Most advice about how to make working from home actually work focuses on the practical: The right office space. The right desk. The ergonomically perfect chair. The right software, the right messaging platform, the right apps... all the "stuff" you need to make remote work actually work.
Yet ask most people who made the transition to working from home what they struggled with most -- and continue to struggle with -- and they will list things like staying motivated, managing their time wisely, avoiding distractions and staying on task...
None of which has anything to do with "stuff."
When I first started working from home, I instinctively replicated my old office environment. I bought a big desk. Nice credenza. Conference table. Large filing cabinet. Fancy chair. A Cool land-line phone. To paraphrase the eminently quotable Chris Rock, that's what I was accustomed to.
So I assumed that's what I needed.
But none of those things made me efficient, much less effective. I missed the "structure" of the workplace, the natural rhythm of a workday that, even though I was in charge, was still only partly under my control.
So, more often than I like to admit, I sometimes drifted. I was easily distracted. I was easily bored. I missed the structure. I missed the sense of urgency that the presence of other people helps foster.
Then I took a step back and thought about my most productive days. Not just the days I got a lot of things done, but the days I also got a lot of the right things done.
They all had one thing in common: A mission. An outcome, a deliverable... something tangible that created a real sense of purpose.
So if you're struggling to work as effectively from home -- or if your employees are struggling to work as effectively from home -- shift from focusing on tasks to focusing on outcomes. (Don't worry; tasks are the foundation of outcomes.)
Before you end your workday, list what you need to get done tomorrow... and determine the single most important thing you need to get done tomorrow.
Then, before you step away, set up your workspace (which if like mine is simply your computer desktop) so you can hit the ground running the next day. Have the reports you need open. Have the notes you need handy. Make sure the questions you need answered already have answers.
Then sit down and dive in.
And commit to completing everything you need to get done. Allowing yourself to give in to excuses, rationalizations, etc. is a slippery slope -- and becomes a habit extremely hard to break.
But will be less of a problem when you get your most important task done right away. Starting your day with a productive bang naturally creates the momentum and motivation you need to move on to whatever is next on the day's outcome list.
And the next. And the next.
Because completing a task is fine... but achieving an important outcome is satisfying, fulfilling, and motivating.
So never forget: What matters is what you accomplish from wherever you work. Success has nothing to do with your desk, or your chair, or your office space. (Today, my "office" is my backpack and my computer and wherever I feel like sitting.)
Success is all about what you achieve, and achievement always starts with knowing what you want to accomplish.
And more importantly, why.