What do I wear? How do I get through this day without crumbling on camera? How can I do it all and not lose my mind? These are several of the questions I’ve been fielding as I support my clients while they work hard to embrace the new routine of working from home. Here are my best practices for working in this new world of remote work while kicking your career up a notch.
1. Reconnect by disconnecting
It can be exhausting, emotionally and physically, to be on screen for what feels like 24 hours a day. Boundaries are taking a back seat now that you’re home and your workload is waiting to be done at all hours. The work will be there. Take breaks. Try to get off camera as much as you need to. Set up a phone meeting and take your meeting outside. Some of our greatest artists, philosophers and writers had a daily walk routine to create inspiration and improved creativity. As that oxygen fills your lungs, remind yourself that you’re here and have amazing work to do.
2. RISE to the challenge of change
During these challenging times, how we communicate is key. But have you thought about how you’re communicating with yourself? Cut yourself some slack and give yourself grace and compassion. Take a step back and be mindful of how you’re talking to yourself. If you wouldn’t say it to a best friend or loved one, don’t say it to yourself.
If you’re going through major changes at your company, you may need to lead your team through this change as well. Get through the change first by practicing how to RISE to the occasion. Reflect on the change: take steps to embrace the change first and think about the “why” behind the change so you can communicate it effectively. Identify what may get in the way of this change. This could include your own thoughts, biases and possible resistance that may come about when you roll this change out. Strategize an action plan that will lead you and your team through the change and also prepare for possible “Change Drain” — my term for the burnout that may occur during change — and resistance to the change (for yourself and others). Finally, don’t forget the most important step: execute on the action plan. It may take some practice to get used to management changes while working remotely, but you can still manage through things effectively if you practice rising to the occasion.
3. Be an onscreen queen
This new way of work may mean you have to be on camera — a lot. Being seen is a great way to build your professional brand and increase your visibility. If you’re asked to be on camera, do it. This is going to give you literal and virtual visibility. You’ll need to make sure you’re the center of attention. Position your camera to where your face is centered. Put a light behind the camera to get better lighting. Give your face a break from constantly wearing makeup daily by using the “soften my appearance” feature on Zoom to get a fresh glow. Make sure the camera is at eye level. When you want to engage and make eye contact, look directly at the camera’s lens like it’s a virtual eye so you can really connect with the audience. Have your notes to the right of your screen if you need to refer to them. Finally, fix your face! Get a mirror for your work area so you can be your own accountability buddy, or ask a coworker to be “your fix your face buddy” who can send you a private chat to adjust your facial features while on the virtual meeting. Remember, people can hear your smile when you’re off camera and on the phone. And really smile—not the gritted through your teeth holding back the rage smile, but the authentic, “I’m happy to support you” smile.
4. Dress for success
Most days it’s a struggle to get half-dressed for the camera, but how you show up still matters. What’s the best thing to wear on camera? Solid colors, especially jewel tones, will help you pop on screen. Make sure you’re the focal point and you’re not wearing any wild patterns or stripes. You’ll want to wear a simple pattern that doesn’t pull focus for your fabulous face. You can tone a pattern down with a solid color. I keep a cardigan handy to throw on just in case. Stay away from huge logos or brand names (unless it’s your company logo to show team spirit). My grandmother used to say, “Never shine until the sun goes down” — meaning don’t wear sequins or satin before 5 p.m. Some experts warn against wearing huge distracting jewelry, but as one of my mentors always says, “If you can’t hide it, decorate it!” I love a bold lip and huge earring because it compliments my beautiful bald head. Use your best judgment. And wigs aren’t just for costumes. If you’re having a bad hair day, slap that hairy accessory on your head and keep things moving.
5. Aim for progress, not perfection
It’s time to embrace that shift happens and you’re doing your best to show up. Put up a virtual background if you’re not happy with your dwelling surroundings. Post a sign on the door or notify family members when you’re on calls so that you can proactively eliminate distractions. Create new schedules that build in time for work and family time. Delegate. Put your bills on autopay. Have the groceries delivered. Dust off that chore wheel. Remember to celebrate the small successes that you accomplished throughout the day. Was it brushing your teeth? Was it nailing that long division word problem when helping your child with their homework? Was it taking a break to eat? Whatever it is— celebrate it. You made it through the day and you have another opportunity to make a difference in this world.
Don’t listen to the societal pressures that you “need to” or “should be” doing to make the most of this challenging time. Listen to your gut. You’re doing the best you can with what you have, and that makes you a Work From Home Goddess!
A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.