Best Practices…Who Says?

Best Practice

Life is full of best practices.  These are the things we should all be doing because they worked for someone else.  We get caught up in copying the P90X workout, or the Zappos marketing campaign, or the Salesforce.com sales presentation, or even parenting based upon the sage advice of best practice preachers. For those with children, do you remember the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting?; it’s a best practice book! But what are best practices?

The most common definition I could find on the Internet says best practices are commercial or professional procedures that are accepted or prescribed as being correct or most effective.  But by whom?  Who says they work? Where did they work?  When?  What kind of business did they work in?

I have nothing against best practices in general.  However, when organizations take an approach that proudly states they will deploy best practices to accomplish their objectives, I must admit…it does make me a bit curious.

My experience has taught me that an organization’s culture trumps even the best of best practices.  I’ve spent 13 years of my career in the payroll and human resource outsourcing space.  Several times I’ve attempted to deploy what was considered a best practice at one firm into another only to see it fail due to a cultural difference.  Like hiring one of your competitors top sales people only to find they were unable to be as successful selling in your company, implementing best practices from one place to another doesn’t always work either.  Top sales people many times excel in environments where they are provided with autonomy and the latitude to get a deal done.  Placing that same sales person in a company that requires their managers sign-off on everything they do is a certain recipe for failure both for the sales person, the company, and of course the customer.

Before thinking about copying a best practice be honest with yourself and your team.  There’s a difference between being capable of doing something versus being able.  Having the ability to change is quite different from having the capability of changing.  Most of us are capable of a lot more than we’re doing today.  The reason we’re not doing more is because we’re unable to…unable to cross the chasm…unable to make the change…unable to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

We should always be interested in, and on the lookout for best practices.  Just be sure to consider how far you’re willing to go to implement those changes.  How much change can you endure in order to make the needed change?  The truth is, for best practices to work, it’s entirely up to you.  It’s not about the practice itself but about how you and your organization can execute that practice that makes it work…that makes it a best practice.

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4 Ways to Produce Great Results Working from Home

house

Over the past several years many companies have adopted work from home policies. They call these employees telecommuters, remote workers, or plain old “work-from-home- employees”. Regardless of the titles placed on employees who perform their jobs from their homesites it’s clear that this is no passing fad but an evolution of the workplace environment.

With the development of new technologies, now more than ever, employees working from home are able to be hyper-focused and extremely productive. But working from home isn’t easy, nor is it for everyone. It takes a special type of person to be effective working from their homes. Many employers are still leery of this arrangement given past experiences where an employee perhaps took advantage of being home. This is where trust is an absolute requirement for these remote arrangements to work.

If you’ve never worked from home before, or you’ve been working from home but just looking for new ways to improve your job performance working remotely then read on. I’ve identified 5 elements necessary to become highly effective working from home.

1. Stake out your space. If you live alone this is a bit easier than if you live with a roommate or have a family. You must have an area of your home that is designated specifically as your office, your space, your workspace. Without a clearly defined area you may find yourself on the move throughout the day having to constantly move from one area to the next to accommodate your living companions. If you have kids make sure they know what the boundaries are as they relate to your office. Where your space is, your hours of operation, rules on noise, etc. Being clear up front improves your ability to perform while minimizing home disputes.
2. Get organized. Make sure your space has everything you need to operate. Having to go to the kitchen to get a stapler or into the playroom to get tape is not a recipe for efficiency. Limit the number of times you need to leave your “area” and it will greatly minimize any potential distractions. Distractions are the #1 killer of work-from-home arrangements. The temptation to cut the lawn early, take a dip in the pool, or get caught up in a conversation as you walk into the kitchen to grab something to drink all become distractions that risk your productive work time.
3. Take breaks. Sure there are certain jobs that require employees to be on the phone all day but in many positions if you were to be in an office you’d be in and out of your office throughout the day. Going from one meeting to the next, using the restroom, or going out to lunch provides built-in breaks throughout an “in-office” day. Earlier in my career when I landed my first remote position I found it all too easy to work nonstop. I would go into my “office” at 7 am, and in many cases earlier than that, and not leave it until 6 pm or later, barely taking time to use the restroom or eat. Breaks during the day allow you to clear your mind, take a breather and recharge a bit. Breaks are important to your creative effectiveness.
4. Shut it down. Perhaps the biggest risk to working from home is the temptation to work all the time. It’s so easy to sneak a peek on your email, or research an idea quickly on the internet. When the day ends, so should you. You’re really not doing your employer any favors working until 7, 8, 9, or 10 pm. Your ability to think clearly, produce creative ideas, and act with a fresh perspective are all impaired when you never shut down. Don’t leave your computer or laptop on. Shut it down. And under no circumstances should you take your laptop with you outside of your work area.

The bottom line is that you must look at your home office like a work office. When you leave it, leave it. For those who work remote what are your best practices for working from home?