On the twenty-third installment of The Link Up with Latesha, our incredible host Latesha Byrd, founder of Byrd Career Consulting, talks about how to deal with your co-workers and bosses as you work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. She also stresses the importance of setting boundaries to help ensure you get your work done and maintain your peace. Listen to the full episode to find out why she’s a big advocate for over-communication and a lot more!
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Latesha: Hey, hey, guys. Welcome to another episode of The Link Up with Latesha. How are you all doing? I really wish that I could hear your response right now. I know that this is a really difficult time. This is a challenging time for many of us because our world has been flipped upside down with the spread of–and I know y’all are even tired of hearing about it, seeing it, reading it… I’m just gonna say it one time and that’s it–with the spread of coronavirus. It has literally impacted every single person in this country. We are being forced to work from home. For many, that may have not even have had experience working from home. And I’m in North Carolina. Well, I’m in Charlotte, and our mayor just put out a stay-at-home order for 14 days, and then today we were told that the governor has now put out a stay-at-home order for all of North Carolina for 30 days starting on Monday, so all we can do is go to the grocery store and go on walks. [laughs] When I tell you I have never lived in a more crazier time ever, and what I wanted to talk about today is with this new, you know, thing that everyone’s doing right now, which is working from home and working remotely and working virtual, I want to talk about not just how to stay productive and get your work done, because that’s all that I’ve been seeing around this whole, you know, working from home movement, is “Here’s how to stay productive.” I want to take a different spin on it today based on my experiences in corporate and also as an entrepreneur, but then also hearing and seeing my friends and what they’re going through and what my coaching clients are going through now having to work from home where they may not have had to previously. So this is a different spin on working from home. It’s about how to work from home and deal with your annoying, nagging co-workers and boss and how to set some boundaries so you can get your work done and maintain your peace. That’s what we’re talking about today. Our work from home experience is going to look different from some–definitely referring to people of color here, right? We are often micromanaged, underutilized, overworked, looked over for promotions and mentorship, and so our day-to-day in our careers look vastly different in terms of our communication, in terms of our relationships. Now, this is me making a general assumption here, but everyone has their own experiences. I do just want to put that disclaimer out there. But here’s just a few tips on how to work from home and maintain some peace through it all. #1 is to give yourself some grace. Extend yourself some grace. I know that companies may be operating as business as usual, but this is not business as usual. Let’s just be clear. This is not business as usual. We are going through a very difficult time for many. We have had family members that have gotten sick, we may have gotten family members or friends that have been laid off, right? So this is impacting all of us, our friends, our families, our communities, and so I want you all to know that it is okay if you don’t have it all the way together 24/7 for work, and I want to make sure you are managing your energy. So first, you know, the first tip is to extend yourself some grace, but the second tip is to manage your energy, not just your time. Manage your energy, not just your time. Now that you may be working from home, you may have to do a lot more self-management, right? So no one is there saying, you know, “Go to this meeting. Do this. Do that,” right? You might have to be managing your own priorities and deadlines a little bit more than usual. So with that being said, see if you can structure your workday around getting the things done that will take the most creative energy, the most brain power, so that you can focus that energy on things that will require to do a little bit more heavy lifting mentally. What I mean by that is I took a few days and I just kind of jotted down how I was feeling throughout the day. I’ll be honest, I did not come up with that idea. My therapist told me to do that. [laughs] But what I got from that was I was realizing that there were certain times and dips in my days where I was feeling really pumped up and then when I was feeling low energy, so what I have done to structure my schedule is when I first wake up in the morning or when I first start my work day, I spend that time creating content. I spend that time creating ideas, you know? I spend that time really focusing on brainstorming strategies. At the times where I’m feeling a little lower-energy, I’ll do more administrative. Sending emails, signing contracts, you know, reviewing something. [laughs] Not creating, but maybe reviewing something. That is when I will spend time doing that. So, you know, manage your energy, not just your time. Going along with managing energy is take breaks. Take breaks. I was talking to my friends the other day and they were telling me about their experience now having to work from home, and they said, “Man, I barely get up. Like, I go to the bathroom and I sit. I feel like I’m trapped at my computer. I feel like I’m trapped at my desk and I can’t go anywhere, and when I was working in our office, you know, I was able to take walks and take breaks and–” Listen, you are not a machine. We are not machines. We are not programmed to work 12, 15, 16 hours straight, or even just honestly, like, four hours straight. We are not programmed and conditioned that way. We need constant breaks. So make sure that you are scheduling breaks in your day. I like to do an hour and a half of straight work, and then I’ll take, like, a ten to fifteen minute break. And make sure too that you have a routine every day. Make sure that you have a routine every day, but understand that many of you may have children at home now since all the schools are canceled, so your work day at work may not look the same as it does now being at home. Maybe you have to take a break to get your kids set up for school, you know, take care of their lunch, their dinner. Once they go to bed you hop back on for a couple of hours, but you may lose a couple of hours during the day. Please, please, please think about what schedule works best for you and your family and have a conversation with leadership about that. Have a conversation with your boss or your manager. It’s really unfair if companies are, like I said before, operating business as usual when there are so many other, you know, circumstances in place right now. So we’re now moving into talking about boundaries. Let your manager know that you will be operating on an amended schedule just due to the things that you’re having to take care of in the household. The other thing is that I’m sure you are all experiencing many more Zoom meetings and virtual meetings being scheduled. I want you to think about how you can be more proactive versus reactive in your work. What can you do within your power and your work day to make sure that those meetings don’t become meetings? They can be done in email. Y’all know the memes that we see that’s like, “Okay, this meeting could have been an email.” That happens so much more, especially now that folks are like, “Ooh, let’s get on Zoom and hop on a meeting.” Like, we don’t have time to sit in Zoom meetings all day. We just don’t. So if you can, be more proactive with communicating your work, your deadlines, your progress, anything that may be holding you up. This is a great time to over-communicate. I’m a big advocate for over-communication. You never want your boss wondering what you’re doing and what you’re working on, so make sure you establish those touch-points where you can reach out. I’m not saying you need to email them every 5 minutes, but, you know, find out what works best for them and figure out what works best for you, and then start reaching out to them just saying, “Hey, I just want to give you an update here,” you know? Being in the same office, it is so much easier to just walk up to someone and say, “Hey, how’s this project going?” Or “Hey, you still working on so-and-so?” Right? We don’t have that–you know, we just don’t have that face-to-face contact anymore, so that is why it is important just to remember to communicate. Communicate, all right? Don’t let anyone have to take a guess about the bomb work that you are doing. Other things. Setting boundaries. I want to talk about communication with coworkers. For some reason coworkers think, “Oh, well, because you’re at home and you’re not doing anything like me, like, you’re available, and you’ll text me back, and–” No. Mm-mm. Unless your co-workers are your friends, but they don’t have to be your friends. I’m definitely an advocate for having good relationships with co-workers, but texting back and forth? No. Be careful about the things that you’re accepting, new behaviors that you are accepting from your co-workers and from your boss at this time, and reel them back in to, you know, strictly business, and once you settle and once you kind of let them operate in a certain capacity that you’re not comfortable with, they will continue to do that unless you say something, so it’s best to go ahead and nip it in the bud when it happens. So if you realize that a co-worker is texting you after hours, don’t respond, and let them know, “Hey, you know, you text me when it was pretty late. I typically turn off my work devices/stop checking email/I’m not taking care of work after this time because I’m with my family.” “Yes, I’m–” You don’t have to say all this, right? [laughs] ‘Cause I’m about to go in. “Yes, I’m home, but that doesn’t mean I have time to talk to you. I have my kids here. I have my spouse here. Or I just have myself here and I need to give myself a mental break and a little emotional recharge.” [laughs] Don’t say all that. Keep it short and sweet and say, “Hey, I don’t respond to X after 5:00, 6:00, 7:00,” right? So be mindful of that. The other thing I will say is remember that this is not just business as usual, and if you feel like you are getting slammed with work or you feel like you’re being micromanaged, it all comes back to communication. If you see that you are having six Zoom meetings thrown on your schedule in one day, that takes up a lot of time, to prepare for the meeting, to sit in the meeting that could have been an email, right? If you feel that your workload is not feasible with all the new meetings going on, with the adjustments at home, have a conversation and let your boss know, “Look, this is everything that’s going on right now. We’re having all of these meetings. It’s taking away from me actually being able to get work done,” or “It’s taking away from me being able to execute on X, Y and Z. If I continue to keep this same momentum of meetings on my calendars, I don’t want to fall short of any deadlines here, so can you help me with prioritizing or figuring out how I can get some of these meetings pushed off of my plate so that I can spend more time dedicated to getting these projects done?” Now, that was a pretty straight-forward way of saying it. [laughs] So figure out the best way to say it to your boss, but all I want to make sure that I reiterate here is that it’s communication. Communication. Being proactive. Not being afraid to set those boundaries and extending yourself some grace. So good luck, good luck with setting those boundaries. Please reach out to me with your experiences with working from home and your challenges, or maybe you will enjoy it. I love working from home. I don’t love it under these, you know, precautions, but I have a home office, and I’ll be honest, for me, when I first quit corporate over two years ago and I was working for myself, I actually was really struggling with staying productive and, you know, being effective, and so I ended up getting a co-working space, and because I realized for me I needed somewhere to go–of course we don’t have that luxury right now, but I needed a separate workspace to go because my apartment was very small so that I could be productive. So okay, I guess this is, like, a bonus tip, but making sure that you do have a separate workspace in your home other than your bed, right, or other than your couch. If your couch has to be it, I mean, I really don’t want it to be, but maybe you could do, like, the dining table. Maybe if you have a bar in your kitchen. [laughs] Somewhere other than a place where you’re super comfortable, but saying all that to say it was actually a hard struggle for me, and I had to find the routine, I had to find a method and a schedule that worked with me. So you will find it. You will find your stride, and I wish you all the best of luck. All right.