How Can CIOs Work From Home?

Shifting to home means making changes in how you work
Shifting to home means making changes in how you work Image Credit: Digital Creators

Let’s all agree that our lives have completely changed over the past few years. What used to be a normal job where we went into the office and did our work supporting importance of information technology has become a much more diverse thing where we find ourselves working from many different locations. One of those locations is probably your home. Although actually firing up the laptop and working from home is a simple thing to do, doing it correctly so that you maximize your productivity is a bit more difficult. CIOs need to step back and take a look at just exactly what working from home means. How do we have to adjust how we do our work to get the most out of it?

You No Longer Work An Eight-Hour Day

Let’s face it, back when you were always working in an office, much of your eight-hour “workday” is made up of meetings in which you’re mostly listening, in addition to water-cooler chat, collegial conversations and random interruptions. I think that most CIOs can agree that we considered it a good day if we get 4 hours of decent work time. However, things change when you are working from home. Since your solo workdays will be uninterrupted, you can get more done in 5 hours than you’d accomplish in 8 hours at the office. Conversely, if you consistently work more than 5 or 6 hours at a stretch, you run the risk of getting really burned out and isolated. What this means is that you have to try to not get hung up on whether the clock on the wall says 5 p.m. Your workday ends when you’ve completed the work that you need to get done. Keep in mind that if you reach your limit or get restless before then, you can take an extended break or get outside for a walk.

Always Make Sure To Choose Three Things A Day

When we are working from home, our day will be different. What this means is that we are not using the business day to decide when work starts and ends. To replace this we need some other structure that lets us know when we’ve put in a day’s work. One way to go about doing this is to pick your top three priorities for each day, and share those three commitments with a colleague or group of colleagues early in the day, via chat or email. When you do this you will have a sense of accountability for what you get done. You can start your day by jotting down major items like: send out all outstanding invoices, create the spreadsheet with the list of all the variables for the data project; write a first draft of my remote-work story. You need to realize that you’ll have other emails to address or calls to answer, but those three big things will be the center of your day, and you’ll fit the other stuff in around the edges. At the end of the day, make sure to share your accomplishments with the colleagues you’re using as accountability partners. They don’t have to be people you work with; they can be friends who commit to this practice so you all stay sane while you are working from home. Choosing these three items won’t only help you focus your days, but will give you a sense of community and support for your daily work effort.

It’s Time To Choose A New Time-Management System

The person with CIO job who decides to enjoy the advantages of letting go of the eight-hour day needs a different way of managing their time and ensuring that they’re working at an appropriate pace. The daily “three things” can be part of that system, but it is also helpful to set up some other structures to help you see where your time goes. A good idea is to commit certain days, times or weeks to specific tasks or types of tasks. You can create a separate calendar inside your calendar app, and use that to plan and visualize which parts of the day or week you’re going to spend on different types of work. It also can be very useful to install a time tracker on your computer, which runs in the background and lets you see where your time has gone. Make sure that you take a look at how you’ve used your time, either once a day or once a week, and it will help you find an appropriate pace that preserves both your productivity and your sanity.

Become A Regular In Your World

When a person in the CIO position is working from home, they miss the sense of community that they felt when they were at work. You might have been a regular at one particular coffee shop but now that’s gone. When you’re working entirely from home, you can try to be a regular in a few different online contexts: Twitter lists, Facebook groups and Slack channels. This can provide you with a sense of collegiality and a sounding board for your professional issues. If in the past you’ve limited yourself in the way you use your company’s Slack or Teams conversations, now is the time to start actually hanging out there a little, and maybe even commit to joining in the company’s just-for-fun channels once or twice a day. If you can do this, then it will help you stay more connected to your larger IT team. One other thought is to consider frequenting a few of the broader online communities in your industry or professional field, even if you’ve never done that before. Virtually “seeing” the same people in the same context, day in and day out, provides a vital sense of continuity and community, and makes it possible to dive deeper, into more interesting conversations, because we aren’t starting from square one each day. Those networks for CIOs are more important than ever now, so stay logged into several different Slack workspaces and even leave the dreaded notifications turned on! CIOs need to understand that it can be distracting, but hearing from clients and colleagues in real time can helps you feel like you are still part of a larger workplace and professional community.

Make Sure That You Take Time To Reconnect With Colleagues

A key part of how any CIO gets their job done is by working with other people. No matter if you come from an office where collegial chitchat is part of the meeting routine, or from a shop with a let’s-get-straight-to-business culture, now is a time to think carefully about how you can build and sustain collegial relationships when you have no in-person contact. Even if you are the kind of CIO who normally functions at a brisk professional distance, you may find that the lack of body-language cues or coffee-line greetings suddenly makes you feel less connected to your colleagues, and frays the unspoken bonds of trust that let us work effectively together.

Create Social Interactions By Scheduling A Standing Date

CIOs need to understand that remote work sets your baseline physical activity to zero. Guess what? It can also set your baseline social interaction to zero. It can be helpful to have standing dates that ensure that you have some social interaction every week, even if you don’t get organized enough to make plans. You can also schedule a standing morning video call with a new colleague. This might not be what you’d do in a more conventional work situation, but right now, it ensures we can both get a focused start to our days, and even more important, it is helping us build a collegial relationship while fighting isolation.

What All Of This Means For You

I would suspect that none of us deal with change all that well. However, we need to understand that where we get our work done is something that is in the process of changing. More and more CIOs are working from home. This change is requiring them to adjust how they go about getting work accomplished. We need to understand what needs to change in order to make sure that we can still be productive.

In order to successfully work from home, we need to understand that our day starts and stops when we want it to – not 8 to 5. In order to get things done, we should select three things to accomplish each day. Keeping track of what we need to be doing is going to required that we select a new time management system. We have to create new regular routines in order to anchor our working from home world. Reconnecting with the people that we work with and making time to create social connections are important things to do.

Remember that tackling remote work in a healthy way is a skill, just like any other professional skill. It is going to take us a little time, and a little practice to get this right. However, by prioritizing our well-being, as well as our productivity, we may even discover that we actually prefer working from home!

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: How often do you think that a CIO should work from home?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As the person with the CIO job, you are called on to accomplish a great number of things. It can be all too easy for things to get out of hand as more and more things pile up. In order to stay on top of all that you have to do, you are going to have to take the time to make sure that you know what you need to be doing and what the outcomes should look like. In order to accomplish this, you are first going to have to be able to understand the scope of what you are trying to do.