MP spoke with Amy Clark, a human resources leader and executive coach with extensive experience in leadership development, talent management, and building human resource functions that create strategic value. She has more than twenty years of valuable corporate business experience at various Fortune 500 companies and national nonprofit organizations.

Clark founded Growth Minded Leadership Group to help growth-minded leaders take actionable steps today to be more successful tomorrow. In her coaching practice, Clark delivers meaningful leadership and management development programs designed to increase individual, team, and organizational effectiveness, including addressing the work-from-home phenomenon that has grown globally in response to the pandemic and the changing needs and desires of the workforce.

Amy Clark
Amy Clark / Photo courtesy of Amy Clark

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

It is incredibly important to create an environment that helps everyone thrive. It is about what suits the individual so they can be at their best for themselves and those they serve. 

Surrounding ourselves with an inspiring place to work at home helps bring the right mindset to our day, and we show up ready to take on whatever comes our way.

For some, it means having a quiet and inviting space to focus on connections via video. For others, it could be a space with background music and a clean, organized space to invite the focus needed for deep, independent work. 

Much like going into an office space to work, we want to feel like we can bring ourselves to the work environment-such as personal photos, inspirational props to refer to throughout our day, and appropriately show a bit of our personality with our background. 

Taking these steps helps us show our individuality, promoting connection and belonging.

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?

1. Find a place you can “leave” at the end of your workday by having a door close or work be the only purpose of that space. 

If this isn’t possible, move your laptop, files, or other items from the common space into a decorative container or basket so it is hidden away, giving you the feeling that you have ended work for the day. 

This helps us reframe our home life and feel like we have some separation.

2. Place a few personal photos on your desk or within the viewing area.

This helps bring perspective by reminding us of what is important, who/what ultimately benefits from our efforts, and inspires our thinking and actions. 

This also provides us something pleasant to look at when we inevitably need that break from the light of our monitors.

3. Let the light in through natural sunlight with a window or various lamps or ceiling lights.

This directly impacts your mood and energy, making you feel like you are part of something bigger than your sitting space.

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

We can all find ways to be more intentional about our calendar, including protecting time to work independently. 

This year, I pledged to block my mornings and do my best to hold any meetings between 10-4 only. 

This gives me time to do deep work first thing in the morning when I am fresh, or I use it to prepare for future meetings. I also suggest that we place a limit on the number of meetings each day. 

We need blank spaces on our calendars to give ourselves time to think, strategize, and assess our progress. Finally, replace “I am so busy” with “my day is full.” 

“Busy” magnifies the feeling of fatigue, whereas “full” brings about a positive feeling of fulfillment. 

This can work when you just can’t accept that meeting request, as it would take you away from prior commitments, whatever they may be. 

Responding with: “my day is full, but I am happy to find another day/time that is suitable for the both of us.” That puts us in control, without the need to be apologetic, respecting our time and that of others.

I believe this feeling of fatigue sets in regardless of level. 

Regardless of our role, we all have needs, as Abraham Maslow shows us in the Maslow hierarchy of needs. We all have basic physiological and safety needs that must be met, or we begin to work against them and not bring our best to the situation. 

Time to come up for air, scheduling rest and reset time, and attending to our emotional and social desires are what inspire our purpose.

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?

Change Management Strategies

Businesses can be successful by incorporating proven change management strategies – whether individuals are accustomed to working from home or if they are still trying to get used to the idea. Leaders need to make sure employees understand how their role connects with the overall purpose of the organization and how they have an impact.

First, providing clear and measurable goals is the anchor to identifying if there are some problem areas or identifying what circumstances help some employees thrive more than others. 

When establishing goals and measurements, have your employees be part of the process, so they begin to feel some ownership. While organizational goals are set at the organization's top, leaders can and should connect with their teams about how the work gets done. They are deep in the work and often have the best ideas for executing their job. 

This brings a feeling of value and a vested interest in giving their best performance.

Progress Assessments

Another strategy is to hold regular one-on-one and team sessions to assess progress. Restating plans and providing an update on progress helps everyone see what tweaks or adjustments are necessary to be even better. Just as goals are established, bringing employees into the problem-solving process helps them see their impact – good or bad – and builds the desire to change.

Measurable Performance Indicators

Finally, creating measurable performance indicators or objectives with key results will provide leaders with real-time productivity data. This extends the goal-setting process as it identifies the results we want to see. When we regularly review these results, trends surface, and we can use this data to determine what adjustments are needed along the way.

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

Leaders need to ensure their people have the ability to work effectively from home. 

This means setting the right conditions for peak performance. 

Providing modern equipment, not only a laptop but a monitor large enough to allow multiple screens to increase efficiency. Training on maximizing internet bandwidth, video conferencing tools, and direct chat will provide people with the foundational knowledge to enhance their online interactions.

Regular touchpoints with the team will help surface any challenges people may face in their day-to-day job. The leader’s role is to help remove barriers and communicate clear expectations so employees know what to expect.

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

Internal monitoring systems are critical tools to employ to ensure sensitive information does not leave the confines of a company’s network. Monitoring information exchanged via electronic tools, transfer of data to another source, and training on information security are all critical components of ensuring these tools do their job.

The idea is to mitigate risk as much as possible. 

Educating employees on why it is important to protect data and the downstream impact when that doesn’t happen helps them see their role in doing the right thing.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Hybrid, and in some cases fully remote work, has become our new way of working and connecting. Investing in modern collaboration tools that allow people to connect differently will help spark creativity and allow for the ad-hoc conversations experienced in an in-office environment. 

Organizations that involve their employees in how to maximize connection will enjoy the most significant outcome: a highly engaged and fulfilled organization with people who set out to do their best daily.

Responses provided by Amy Clark, founder at Growth Minded Leadership Group.

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