For Nixon Peabody’s first virtual “Let’s Talk!” event, I had the opportunity to interview writer, author, and speaker Laura Vanderkam. Laura is an expert on time management and productivity, and shared her insights on career development, work-life integration, remote learning, and how to thrive while working from home.
We discussed Laura’s new book, “The New Corner Office,” which includes strategies for productivity, creativity and health while working remotely. As someone who has worked remotely for eighteen years, Laura offered valuable perspective as we find ourselves in a situation where our professional and personal lives seem to blend together. Some key themes from our conversation include:
Instead of work-life balance, Laura suggests we think about “work-life integration.” Balance implies give and take. The concept of work-life integration focuses on how work and life fit together. For example, Laura has noticed that when she takes care of herself at home, she is better at work. Some of her best work ideas even come during exercise. The more porous boundaries between work and home give us an opportunity to rethink the traditional workday in a way that makes the most sense for each individual.
Remote work is a skill
In March, most of us were thrown into a new environment. We tried new things. Some worked. Some didn’t. As Laura explains, if we think about work from home as a skill, we can practice and get better. Laura suggests asking yourself: What’s working? What’s not? And how can we improve that skill?
Pick up the phone and call
Mentoring and relationship building no longer happen organically in the office hallway. Rather than scheduling a call, Laura suggests picking up the phone and calling someone just as you would chat at the end of an in-person meeting to share feedback. As Laura notes, don’t worry about bothering someone with a phone call at home. That person always has the ability to not pick up or put their phone on “do not disturb.” Laura suggests looking for new and different ways to encourage spontaneous discussions and brainstorms.
How to start and end each workday
For many of us, we no longer have commutes to help separate the day. Laura shared some suggestions for how we can start and end each workday in this new environment. In the morning, create a routine. Get some exercise. Walk your dog or take a drive before logging on for the day. Similarly, figure out a formal way to end your workday. Make a to-do list for tomorrow. Check in with a colleague. Meditate, neaten up your work space, or go for an evening walk. Create structure to each day. Be effortful before effortless as Laura explains.
Keep a human connection
While Zoom happy hours were all the rage this spring, consider new ways for people to connect in a remote work environment. Create a book club. Watch a Ted Talk and then get together to discuss. Laura suggests these meetings work best when there’s a facilitator for each call and the meeting is limited to a small group of people so everyone can interact and participate.
The Women’s Resource Group at Nixon Peabody liked this last suggestion from Laura so much that we have decided to bring this concept to life by hosting small group Zoom discussions to talk further about how to thrive in the remote work environment. If you are interested in participating, please email me and we will be in touch with more details on these in the coming weeks.
I found so many of Laura’s ideas to be inspiring, and I certainly plan to incorporate her advice to replace the phrase, “I don’t have time,” with “It’s not a priority,” when I am thinking about how to fill my days. I'd love to hear from you: Which of Laura’s suggestions resonated with you?
We are excited to host more Let’s Talk! conversations in the coming months. In September, we will hear from Kara Goldin, Founder and CEO of Hint Water, and in October, we will have a conversation with Hannah Gordon, Chief Administration Officer and General Counsel of the San Francisco 49ers. We’d love to have you join us; sign up for e-mail updates on future Nixon Peabody Let’s Talk! events. Also, if you have an idea for a female leader we should highlight for a future conversation, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.