How to Work from Home Effectively – M.I.N.D.S.E.T. – Adopt 7 Best Practices

By 17th March 2020 April 3rd, 2020 People Management Tips

My Dad didn’t do it. Yours probably didn’t either. Work from home. But it has now become a credible option.

No longer does ‘I’m working from home’ translate into ‘You’re having a jolly’. As you can see from the google trends graph below – ‘Work from home’ is still gaining popularity. The last peak was in 2016, which coincided with the Zika virus. The Coronavirus is likely to eclipse the searches seen in 2016. And change the way we work.

Google Trends Graph of Work From Home

‘Work from home’ is still gaining popularity.

The relatively new phenomenon of ‘Remote working’ means that we need to learn new ways to work to keep up. To remain productive. To cope. The mnemonic that will help you to become a remote worker is:

M.I.N.D.S.E.T.

We chose this mnemonic because from working in a corporate office to working at home, is largely about how you think and feel. Your mindset. Plus, there are 7 practices, that, if adopted, will help you to survive working at home. And, if implemented effectively, will help you to be someone that is happy, productive, and has a good work-life balance working from home.

(Click on the image below for the extended version)

How to Work from Home Effective Infographic

Is Working from Home a Good Idea?

Learn How to Work Effectively From Home

Becoming a great remote worker is like when you became a great corporate worker. You learnt. This is similar. The only difference is that there aren’t people to watch. You learn by yourself. Learn from what you read and watch. No-one is sending you on a training course to learn how to work remotely. Some big companies may provide some resources. Ultimately, it is down to you to learn how to work at home. This is no small challenge and will require discipline. The alternative is to just start working from home. Then look up 10 years later and wish that you had learnt the best practices from the start.

Please indulge me for a moment with a story…

Learning how to work from home reminds me of a great scene in ‘A Few Good Men’. A courtroom Naval film with Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, and Keither Sutherland. An all-star cast. Tom is a top lawyer grilling an army private on the stand. Cruise is trying to get from the army private that they were taught to give ‘Code Reds’. A term to describe semi-torturing a fellow private when that cadet messed-up in the field. The army publically denies the use of the Code Red practice because a private died during a Code Red. Hence the film and the courtroom drama. Yet the private on the stand knows about the practice without any formal training. Tom quips, ‘Well, private, how do you know where to eat if no-one ever trained you?’. The private replies, ‘I just follow everyone at chow time, Sir’.

In remote working, we have no-one to follow at chow time. Yet, we need to learn to change our behaviours. To adapt. This article is your army private at Chow time. It is how you learn remotely. Please share with others to help them. Contribute to this article in the comments below. Continue to learn and audit yourself. Check-in on yourself – How are you doing with this remote working thing each month? (An Outlook reminder might not be such a bad idea). Discuss your progress with your line manager.

Summarising our Work From Home M.I.N.D.S.E.T.

Each of the 7 best practices below can be clicked on to take you to a deeper understanding of that best practice.

M is for Manage:

  • Establish a Routine – Choose 3 times.
  • Do Eat That Frog – Identify your frog each day and eat it first.
  • No More Cabbage Butterflies – Remove distractions, e.g. turn off email notifications, and do ‘start to completion’.
  • Write a Daily To-Do List – Write a new to-do list each day, and asterisk what must be done that day.

Learn how to manage yourself working from home.

I is for Isolation (Avoid cabin fever):

Get out. Go to a coffee shop. Meet a friend for breakfast. Walk into town. This must become part of your weekly routine to look after your well being. As a minimum every two weeks (Obvious only some apply during the Coronavirus lockdown).

Find out how NOT to isolate yourself working from home.

N is for Neat:

Select your working at home, work clothes. Put these at one end of your wardrobe. Don’t mix them up with the other two ‘wardrobes’.

Know why staying in your pyjamas all day will affect how you feel about work.

D is for Deliverables:

  • Have a 121 with your line manager. Or line manager, have a 121 with your reports. Agree on SMART targets for the year.
  • Invest time to be the very best version of you.

Find out why you are on the payroll and where to start investing in you.

S is for Space:

This is a checklist for your work at home space. Use it to create your proper space at home for you to work. This will help with your mental preparation:

I can..

  • Work in this space and relax in a different space.
  • Set-up a desk of my things.
  • Have all the necessary things I need around me; sockets, place to write, a really comfortable chair, space to move, etc.
  • Be confident I will not be disturbed.
  • Get the technology to work, i.e. the WIFI and phone signal work.
  • Not be seen by delivery people at the door.
  • Have natural light.

Getting your own space when you work remotely is very important. Find out how and why.

E is for Emotions:

We have two responsibilities; To ask, ‘How are you feeling?’ and to articulate how we are feeling.

Read about why you need to articulate how you feel.

T is for Technology:

  • Test your broadband and mobile phone signal. If they are not up to the job, get them upgraded because your productivity will suffer.
  • Use A.C.E to manage your meetings to be effective.

Technology is the foundation of your productively. See how to ensure that it is up to the job.

M.I.N.D.S.E.T Summarised

The key to not feeling isolated, being the best version of you, and achieving the highest productivity is M.I.N.D.S.E.T.

Your mindset is the key. To unlock the advantages of working at home combined with the challenges it presents, you need to be prepared to learn and then change. Neither of these things is easy to do. But, you learnt how to be a corporate worker from watching others. The same step is to learn from others that have been through the same learning curve. The evolution is to do that remotely by adopting the 7 best practices above.

Thank you to Leanne Massey for helping me to create the mnemonic of mindset.

Short Videos Sharing Working at Home Mistakes and Solutions

Below you can see 18 x 2-5 minute videos sharing mistakes I made when I first starting working at home and solutions you can adopt:

As our leading Coach, Nathan Simmonds says, ‘You need to find your operating rhythm’. You will. Best of luck.


Please share your tips and tricks below in the comments.

Additional WFH Resources Suggested by Contributors – Thank You

This document is a bit of a beast – Over 58 pages with many links. It’s not an easy read, but it is jam-packed with great information. Thank you to Thomas Power for sharing.

Linkedin has created extensive e-learning for working from home. Just a warning. It is over 13 hours, though there are modules. Thank you to Leanne Massey for sharing.

Feel like you are in a coffee shop with this 1 hour of background coffee shop noises.


For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to People Management Skills and our People Management Skills YouTube Channel. Also, check out our award-winning blog to see more People Management Skills Tips and  HR Management Tips.

Darren A. Smith

About Darren A. Smith

Darren has been working in the world of UK Supermarkets & Suppliers for over 25 years. He began his career as a buyer at big 4 UK supermarkets and after 13 years he decided to leave to set-up Making Business Matter because he wanted to help suppliers and supermarkets to work better together.

2 Comments

  • Good article DAS. A few typos, but as you say, it’s a first draft. If you want me to fine tooth comb it and get back to you with points where I think there are corrections required, I’m happy to do so. I was also pleased to see you got your film reference in early…

    One thing that you have got in the region of, but I don’t think you called out explicitly is distractions. Example: my mouse wasn’t working this morning, I cleaned the contacts with a cotton bud and white spirit, then I noticed my keyboard was mucky, so while I had the kit out, I did that as well, then I realised that the grubby knobs on the cooker would look much better if I applied the same practice to them… Working from home throws this sort of thing up on a regular basis – if you allow yourself to continually lose focus, there is a danger that hours will pass and you won’t finish the task you’ve set yourself within your allotted time. Incidently, this article probably comes under the heading of a distraction too, but I’m giving myself a free pass because it’s lunchtime.

    While on the subject of lunch, regular breaks are important. I have a colleague who when working from home one day wondered why she felt so drained, before realising it was 6pm and she hadn’t eaten all day because she was so into her work. This could be a nice thing to add to your super time management section. I know you mention lunch already, but there are widely recognised benefits of stepping a way from the computer screen to make a coffee or take a “comfort break”, not least because staying in one position for long periods of time is really bad for posture.

    When I started my own business, the thing I really missed was having people to use as soundboards. It’s not quite the same when working from home from a corporate employer, but there are other considerations. Yesterday I suggested to my boss having a chat about a piece of work that was due to be submitted by the end of the day. To be fair, I didn’t ask for the chat explicitly – I suggested my dog would love to say hi. She didn’t want to video chat because she didn’t have her makeup on. I think this comes back to the point you are making about wardrobe and making sure you are in the right place [mentally] for all work based activities. If this includes having your hair done correctly, you need to do it, even if most of the time you are happy not to adhere to the same standards you set for yourself when physically working in the office.

    Email tennis is a fantastic way to waste time as well. For some reason, so many people appear to prefer it to calls, but it’s so inefficient. Example: this morning I replied to an e-mail sent by one of my stakeholders. During the ten minutes I took to write a response, she sent three subsequent e-mails, all of which required me to alter the contents of my e-mail. If we’d done a call instead, none of that would have been necessary and we could have wrapped everything up in half the time. Fortunately an alternative stakeholder is much more receptive to this sort of thing – I have a SKYPE call with her at 14;00. Hopefully it will be a very productive meeting with a few clearly defined follow up points.

    I hope this has been helpful and not too waffle filled. Please DM me if there is anything you’d like me to expand on. Alternatively we could set up a call/SKYPE chat if you’d prefer.

    All the best.

    Andrew

    • A big thank you for an extensive reply. Love it and thank you for taking the time. I really appreciate it.

      Since your review and others, I have added about 600 words, adjusted the mnemonic to be easier to remember,a nd re-written many paragraphs.

      Your points about distractions should be covered by the Cabbage Butterflies part, and I believe the other parts you mention have been included.

      The next step is for us to optimise the article with links, images, and better formatting.

      Please can you check back early next week as I would like to take you up on the fine-tooth review.

      Thank you 🙂

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