How To Work At Home And Thrive In Close Quarters

There’s a difference between working at home because you want to and working at home because you have to.

Working at home was an appealing privilege to many, but can now produce feelings of Cabin Fever on steroids.

When your kids become your office mates, new challenges arise.

Home Schooling, working, and doing family life every day in your home may be fun for a week, but “until further notice” can be overwhelming.

Where I live outside the city of Atlanta, we’ve just received a “Stay at Home” directive. That’s different than “I get to work at home.” It’s psychological when you don’t have options; you can feel trapped, and your perspective changes. That impacts your attitude.

For most high energy leaders who have great drive for the mission of the church, this is a crazy-making formula.

And what about the parents who are now homeschooling? Is it a crash course in education or survival?

Thriving in close quarters is a challenging situation for just two-three days, now we need to learn how to do it for weeks at a time.

Thriving in close quarters requires three basics:

1) Extra Grace

We were not designed for isolation, and we were not designed for indefinitely sustained close quarters. This difficult season brings with it extra friction and frustration.

When it comes to grace, my best advice is contained in these three words, “Let it go.” Let the small offenses go.

Give the benefit of the doubt and let all the little things go, and most of the big things too.

When someone in your family is getting on your nerves, let it go, and trust they will extend the same grace to you.

2) Flexibility

Things are changing daily.

Your ability to be flexible and adapt is essential.

Most churches are making plans on a one-week or two-week basis and must be ready to change in a moment.

It’s true that you need a new routine. I wrote about that in my previous post. The point of flexibility is not to forsake or give up on a new routine, but to be prepared to be flexible within that routine.

That includes your kids too. They are just as stressed, in their world, as you are. Teaching your kids about flexibility will help.

3) Honest communication

Honest communication will help you get through this crisis more than anything else, except for prayer.

Prayer is always the foundation for good communication.

It’s important to tell your family members and close colleagues how you feel, but don’t expect them to always bow to how you feel. Your goal is understanding, not compliance.

Allow their measure of grace to determine their response to how you feel.

Don’t keep score, just set a good example, and extend grace.

5 Practical tips to working at home:

1) Establish your new work routine.

In the previous post, I just mentioned, the new routine is your home and overall life routine.

This point specifically addresses your new work routine.

You probably can set your work schedule at your discretion, but once you set it, stick to it. (Yes, flex when you must, but not because you are constantly distracted.)

Distractions are the chief enemy of successfully working at home. You can’t eliminate all of them, so focus on solutions to the most significant ones.

Focus is key.

If your schedule is 7:30am to 4:30pm with a lunch break, stick to it. You’ll end up with more time for your family!

When you work at home, don’t add extra hours. Don’t start late. Don’t mow the grass when you break for lunch. Your body needs time to breathe within a consistent rhythm of work.

2) Dress the part

Someone recently said to me: “It’s important to change from your night pajamas to your work pajamas.” That’s pretty funny, but there’s a smart point here.

You never went to work in your pajamas before. Why?

Our minds connect with social norms in terms of how we dress. That’s why you don’t wear the same thing to a wedding that you wear to the beach.

You can, but people don’t.

No one is suggesting that you dress up to work at home, it’s more like “casual Friday” every day.

The point is how you think and function at work. It makes a difference.

3) Pay attention to your personality type.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? That reality shows up more when you work at home.

When working at home, introverts may lean into the cherished peace and quiet and risk unintended isolation. Extroverts may miss the personal interaction and create distractions just to talk to someone.

The first step is, to be honest regarding how you feel about working at home. Perhaps you’ve been after your boss to let you work at home a couple of days a week, and now that you are, you don’t like it as much as you thought. 

Own how you feel about it, but again, don’t make others own your feelings.

Perhaps your personality craves structure, and now you feel like you are floating on your own. Or maybe you love spontaneous collaboration, and that seems to be gone.

Don’t dismiss your personality; take time to intentionally come up with creative solutions to help your unique wiring thrive.

Pace yourself. You may be a high-drive activator type, or you may be a process thinker type. Each needs their own attention to pacing.

If you are an activator, you may need a system to help you catch your breath. If you are a processor, you may need some prompts to keep your pace moving.

These are just a few examples to get you started thinking about how to compensate for the lack of your normal work environment.

4) Set up your workspace.

This may be a challenge for you if your living space is limited. But if there is any way possible to set up even the smallest dedicated area, do it.

The couch is not a good choice. (It’s likely, you never worked 40-50 hours a week on a couch before, so it’s probably not a good idea to start now.)

Like the previous point on dress, it’s not about a rigid rule. There are no clothes police or workspace inspectors. It’s about helping you function at your best.

5) Embrace video conferencing.

I’ll admit I don’t prefer Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or the many other options. I like to talk with people in person.

People’s expressions, side chatter, and the smell of a cup of coffee matter to me. Hey, I’m a boomer, but I’ve adapted.

You may love teleworking; if so, you’re good to go!

But if you find it more sterile than warm, I encourage you to focus on the positives.

  • It’s efficient. Most meetings are shorter.
  • You can include people from anywhere in the country.
  • You can take advantage of different times that work for everyone.
  • It makes you change out of your work pajamas.

There is no easy or magic solution, but I hope these thoughts help you be as productive as you want to be, and also truly enjoy both your work and family.

9 thoughts on “How To Work At Home And Thrive In Close Quarters”

  1. The greatest problem of communication is the illusion that it has been achieved. -Oscar Wilde
    Great post-Dan. We are in a defining moment for sure. I read an article yesterday where Mark Cuban (owner of the Dallas Mavericks) says how companies treat workers during a pandemic that could define their brand ‘for decades’. It could be said of the church as well. Very appropriate post for these times. Thanks for keeping it real and important.

    1. Hi Bill!

      Love that Oscar Wilde quote!

      I agree with Cuban (and I’m a fan of Shark Tank)… can you email me that article?

      Thanks for your comments and stay safe!

  2. Helpful comments for coping in the situation we find ourselves. Keep the insight coming. It will definitely shed light on the nature of our dilemma and show us the way out.
    Incidentally, do you happen to be Pentecostal? I see your books are published by Charisma.

    1. Hi Rick,

      Thanks for your comments!

      I’m Wesleyan by background, but certainly believe in the power of the Holy Spirit. One of my books is with Charisma, they are a great publishing house and great friends. Three of my books are with Thomas Nelson, my new book releases April 21st. (Confident Leader!)

    2. Hi Rick,

      Hope you are doing well today.

      I’m Wesleyan by background, but certainly believe in the power of the Holy Spirit. One of my books is with Charisma, they are a great publishing house and great friends. Three of my books are with Thomas Nelson, my new book releases April 21st. (Confident Leader!)

      Thanks for your comments!

  3. Thanks again for a thoughtful post, Dan.

    It is interesting to me how this working from home phenomenon has affected different people. I know some young entrepreneurs, who are faced with staying busy and motivated. Others are stressed and need to be reminded to control what’s within our ability to influence. And parents (myself included) are faced with being teachers in addition to working from home.

    Myself, I am grateful for how this experience is giving us permission to reset — that is, what do we now decide will have greater importance and what won’t be so important when normal life “resumes.” And also, that we will replace “too busy with X, Y and Z” with “busy enough with what the Lord has given me to do, and enjoying his best.”

    1. Hi James,

      Great insights and thank you for your comments. This experience is affecting us all differently. Glad you are going through it well. John Maxwell recently reminded us that one of the most important things right now is what the crisis is revealing in us. What are we learning about ourselves and how are we responding to what we learn?

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