Here at Sierra Business Council, we have a group chat with all staff members aptly named “The Breakroom.”
In between meetings, webinars, and notification-free spurts of productivity, I receive a sporadic deluge of messages from this thread containing youtube videos (A Conference Call in Real Life), nostalgic reminiscences of the SBC vending machine, and odes to the slowly shriveling plants that were abandoned in the office since we received our work from home mandate on the 15th. (Luckily for the plants, a brave and responsible coworker watered all of them today!).
In such serious times, trivial messages along these lines might be slightly annoying at best, and aggravating at worst… to some. And yet for me—while I often mute notifications and later catch up on these conversations while pouring myself another cup of tea or taking the dog out for a quick midday work break—each ping is something I look forward to. And as the organization’s newest employee, this thread has become in some ways a sort of lifeline to my fellow SBCers. It’s how I am learning their personalities, their sense humor, and, of course, the names and faces of their pets (now referred to as “coworkers”).
When I was first tasked with this assignment to offer advice on working from home (something I know a thing or two about from the years I spent primarily self-employed as a freelancer), I spent a few moments on my search engine of choice, reading the results from my query, some variation of “tips for working remotely.” As I scrolled, the listicles and advice from influencers and the self-employed felt endless and unoriginal, full of fluff and filler content along the lines of “Get up to stretch! Set up a standing desk! Be sure to hydrate! Don’t work in your pajamas!”
While these tips are indeed valid, they seemed to me like common sense, especially for those of us who already pay attention to what kind of work environment works best for us as individuals. For as long as we’ve been in the workforce, we’ve come to learn things about ourselves—if we are early birds or night owls, if we’re more productive when we mute our inboxes, if we work best with a deadline, etc. If you find the online listicles helpful in making you feel like you aren’t alone as you plug away from your living room couch, then by all means, read them.
(For more concrete advice about transitioning to a virtual business model, check out the recording of this morning’s Sierra SBDC webinar on the topic.)
For me, an unlikely extrovert driven by the success and work ethic of others, I know my best work comes when I see excellence around me and strive to match it. And right now, I see our Sierra SBDC’s consultants putting out fires at ground zero to keep small businesses up and down the Sierra afloat. I see our Climate and Energy team embracing flexibility as they continue to support local governments in their climate and energy action plans from their home offices. I see our government affairs team tracking federal bills aimed at economic and social relief in this time of chaos and uncertainty while shifting advocacy strategies for long-planned and now uncertain state legislation. And more broadly out in our community, I see people supporting local businesses however they can (more on this later!), appreciating their health and ability to get outside for a walk, and calling hellos to each other from socially safe distances.
And for me, motivation to be successful working while from home during this period of self-isolation comes from finding connection and community. Which at the moment, looks like a group chat full of 15 or so near-strangers turned colleages-and-confidants.