MP spoke with Jeremy Babener, a business consultant and tax and business lawyer by background, about how to work from home successfully. Babener has worked from home for the last eight years.

Before joining a northwest law firm's tax and business group, he started his career at the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Tax Policy. Many of his client conversations morphed from tax advice to business and marketing advice. 

Babener moved in-house at a financial technology investment fund for several years, also serving as marketing director. He focuses on identifying pressure points and opportunities, creating team-wide plans with his clients, then managing and implementing them.

Jeremy Babener / Photo courtesy of Jeremy Babener

Work From Home

How important are comfort and quiet conditions when working from home, and why is this the case?

I can create quiet with good headphones, though I usually don’t have to. Sound-reducing additions to your home office walls certainly won’t hurt.

Comfort is an absolute necessity. 

I spend most of the day in my home office at my desk. Discomfort is just too much of a distraction. It’s worth it to invest in whatever you need to allow yourself to focus.

What are three out-of-the-box tips you can share to help our readers working from home create a space that works for them, and why these three? 

A desk that I can raise and lower is the most important. I shift it when I can, and if I’m standing, I can start walking if my phone call or thinking allows for that.

The second is a monitor arm that allows me to position my screen where I need it when I move around. You might not need the arm if you don’t have a stand-up desk.

Third, for me is a professional background. I’m in video conference meetings every day. I set my desk up so that my background is bookshelves. Choose whatever you think fits your work and style, but be intentional.

How can people working from home avoid meeting fatigue, and does this change from the employee to the executive level? 

Executives often have many more opportunities to get things done without sitting and staring at the screen. I do my best to talk business on the phone while taking a walk. The more, the better.

For employees taking directions and cues, meetings can be genuinely grueling. Hopefully, much less so when you’re engaged and looking to contribute. If that’s not happening, start thinking of where to go next. 

Until then, hang in there!

How can business leaders ensure that productivity remains high while working from home and operating under a decentralized working model, and why might these strategies work best?

It’s impossible to inspire teams to give 120% or even 80% when they’re not excited. 

Sometimes that requires more compensation. But in my experience, the problem is a lack of leadership and recognition of the value or difficulty of the team's work. 

Ask questions of your team. 

What would get them excited?

Look for exciting assignments and treat them as incentives. 

Look for opportunities for people to work together and share what they’ve done.

How can business leaders ensure that productivity remains high while working from home and conducting all interactions online?

You can’t. 

But you can make it far more likely. 

That is if you care about your team’s interest. 

And you should because their interest is what carries them through the day. 

What’s going to keep them interested? That’s your job to ask. And the more you want to know, and the more positive curiosity you come with, the better you’ll do.

How can businesses adequately protect sensitive information while employees work from home, and why might these ways not work?

There’s physical security for paperwork. 

And digital security through the use of platforms, authentication, etc. 

Most security experts will tell you that the highest risk isn’t a hacker breaking a digital password. It’s “social hacking,” when someone gives up valuable information they shouldn’t. 

Businesses should regularly test their security to find holes and to let the team know how seriously the business considers security. For example, many large companies regularly send fake scam emails to their employees to see if they’ll recognize the same.

How can leaders adapt their organizational culture and employee engagement with a hybrid or work-from-home environment?

Many companies have created offices and spaces that any employee can use. This is a great way to encourage employees to come in. A critical step is understanding why they’re not coming in. 

If it’s COVID safety, find ways for the team to work outside or improve the circulation inside. Offer spaces where masks are required so those who need that protection can access it if they come to work.

Find out if it’s for comfort, child care, location, or other reasons! 

You know your team; if you don’t, your team managers should.

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