How Business Consultants Work from Home
Actually, this article was planned for the November 2020 blog entry. We wanted to give you clear picture of a day in the life of our small business consultancy. Well, plans change, but let’s start from the beginning…
Four months ago, at the beginning of January to be precise, we came together for our annual new year’s workshop to plan 2020. We discussed, among other things, upcoming projects and the travel agenda these projects entail. We are a small company of four consultants who travel throughout Europe and a one-woman support staff holding the fort. As a rule, the four of us depart to our various clients during the course of a given Monday and return home sometime the following Friday evening. Thus, sitting together at the workshop, we planned the year’s travels as well as tossed around ideas for and decided on interesting, publication-worthy topics for our monthly blog. This topic, A Day in the Life, was scheduled for November. So why is it appearing now, so early on in the year?
Even before the lock down in mid-March, we noticed that life is somehow changing. Our clients’ lives, our families’ lives, our own lives. And that’s what we want to relate to you. What does A Day in the Life look like now? It looks good! We are still active throughout Europe, without the travel. What has changed? Before the crisis there was an early morning breakfast at the hotel before getting into a taxi or rental car and driving to our clients. Late that afternoon, back in the rental car or taxi which would take us to the next airport or train station to catch our flights or trains to the next hotel closest to the next client. And that’s how it went, day to day. That was a good life, too.
And how does a typical week look now? Every morning we wake up in our own beds and have breakfast at home. No need for taxis and rental cars, we can walk to work. Our home office is right down the hall. Much has changed, but one thing has not – we are still active throughout Europe and communicate with our clients daily. Digitally.
Beginning as early as 2007, we increasingly turned to digital media for our coaching sessions. (For our younger readers, digital media 13 years ago was first and foremost the telephone.) Five years ago, we incorporated video and webcam coaching, adding webinars and e-learning a year or two later. That most of our clients were and are digitally savvy was a basic prerequisite for adopting these collaboration options, optimizing costs and travel expenses, especially for minor issues. Last year we launched our online workshops.
Now, in our current situation, we thank our lucky stars that we had the foresight to play out possible issues that could impact our clients and to actively prepare ourselves for future events. The year 2020 has thus far been a case in point: Every day we are confronted with a changing future. When I wake up in the morning, by evening the future has arrived. When I go to the office on Monday, Tuesday the future awaits me. Over the years, our consulting activities have been increasingly confronted with unforeseeable situations which require a highly spontaneous reaction. One thing we have learned – we do not shape the future. The future is only an idea or vision in our minds. And this vision may be crystal clear, but what we shape is the here and now. None of us can say with certainty how the future will turn out to be.
So, what constitutes A Day in the Life of a consultant today? Instead of taking some form of transportation to my clients, my feet transport me to my home office, where I go about my daily work. Wailing and yowling about not being able to work is a waste of breath. You can work. This crisis shows us with unmistakeable clarity that home office is a more than viable option. Any discussions about home office feasibility have become moot. Home office has become the norm. Of course, that does not imply that home office is an option for every kind of business. Home officing increases your flexibility, but other issues arise. Social distancing, both private and professional, is one such problem. So, how can we deal with the social distance incurred by home office work? First off, home officing requires clear structures, basic routines. Routines that begin the moment I get out of bed and prepare myself exactly as I would for a day at the office or with a client. Also important are communication routines that apply to all employees and not just the crisis committee, something like a daily virtual team briefing. An additional, very nice measure is the virtual coffee break, where a team comes together to chat and talk shop, just as they would if they were at the office. In general, leaders should increase communication with their employees, even exaggerating a bit to bridge the gap incurred by spatial distance. You may be physically separated, but the relationship with your team is as close as ever.
In these times, we should develop the habit of focusing on positivity. The law of polarity states that all things are dual. You cannot have or perceive one thing without encompassing the potential of its opposite. This is evident in all aspects of our lives. We perceive life as dual, we define our surroundings by differentiating between the two poles of duality. And no matter how negative events may be, their counterpart, positive events, is always present. It’s not about ignoring negative influences, it’s about being consistently aware that positive influences are just as prevalent!
What is positive? We can work from home! 20 years ago, that would have been close to impossible. Technology and research have hit the gas, proving that solutions can be found for our problems.
What is positive? Research institutes around the globe are working day and night to develop medication and vaccinations which will allow us to reinstate normality.
What is positive? Paradoxically, we have probably spoken to more people, for a longer period of time then we have in ages, simply because we never found the time for a visit. Because, when it comes down to it, we are doing our best to let each other know, I’m with you, be it in thought or via telephone or video.
In these times, businesses should certainly assume a clear focus – the crisis, right here, right now. Because, as previously stated, we can only change the present moment. We can learn from the past and actively influence our future. We can shape a vision of this future and do everything we can today, for it to come about tomorrow. And that is an incredibly powerful insight! Not only can you confront today and how you cope with the crisis, you can also give some thought to tomorrow! Organize a committee, a small group of employees who play out possible future scenarios for when the crisis has been surmounted. A group that probes the questions, for example, “How should we react? How will we reenter the market? How can we get back on track as quickly and smoothly as possible?”
Let’s expand our view even further. Is this the first crisis in your life? Probably not. Is this the last crisis in your life? Again, probably not. All the same, it is a crisis such as we have never before encountered. Many earlier crises had clear causes, we knew how to react to them. And although this crisis also has a clear cause, there is little we can do to overcome it. We can only bide our time and trust that other people will soon have a solution for us – a medication or a vaccine. What else are we doing? Well, every day, decisions and measures are being considered, taking things a step at a time. Solidarity, that’s the most important thing. Solidarity within your company, solidarity with your team, supporting your business, carrying on in pursuit of your professional goals. And communication is everything, keeping a positive approach is everything. Creating space for fears and concerns in order to find solutions. A crisis lets you know what is or isn’t working well or running smoothly in your company. A positive approach to the future allows us to direct our energies appropriately. Thus, the most important thing, whether directed inward or outward, is to maintain your vision and, essentially, to do your best every day to be a good human being.