports, odds are pretty good you have friends at work. Take some time throughout the week to reach out to them for 15-30 minutes to catch-up.
Working from home naturally isolates people from one another, and as a result you have to make an effort to interact with co-workers. Hopefully your management will recognize this as well and encourage it by allowing communications for non-work related topics, which help people get to know one another. This in turn helps them work better together, because they have a connection other than we've both been assigned to this team.
And again, set an end time and stick to it. With WFH it is very easy to accept meetings outside of business hours. Try to avoid it. Set your work day and distinguish it from your personal life.
New Norms & Tools
I've mentioned several of the new norms when working from home above. You will undoubtedly receive guidance from your company. This guidance will likely be significantly different from company to company.
I was fortunate in that the last company I worked for was founded as a distributed work force. It was expected that nearly everyone would work from home. As a result, there was an emphasis to build cohesion and culture across geographic locations and time zones.
I've found that traditional brick and mortar companies struggle with allowing employees to work from home. Part of this is on management itself, which fears people will be unproductive, take more personal time, and if I can't see them how do I know they are working? At the same time, management is concerned with internal tensions when some employees can work from home and others must work from the office.
In the case of most people during COVID-19, the latter tension is removed because WFH is being mandated for all.
I can't speak to each or any company's policies at this time for WFH, and I'd imagine a good bit is being created as situations arise, but at the end of the day simply demonstrate you are getting the work done.
A big part of getting the work done is acclimating to WFH, which is largely covered above, but while you can adjust you may not be able to get the work done if you don't have the right tools at your disposal.
Connectivity and redundancy in case your primary internet goes down will keep you working and connected to the office. Ideally, you will have at least a company issued laptop. A personal cell phone is probably assumed, but if the expectation by the company is for you to regularly use it, then there should be some form of compensation offered.
Many solutions today are cloud based accessed by a web browser, but there are many companies that continue to internally host data and information. If you traditionally worked in the office through the company network, you will now need to connect more securely while working remote. Your company will either provide you with VPN access or you may need to request it.
I mentioned video calls being critical. When WFH as opposed to in-person, you can lose a lot of context when you can't see the person you are speaking with. Default to having video on for conferencing calls. Of course this means your laptop should have a built-in camera. If it does, be conscientious of the angle of the screen. Are you centered or is part of your head cut-off? What is on the wall behind you or also in the camera's view?
If you can, consider purchasing a web cam that can plug in via USB. These can often clip to your laptop and have some adjustability or you can purchase a tripod to change height and angle.
It is also very important to hear and be heard clearly. This will be affected by three primary things, your connection, the other people's connection, and the speakers and microphone you are using.
We've already discussed connection. Your laptop has a built in microphone and speaker, but all the noise around you, from those in your house to potentially those outside can get picked up on your call. A set of ear buds will help, but a headset is your best option, especially if you spend a lot of time on calls. I have wireless bluetooth headset which plugs into my laptop and synchs with my phone. This works very well for me as I can use it for online and cell based calls and videoconferences.
In addition to your office suite (docs, sheets, email, calendar) when WFH, your company should have a messaging platform available for all employees. Ideally, there would be a general message channel as well as those for departments, teams, and any grouping of employees who should be communicating with one another.
These real-time discussions give everyone insight into what is happening and show who is working on what.
I've mostly used Slack and that as well as many others, will allow you to set a status to alert others when you are on a call, meeting, break, lunch, etc. Between that and having a shared calendar, you will hopefully not get interrupted too many times when you are 'off the clock'.
These five areas will help you better acclimate to WFM more quickly, but the biggest key is your attitude and willingness to accept it and move forward until the next change comes your way, which could be this afternoon, tomorrow or weeks from now.
I am an avid reader.
I use Feedly to manage posts related to my professional, personal, and sports interests. I typically go through these feeds after dinner. Those professionally related that I find to be of high quality I share on Twitter using Buffer to avoid posting several in an hour or so span.
While I do read non-fiction, I mostly enjoy reading fiction at night or on the weekend as an unplug and escape from real life.
I'm not an eBook reader or audio book listener. I like the feel of a book in my hands, the cover, the texture, and the weight.
It was my fortune that a friend left me two books. They are the oldest one's I own. The first is what we today call "Gulliver's Travels". The first edition was published in October of 1726. This is not the edition I have. I'm not sure what edition I have only that it was printed by Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., No. 13 Astor Place, NY. No date is provided. I've not read this edition because the pages are delicate as is the binding.
The other was comprised of two volumes by Washington Irving, The Life of Columbus and A Tour of the Prairies. Again, I was unable to find a published date, only that the publisher was the Syndicate Trading Company, NY. Again, this volume has delicate pages and binding, so I keep it shelved and handle it little.
A third volume was given to my by my grandfather, and it was my great-grandfather's, Our Western Border: One Hundred Years Ago by Charles McKnight. It states that it was added to the Library of Congress in 1876
I used to keep books to read and read in a spreadsheet, until I discovered Goodreads.
I love Goodreads and its app. You can search by title or author and read not only the publisher or author's take, but also get reviews from readers.
I write reviews of all the books I read, I enjoy the exercise of thinking about what I've just read and articulating it in the review knowing others will read it and be able to comment on it. It is also very helpful when reading a series as a means to remind yourself what happened in the previous book or books.
In my home office, I've organized my favorites on seven shelves. Most everything else then goes to the closet (which I shelved and can hold another 150 or so books), once they are removed from the closet they go to the garage, where I have a few shelves, but most often these get donated.
My seven shelves feature: math/science, history/biography, religion, sports/art/music, and three shelves of fiction, one and a half or by or about J.R.R. Tolkien (I'll write a future post on that addiction at a later time).
The other fiction works include Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker Series, Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko series, Dostoevsky's Demons and The Idiot, several books by John Barth, Hemmingway's short stories, multiple Joseph Conrad novels and a 'selected works' volume, 'complete' Shakespeare volume, Thomas Hobbes Leviathan, The Notebooks of DaVinci, and to round out the collection, Calvin & Hobbes, the Sunday Papers 1985 - 1995.
My father got his first, and only, teaching and coaching position at Nazareth High School, in Nazareth, PA. As a result, we grew up going to sporting events and competing in sports at Nazareth, despite living in a neighboring school district until 6th grade when we moved into a township in the Nazareth School District.
I went to college in Tucson, AZ for two primary reasons, first, I had family there (my father's brother was a professor at the University of Arizona) and second, I wanted to see a different part of the country.
I loved Tucson, the weather, the mountains, the culture, the history and of course the University and the people I met there.
At the same time, it taught me to better understand and appreciate the town I grew up in. Nazareth gives you a small town feel, but provides access to pretty much everything you could want. There are many more things to do, than I thought there were as a kid. Its history is unique and diverse given its size and I've outlined some of these aspects in the next section.
Everything is nearby and there are a great diversity of activities and entertainment.
The Poconos are just to the north of Nazareth and access to the Appalachian Trail is in Wind Gap, a few miles from town. New York City and Philadelphia are an hour and a half away and the nearest Jersey Shore points are within one hour. Baltimore, DC, the Delaware and Maryland beaches are all within a three and a half hour drive.
Since returning from college, I've made Nazareth the home for my family. We live in town and have enjoyed taking walks to sporting events at the high school, when they were little taking the kids to the many local playgrounds, walking to the Library, the corner-store where the kids enjoyed getting ice cream on hot summer days, and attending the many community events held throughout the year.
I personally have invested in the community. I started a community site in 2006 to share news and information, NewsOverCoffee. I served on the Borough Council's Economic Development Committee. I was a member of the Downtown Development Committee. And I was the inaugural manager of the Nazareth Center for the Arts, which is now celebrating its 10th Anniversary (I was involved the first two years of operation).
While working with the Downtown Development Committee I created the concept for "Martin on Main", which is now an annual event in the downtown celebrating music performed using Martin Guitars. I also was a main organizer of a day-long event the day before the final race at the Nazareth Speedway, which featured the official driver autograph session, an appearance by Miss Pennsylvania (who as a side note, I introduced to Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish as they waited to accept an award for Roger Penske), and a concert that evening.
A long history, short, King Charles II granted a province to William Penn as a feudal estate. Under the feudal system, Penn created manors, or large estates of land that Penn could grant to individuals. One of these manors was granted to his daughter, Letitia, and it was the Barony of Nazareth. Though pledged in 1682, it wasn't until 1731 that this land was selected as the final parcel of the 25,000 acre grant to Letitia.
Under the feudal system, as a token payment for allegiance, Letitia gave one red rose every year on the 24th of June and to this day Nazareth is known as the Barony of the Rose.
Nazareth's founding is deemed as being in 1740 when Moravians settled on the land due to world-famous itinerant preacher George Whitfield who had secured 5,000 acres of the Barony. Whitfield brought the Moravians to settle his land and build a school for Negro children.
The first settlers arrived last in summer and were ill-prepared for winter. Whitfield then had a falling out with the Moravian church and ordered them off his land. However, in 1741, Whitfield sold the property to the Moravian church on account of his own unstable financial situation.
While this was taking place, Lenape chieftain Captain John settled his people on the land and refused to leave until December of 1742, when Count Zinzendorf made a generous offer and the Lenape left the manor territory.
Nazareth functioned as a closed religious community operated by the Moravians until 1856 when it became secular and open to all.
For a small town of 6,000 within a school district of 25,000, Nazareth has a rich history and some rather famous people and products.
Built in 1754, Nazareth Hall began as a boarding school and during the Civil War era it became a first class, classical academy. Although, military drills were added for exercise, it never became a military academy. This became a pre-cursor to Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA.
In 1780 William Henry II moved to Nazareth and established the Henry Gun Factory on South Main Street in 1781. With a large government contract he had to expand and moved north of Nazareth to Jacobsburg where he had acquired a large tract of land in 1798.
In 1838 C.F. Martin moved his guitar making business from New York City to Nazareth, PA. The instruments were originally made at the family homestead. The North Street Plant was built in 1859 to accommodate the needed additional space. Today, the factory is located just outside of town and features daily tours, an area for visitors to play a range of Martin's, and a museum.
In 1898 the Nazareth Cement Company built its first mill and by 1901 it was shipping cement as far as New Orleans. The Pennsylvania Geological Survey determined that Nazareth was at the center of the cement rock formations in the region and as a result many more cement plants were built in the area. They continue operating today.
Nazareth's original fairgrounds began operation in 1855 and featured horse racing along with agriculture. It was located right in town between Main and Broad Street a few blocks south of Center Street. At some point around 1900, the fairgrounds were moved further south to a larger tract of land. It was in 1910 when motor events began to be hosted.
Eventually there were two tracks the original 1/2 mile dirt track and a larger 1.125 mile track. The two operated into the early 1980s.
In 1986 Roger Penske purchased the facility and in 1987 the track re-opened. It closed in 2004. During the time it was open CART, IRL, IROC, NASCAR and USAC held events at the speedway, dubbed "The World's Fastest One Mile Oval".
Maybe the most important aspect of the history of having the fairgrounds track in Nazareth is the fact that it became the start of the careers of Aldo and Mario Andretti.
In 1969, when Mario won the Indy 500, he also won the USAC sanctioned Nazareth 100 at the fairgrounds. Later that year, the town held a day of celebration for Mario including a parade and the renaming of the street he lived on, Market Street, to Victory Lane.
His home was located across from the local elementary school and three homes down from the high school. Mario has since moved just out of town, next door to what was his son Michael's home and now, grandson Marco lives there.
Thanks for taking the time to visit The Nunamaker Group site.
As noted in the About section, this site highlights Ross Nunamaker's professional, contract/freelance, volunteer activity, speaking, education, and training.
The blog is a place where I'll share more opinions and personal posts.
I have had several different blogs through the years. Unfortunately, the most recent one I only have on my hard-drive. I'll see if I can find a way to upload those files at some point. It was on Drupal Gardens, and when that site closed I moved to a hosted environment.
Prior to that I had a Blog on Word Press available here.
I began blogging in the early 2000's. At first I did it to understand it. I had a vanity blog and posted on a range of topics. I met other bloggers online and started commenting on other people's blogs and they in turn visited my site and did the same.
In 2005, I started thinking about how a community focused site could help share information that local residents could use and that was often hard to find.
I couldn't get any traction, so I reconsidered how I could make it work. I re-launched in 2006 as NewsOverCoffee: Nazareth, PA Edition. I focused on the townships and boroughs that comprised the Nazareth Area School District. I attended Nazareth Borough and School District meetings and started posted to my site.
Word of mouth, coupled with a few local controversies made my site pretty well-known locally.
At the time I decided to create a companion blog that was to be a 'handbook' for others to do the same in their community.
I had good relationships with the local media and I managed the comments with the focus being on its okay to debate the point, just don't attack the person.
Nazareth residents stepped up (excerpts)
by Bill White
The Morning Call
January 6, 2007
...I've also been encouraged by what has happened in Nazareth, where vocal residents helped persuade their leaders to scale back a secretly hatched plan for new municipal facilities in favor of something more reasonable. They even persuaded borough officials to emerge — kicking and screaming, in some cases — to begin complying with the state Sunshine Act.
One of the big factors in this public pressure has been the blog NewsOverCoffee (nocnews.blogspot.com), which has been meticulously chronicling community life in Nazareth since last April. Although it often includes links to stories in the local newspapers, it offers much more detail than space or time permit in the daily press.
Originator Ross Nunamaker says the site has been averaging about 150 unique visits a day. The municipal building controversy and the threat of a teachers' strike in the Nazareth Area School District guaranteed that there were hot issues in the first year to attract readers.
Here's how Nunamaker introduces the blog on its home page: ''Welcome! Go ahead and take a sip of NewsOverCoffee. Life keeps getting busier, this is a place where people, neighbors and friends can connect to share news and information that is important to them at their own convenience. A place where Nazareth news and goings-on are posted for everyone to see and comment on. In short, it is where Colonial Hospitality meets information technology to ensure a better and stronger community.''
Unlike some of the blogs originating in other communities, NewsOverCoffee focuses more on straightforward information than on wisecracks and commentary. That makes it somewhat less entertaining to nonresidents, but more credible, I suspect, to those who haven't made their minds up. Nunamaker said his readers help police the comments portion of the site for anonymous personal attacks, keeping things constructive.
Still, when editorial comment is needed, Nunamaker isn't afraid to provide it. I suspect his strong voice played a big part in the positive changes that have taken place over the past several months.
His biggest need, he said, is more people to help him cover meetings, both in Nazareth and in other parts of the school district. If you're willing to help, let him know.
I've praised other local bloggers for bringing important issues to light in an entertaining way. But I can't think of anyone who has done a better job of putting the Internet to work in the service of his or her community.
We need more NewsOverCoffees. And we need more residents who are willing to speak up and force positive change when their leaders are out of line.
Steaming Cup of Joe
Joseph P. Owens, Editor
March 27, 2007
"The best community blog I've seen hereabouts thus far has been NewsOverCoffee."
Valley Bloggers Fill Niche (excerpts)
by JD Malone
July 29, 2007
...Today more than 30 Valley blogs are live and kicking...Leading the way are borough residents Bernie O'Hare, with Lehigh Valley Ramblings, and Ross Nunamaker, with NewsOverCoffee. Although they approach blogging differently, they boast large and growing audiences.
Nunamaker said his first blog flopped in 2005. He re-launched in March 2006 with the intent of delivering local news and information to people in the Nazareth Area..."I wanted a site to aggregate the information lost because people don't go to meetings," Nunamaker said. "(NewsOverCoffee) isn't about the person. It's about the place."
"We occasionally read them just to find out what's going on or what people think," said Nazareth Area Superintendent Victor Lesky.
"I never read them. I'm just not into that type of media," Nazareth Mayor Earl Keller said. "I hear some things that are on there. I hear lots of people talk about (the blogs)."
"Of course I read Ross' (blog)," O'Hare said. "I live in Nazareth."
Jeff Pooley, Ph.D.
Asst. Prof. of Media and Communication, Muhlenberg College
Steering Committee Member, Media Action of the Lehigh Valley
"I've continued to add a number of local blogs that I've stumbled across to my links page. One stands out: NewsOverCoffee, from Nazareth. It's an exciting experiment in citizen journalism that, in theory, permits posts from any number of citizen volunteers."
"NewsOverCoffee is the Valley's foremost example of authentic citizen journalism."
"I regard his News over Coffee site as a truly innovative model of an interactive community site. And I completely agree about the counterintuitive ways in which the internet is going local--and paradoxically bringing neighbors, blocks apart, together."