The Top Five Work-at-Home Mistakes
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As remote-work capabilities progress from being optional to essential, advisors will experience a bumpy transition.
Challenges will come from all sides, including adapting to new workflows, replicating your technology infrastructure and setting boundaries with family.
Although many knowledge workers have mastered remote work over the recent decade, it may be new to advisors and their teams.
What are some strategies to enable you to accomplish vital tasks and achieve results in this new environment?
How can you set yourself up to for a seamless and successful transition into your home workspace?
Get off to a fast start by sidestepping these top five work-at-home mistakes:
1. Not having a dedicated workspace
Many advisors and their teams fail to recognize that a successful work-at-home strategy starts with the physical environment.
You don’t want to interrupt your work to decamp from the kitchen table when the kids come home from school.
Have a dedicated workspace – ideally a room with a door you can close so that your family and pets recognize when you can’t be disturbed.
If you can take a basement or top-floor space that requires the extra effort of a flight of stairs to interrupt you, then all the better.
Stairs help you gain your own separation from your home and work time.
Also, buy an inexpensive worktable and office chair along with proper lighting, so that you create a dedicated space even if it is not a dedicated room.
Use decent noise-cancelling headphones. These could be a good investment for you if you seek quiet in a chaotic household or when cleaning or home improvement projects are underway.
If silence is not your thing and you turn on CNBC or Bloomberg in your office while the markets are open, plan for the same setup at home.
2. Not having access to all your applications
Let’s be honest: The IT departments of many large financial firms have used the excuses of compliance and security to discourage gaining seamless access to your applications at home.
An iPad or phone may be great to check email in between meetings while on the road. It’s likely, though, that you will need a dedicated laptop or desktop computer with critical applications loaded locally or easily accessible via secure VPN.
Obviously, if you have a low-bandwidth internet connection that you share with many other family members, upgrade to the highest speed available, even on a temporary basis.
In my suburban area there are two fiber-optic internet providers. In that scenario, consider a dedicated account for work.
Many workers-at-home get a VOIP telephone so that calls are routed to your home desk, and it gives you a second line in addition to your cell phone. Also, it can compensate for spotty cell coverage.
Others employ web meetings and connect via a VOIP headset and the USB port on your computer.
If you use a large, curved computer monitor at work so that you can see all your applications at once, buy one or bring one from work to your home space.
3. Not treating your day like a normal workday
Many advisors who rarely work at home have a list of home projects that distracts them during their work-from-home days. After all, they may reason, there’s time in the evening or weekend to complete leftover work.
Just because no one can see you sit down at your desk every day (possibly, starting time is 8 a.m.) does not mean that having a daily routine is not critical.
Bookend your work day with exercise or use the incentive of getting the work day done before you move onto a hobby, exercise, home projects or your favorite tv show.
Do the Starbucks run, dog walk or school drop-off as a way of leaving the house and then on return settling into the work routine.
In my early days of working at home, I would schedule projects and tasks in Outlook just as you might a meeting with the goal of finishing specific activities within a specific period of time and holding myself accountable.
Be clear to any family members that once you get your work done, you can be available to them with your full-attention.
Research studies reveal that in your normal work day it is healthy to get up from your chair and move around every half hour.
Don’t feel guilty about taking a walk while doing a call. There are no bonus points for refusing to move from your desk chair.
4. Avoid common collaboration and communications mistakes
Scheduled client and prospect meetings can be moved to a phone call or web meeting.
An app like Calendly can automate the scheduling of meetings.
Client or sponsored events can become webinars
To master these new technology-enabled meetings, don’t struggle in silence. Instead, get the help or training you need.
Team collaboration may be a little trickier, especially as many advisors are accustomed to working with others ad hoc or in real-time in the office.
Have a standing team meeting daily via conference call or web meeting and review the list of questions or projects for the day or the week.
If there are changes in workflow based on your team working at home, designate one team member as project manager to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
Also, document sharing apps like Google Drive or collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams have been helpful in other industries, as long as you are able to meet security and compliance standards.
5. Failing to turn lemons into lemonade
Networking meetings, events or conferences may have to be put on hold, but that brings new opportunities.
Perhaps there are important but not urgent projects like a website update that can be completed during this period.
For example, it may be time to update your LinkedIn profile and update your connections. Or you could investigate new technologies to help manage your practice.
Take an online class on a topic of interest, finally setting aside the time to focus on a new designation or certification. Perhaps a cancelled conference may hold its sessions virtually, and you can attend and participate.
An advisor client held in-person meetings quarterly with all their clients, which included talking about the wealth management “topic of the quarter.”
He used a temporary health situation that limited travel to test a webinar on the “topic of the quarter,” and it was a huge success for both clients and the advisor. He saved over 100 hours each quarter and opened up more time for individual conversation and work.
Finally, remember that working from home is truly that. Find a combination of the space, technology, routine and norms that allow you to be productive and valuable to your clients.
Bob Hanson is co-author of Marketing Power for Financial Advisors. Get his new report, “7 Secrets of Winning Webinars, Online Events, and Video Marketing” here.