With one company after another announcing mandatory work-from-home policies with the COVID-19 events, you might be working from home this week. Many professionals in our community have never worked from home before or facilitated a meeting remotely.
This can bring up a lot of fear and uncertainty in an already uncertain time.
I, along with Disha Trivedi, a senior business analyst and Bridging the Gap instructor who has worked from home for the last few years, hosted a complimentary coaching session. You can catch the replay below – and be sure to scan down for a summary of tips and resources.
Working From Home – Challenge or Opportunity?
While working from home is a new challenge for many of us, in every challenge lies an opportunity. We have to be willing to step away from the fear, worry, doubt and open ourselves up to the opportunities all around us.
For example, this situation could shift the needle a bit and help organizations embrace the effectiveness of remote work so it becomes more standard practice.
As BAs, we have a great opportunity here to step up as leaders. To show how we can work effectively remotely. To be the glue that teams absolutely need to stick together in this challenging time.
Business analysis as a practice is more important than ever. Our businesses will be making significant changes over the coming weeks and months to respond to these events. The businesses that adjust will survive – and some will even thrive. How can we help our organizations capitalize on opportunities?
Finally, cultivate a sense of gratitude. So many have jobs where working from home is impossible, and are either suffering financially or risking exposure for themselves and their families. We have an incredible privilege to be given the opportunity to continue with “business as usual” from the safety of our homes.
Working from Home – Set Yourself Up for Success
Your physical work space will help you focus and be productive.
- Separate desk space.
- Monitor and docking station.
- Comfortable chair.
- Headset for conference calls/video sessions.
While in long-term work-from-home situations, it would be natural to expect organizations to cover the additional costs of working from home, it’s important to give our employers some grace right now as events unfold and they figure out how to best support their employers through these new challenges.
Work Hours & Breaks
Decide in advance what hours you will work and when you will take breaks. Since you’ll be at home, consider what will serve you and your productivity best. Are there opportunities to start early and take a longer mid-day break for a workout, shower, and lunch?
What support do you need from your family? Your team?
Is your connectivity adequate for screen sharing and video conferencing? If you do not have high-speed internet, now is a great time to see if you can upgrade. Your employer may cover this expense.
VPN connections can slow down connectivity. Explore what you can do (within company policies) outside the VPN.
Have your Outlook web access link handy, so you can access email even if the VPN goes down, and a list of important phone numbers so you can reach out for support with any connectivity issues.
A hot spot on your phone is also a great back-up.
Ask and confirm your organization’s priorities. Likely a lot has shifted. So check in now about this. And again later in the week, and then next week. Things are moving so fast, and organizations are trying to respond the best they can. Checking in to ensure that you are working on what’s most important is key.
Our Project Prioritization Organizer template toolkit will help you identify, sort, and create buy-in on organizational priorities.
Also incorporate your personal priorities for the day, and realize that your priorities may shift from day to day.
What if your kids are at home?
While working from home while caring for your children will impact your work time (there is no way around it), we’ve found these strategies help us stay focused and productive.
- Collaborate with your partner to be clear is who in charge at various times. We like to make day-to-day decisions based on the times we have calls.
- Set your kids up with activities (like new craft projects) while you do less focused activities (like catching up on email).
- Allow yourself grace when it comes to technology/shows. The normal standards might need to bend a little.
- Incorporate kids into activities they can be part of – like workouts and meal prep. Involve older kids in chores.
- And be OK with the fact that your kids might show up on a video conference or interrupt you in a meeting. Everyone is working home with kiddos. Expect your employer to show some compassion to the situation.
Working From Home: Practical Virtual Communication Strategies
This situation is new to everyone. Reach out over waiting to be reached out too. Teammates, management, stakeholders. Aim for 1-1 connections too.
Set expectations for meetings
Are people expected to share video? Then be clear about that in your meeting request.
At the beginning of the meeting, go over the meeting agenda and let them know what to expect and how you want them to engage.
To increase engagement, plan in aspects of the meeting where you individually call on each person for their input – let them know in advance you’ll do this.
Identify the specific questions you have to cover in your meeting, and use these to keep the meeting flowing and gain more valuable input.
Our Requirements Discovery Checklist Pack can help you identify more questions to ask and ensure a more complete view of the requirements.
Use visuals and demos
Prepare visuals that you can share in meetings. Not sure what visual models to create? Here are 22 Visual Models Used By Business Analysts.
Ideally, you’ll share your visual models using screen sharing technology, but visuals can also be sent out via email in advance if connectivity is a problem.
Some screen sharing and collaboration tools:
For collaborative visuals:
- Microsoft Whiteboard
- Microsoft OneNote (screen share, and then use the draw functions)
- Visio (with screen sharing)
- Zoom whiteboard function
Our Visual Model Sample Pack is an excellent resource of additional visual models to be incorporating into your discovery, analysis, and validation processes.
Reading body language is much harder virtually, even if you are on video. Active listening reflects back what you’ve understood. Asking each person to contribute something, even if just to verbally say “no additional comments” gives you a confirmation of where people are at on a topic.
Communicate more regularly than normal Be thinking about daily status reports and daily check-ins with key team members. Some participants are doing daily stand-ups to stay connected and informed. Some teams keep chat open during the day and share personal updates as well. One person reported her CFO set-up a text chat group so people could keep up with each other.
Our Email Communication Templates are designed to help you increase your effectiveness and handle common BA work scenarios.
Here are some of the chat tools participants mentioned using:
- MS Team
- Skype for Business
- Google Hangout
Working From Home: Protecting Your Mindset
Mindset is so important. Stress increases cortisol in your body and weakens immunity. If you want to protect your health, yes eat your vegetables and take your vitamins, get fresh air and sunshine. But also protect your mindset.
Take a few minutes right now – yes, RIGHT NOW – and take a few deep breaths. Feel the weight of your body on your chair or your feet on the floor. Feel how supported you are. Allow your weight to sink down into the floor or chair.
Now take a few conscious breaths in and out through the nose. Breathing in and out through your nose signals safety to your brain. This is a free exercise you can do anytime to help reduce yourself and increase your sense of safety.
Let’s look at some additional mindset strategies.
Focus on what you can control
You can control how you show up, the structures you create, what you learn. You can’t control how others show up. You can’t control the decisions your organization makes. You can control the government or what your neighbors do, but you can choose how you respond and react.
Focus on the VALUE you create
Focus on the value you create as a business analyst, not the hours you put in. There is this concept we talk about in Circle of Success called “Einstein Time,” where time literally shows up for you. Allow this to happen. It may show up in the form of a colleague sending you exactly what you need to get started, a bit of input that leapfrogs you ahead on a task, a template that gets you 50% there, or a stressful task getting erased from your to-do list.
When we release the stress about time and work from the belief that there is more than enough time for everything, often what we must get done has a way of flowing seamlessly.
You don’t have to believe me, just give the belief a try and see what happens. Post your results to celebrate!
Limit negative news
This is essential. Be informed – yes. But once you are informed the news is just one big cycle on repeat, so listen once if you have to and then turn it off. The news creates a pattern of scarcity in your mind that tears you down.
Embrace a leadership role
An attitude of service helps us overcome scarcity thinking, and keeps us in an abundance mindset. Everyone here has something to give. People are craving positive examples now more than ever.
Invest Your Time Intentionally
Invest your time consciously. If you are home alone, what book could you read, online training course could you take, or closet declutter? Connect with your partner in a deeper way? Time with your children can also be an incredible investment. This flips your mindset around from kids “taking away” from work time.
Also, be sure to re-purpose your commute time in a way that serves your best and highest good.
Bonus points – consider a meditation practice.
Working From Home – You’ve Got This
Just remember…in every challenge, there is an opportunity. You are a problem-solving agent of change and your organization needs you now more than ever. When we keep ourselves focused on results, embrace the challenge, and give our best selves, you, your organization, and the business analysis profession will emerge stronger than ever.
If your colleagues or contacts could benefit from this resource, please share this link with them. We are better together.
Resources to Help You More Effectively Work From Home
In the live session, I was asked to share more templates and techniques that are relevant when working from home. We offer 5 collections of Business Analyst Templates at Bridging the Gap, and all of them are relevant for remote business analysis work.
- The Business Analyst Template Toolkit will help you save time with simple, streamlined documents that help you gain essential buy-in on projects.
- The Email Communication Template will help you more effectively set expectations, get information, request input, and manage issues with copy-and-paste templates you can use for email or tweak for chat or phone communications.
- The Visual Model Sample Pack will help you more easily incorporate more visuals into your requirements process, which is a more effective way to gain buy-in when requirements gathering remotely.
- The Requirements Discovery Checklist Pack will help you identify new questions to ask, and keep the conversation flowing in virtual meetings.
- The Project Prioritization Organizer will help you gain buy-in on clear organizational priorities, which have likely shifted as your organization figures out how to respond to new challenges and opportunities in our current environment.
What’s more, you can save and get all 5 template toolkits at a discount, with our Bridging the Gap Template Bundle.