Once there was an elephant
who tried to use the telephant —
No! No! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone —~ Laura Elizabeth Richards
With the mass enforced exodus from the workplace to home due to the coronavirus there has been a plethora of articles extolling a tyranny of tips to teach neophytes how to show up for work when you are forced to work from home.
Many of these tips take the form of commandments to the newly minted home worker.
- Thou shalt shower and dress properly before starting your day.
- Thou shalt work only in a spot in your home dedicated to your work!
At 65 years of age, let me face the elephant in the room, or at least in the picture below an elephant in the River Kwai. I have worked out of my home for 40 years and have seen many changes in how I work. In addition, what works one day may not work the next so as opposed to cajoling commandments, I offer 5 invitations to entertain as you muddle thought the trials and tribulations of doing homework when you thought you had left it all behind after grade twelve.
Before you read the five invitations, here is my one real tip: If you ever face an elephant while standing downstream in the River Kwai and the elephant needs do an elephant size number 2, swim to the side and upstream as fast as possible.
Do it your way. The Buddha said be a lamp unto yourself and Frank Sinatra sang, “I did it my way.” By all means read tips and articles and talk with others but primarily carve out your own path. Some of us love to do household chores between work tasks while others of us need to sequester in a small basement room with minimal noise and no family interaction. Don’t be surprised if your ways and means of work alter based on how you are that specific day, what is going on with anyone else living in the home (including the cat), and the nature of your task.
View this experience as an experiment. Perhaps when the crisis is over you will want to request more opportunities to work from home or you will know that you are meant to be in a bustling office with a cacophony of sounds and a myriad of incidental interactions. Be reflective about how your experience unfolds even if you capture yourself folding laundry when you desperately need to complete the quarterly projections. Stay curious and learn more about your own best ways of working.
Make memories. At one point during my career working from home, I had 3 children under two years of age inhabit the same place I worked (twins were born when our son was one). It was bat-shit crazy at times and the pablum on a report definitely diminished the report’s gravitas but today I have playful memories of the challenges and the time spent at home cemented a close relationship with my children.
Be mindful of your own engagement. To me engagement is caring. Take moments during the day to monitor how much you care about what you are doing. If you are full of care for your work, good— but if your caring is low be careful and don’t become careless. Good relationships can contribute to our caring so know that you may be on your own at home but you are not alone. Make good use of the plethora of tools to stay connected and supported with coworkers from email, text, and the phone to Skype, Zoom. and WhatsApp.
If you can laugh, you can last. Given this is a forced change know that things will go wrong. You may find yourself watching a game show at ten in the morning or you may find yourself with an appetite like an elephant knowing the fridge is just a few short steps away. If you work in your housecoat be sure it doesn’t suddenly fling open when you answer the door to sign for a package.
Please note that I inserted three elephants into this article and loosely referred to a bowel movement with the real elephant in the River Kwai. It wasn’t funny at the time but it brings a smile to my face now as I never knew how fast I could swim when fully motivated. Perhaps even if you feel you are sinking at times the necessity of working from home will help you to swim more powerfully into your work.
I am not prone to prayer but I like to start my working day with this modified serenity prayer composed by an anonymous woman named Jane N: “God grant me the laughter to see the past with perspective, face the future with hope, and celebrate today without taking myself too seriously.”
Perhaps before you return to the office you may discover, “there is no place like home.”
Do you want some coaching/support/guidance on how to work at home? If you would like authentic and down to earth coaching directly with David Zinger, one of the world’s leading experts on employee experience and engagement, on how to work well at home I invited you to contact me for 1 or 2 individual coaching sessions via phone, Zoom, or Skype. During this challenging time I will reduce my fee to $100 Canadian a session — which is under $75 US per session. To get started email me: email@example.com.