As a senior consultant for CSC, I find that every day “at the office” (be it the CSC office, a client’s office or my home setup) can be a little different. But as a mom to two young girls – born just a little over a year apart – I know I have to be as productive as possible in my work day to enjoy my time at home. Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way to make the days just a little easier – and better – for workers in IT. (I encourage you to share your best advice with me in the comments section or through social media)
Work from home a couple of times a week
While I like connecting with clients and colleagues face-to-face, I do find it easier to do some tasks at home. Documentation, bid writing and tasks that require focused, quiet attention are perfect for this. Lock yourself in a study or in the garden and get to work. On days when I work from home with kids, I allot time for brainstorming, deleting and responding to emails, writing my blog and other short tasks that can handle interruptions.
Fail and fail quickly
Give yourself permission to fail – really! CSC encourages employees to fail, fail fast and fail forward, meaning we take an agile approach to work that encourages growth, innovation and, yes, even mistakes. View mistakes as an opportunity for learning and improvement. It’s OK to not be right all the time; you may be wrong now and right come November when you learn more and gain input and experience.
Thank and recognize others
A compliment doesn’t cost a thing – and it can go a long way to building camaraderie with colleagues and clients. Thank and recognize others who have helped you develop ideas, documentations, presentation or bids – or just because you feel they need to be thanked. Praise offered in a public forum can improve team spirit and make people enjoy working together.
Embrace outside-in thinking
Ever come to a point where you’re not sure how to proceed with an idea? Time to go outside the box and think about it in a different way, involving different points of view. Go to the solution provider, go to Internet forums, go to the Leading Edge Forum or just go to a different place, physically – even just take a walk outside. Then share new information with your team and see what happens. Many minds focused on one problem can be extremely powerful.
Write it down
Keep a notebook for tasks, and dedicate a special section to listing your accomplishments. Write down three things that you felt deserved a pat on the back, whether they happened at work or at home, big or small. Being a parent, as well as an IT professional, is challenging, and we all experience guilt or feel disheartened sometimes by comments/feedback from colleagues. This list can help focus attention on the positive and keep you from dwelling on the negative.
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries
It’s important to have clear but flexible boundaries in the workplace. One I set is that I do not wish to be away from my girls for more than two nights in a row whilst they are still very young. My manager respects this and we figure out work-arounds as needed. Boundaries can change. For example, I have waivered working from home to gain the trust of a client. I did ask that if the engagement went beyond eight weeks, I could reinstate my two days working from home. The client responded extremely well – which taught me another valuable lesson: It never hurts to ask.
Share your life with your colleagues
We spend a lot of time with our office colleagues, teammates and clients, so we should get to know them. I once had a great manager at CSC share a good way to do this: First, identify the people you want to develop relationships with, then find out as much as you can about them. Talk to them about what’s going on in your everyday life and listen as they discuss theirs. (It works – when I ran into this manager at TechCom for the first time in 5 years, we exchanged big hugs!)
By building these relationships, you know you’ll have someone in the office who has your back. He or she knows why you need to leave at 5 p.m. on the dot (to pick up the kids or get to an important after-work event) or why you can’t make a certain call. They will better understand your work and life style and can offer support. Communication is key.
Workplace technology has made it easier than ever to communicate with colleagues and do our jobs on the go. So take advantage of it. Read your emails on the train so you know what’s going on before you get to the office. Read or listen to a book on the way to work to learn something new and discover different points of view. Share insights through blogs and use social media platforms to build communities with colleagues and clients. Skype with your kids when you’re traveling for a conference or a client meeting.
Technology has a way to bring our work and personal worlds together in convenient ways. From my base in Perth, Australia, I use technology to communicate and collaborate with colleagues, clients and friends around the world – and this becomes ever-more important as globalization continues to expand our networks.
What tricks do you use to make your days in IT more productive/better? Let me know if the comments, or Tweet me!