Cheryl Dyer is currently the Executive Assistant to the CMO of Sophos, Inc. and has over 30 years of administrative experience, primarily in the tech industry.

cheryl dyer podcast

In this episode, Cheryl shares tips on working from home which is certainly a hot topic these days. She also talks about the importance of security and what assistants can do to ensure we don’t compromise our executive’s security.

In addition to a great interview episode, Cheryl put together the following remote work best practices to share with us.

BEST PRACTICES FOR WORKING REMOTELY 

Have a dedicated work location.

I can’t stress this enough. Previously when I’d work from home for a day, I’d set up shop on the kitchen island. I couldn’t completely focus on work there. There was always something distracting me (e.g. – chores or my husband on his day off). I also couldn’t leave any notes around or they’d get lost in the evening dinner shuffle. It was not working.

Now that I’m working at home full-time, I have a dedicated space that is just for work. I don’t lose sticky notes and can easily stop work and then later, pick up where I left off.

Your dedicated space could be an office, a small desk in a spare bedroom, or even just a corner of the living room. The idea being that the space is dedicated to your work.

Dress for success and leave the house each morning.*

Set your alarm and go through your morning routine just as you would if you were traveling to an office. Then get yourself out of the house for a little bit. For me that means going to the local coffee shop to grab a cup of tea (take out only during the quarantine, of course) or taking my dogs out for playtime. Sometimes I just go for a walk around the block alone. These things help kickstart my day with movement and fresh air. As a bonus, I also don’t end up wearing the same leggings for 4 days straight.

*Don’t forget social distancing, even while in the great outdoors.

Communicate with video/phone calls whenever possible.

Communication is key when working remotely. Everyone on your team should know when you are and are not available, as well as how best to reach you for anything that might be urgent.

I have set an expectation for my team that I will respond to an email within 4-8 hours (even if I don’t have an answer yet). I have also set the expectation for number of emails sent/received before a phone call will happen. If we can’t get resolve something within three emails, then it’s time to pick up the phone or hop on a video call. When there is something urgent, my team knows they can call or text me and I’ll respond almost immediately.

For other non-urgent but potentially lengthy discussions, it’s a good idea to schedule a video call vs. a phone call or an email. The face time enables everyone to feel that personal connection that gets lost when we all work alone remotely all day. Face to face also clears up any confusion that an email alone might cause.

While I love and mostly prefer the email route because I can multitask and prioritize what I respond to and in which order, I feel that there is a time and a place when a video or phone call is necessary to just “get it done already.”

Schedule sanity checks.

Schedule some time with other EAs or co-workers for sanity check-ins. You know, the time that you would sit at lunch together in the past to chat about non-work specific things … yes, that’s what this is about. These check-ins help with relationship building, as well as provide a breather or venting session if that’s what is needed. It’s a time to remember you work with other real live humans and not just with that machine we all stare at.

Regular 1:1s and check-ins with my team (as well as the obvious one with my executive).

My whole team is remote so for me, regular meetings and check ins are key in order to keep us connected and on track with all of the various projects going on at the same time.

Unfortunately, for some these check-ins can easily be put on the back burner. Especially if it’s a weekly plug on the calendar with no specific agenda. In order to make the best of the time with your team or executive, make sure you have sent an agenda so the other party knows exactly what you want to discuss. Sometimes “no agenda” can be interpreted as “not important.”

Work someplace different every once in a while.*

I try to do this every other week or so, either at a café or local coffee shop, or even the golf club. This helps me mentally. The hustle and bustle of folks around me is energizing and keeps me focused on the work at hand vs. some of the things that are beckoning to me at home (laundry, dishes, etc.).

*Unfortunately, this is not possible in today’s landscape where social distancing has become the required norm for the health and safety of everyone. That said, if you have the ability to even just change up where you are working within the confines of your own home, I would still recommend doing this as often as is possible. 

Never use public WiFi.

The topic of working from a new location brings me to security. So, you might be wondering how I work from that coffee shop. First, I choose a seat where other patrons do not have easy viewing to my screen. A corner seat is best. Then I make sure to use the Personal Hotspot from my mobile phone instead of the WiFi at the establishment. This way any hackers nearby can’t access my computer or data. Plus, I have Sophos installed so I’m confident that I’m very secure. Please make sure you have up to date security for your computer as well.

Schedule work around your lifestyle (don’t forget self-care!).

This is something I learned fairly recently. I used to log in when I woke up and off at well, you know… when the emails stopped. But I was getting burned out from working non-stop. I then realized one of the huge benefits of working remotely is being able to flex with work and with my family and lifestyle. I don’t NEED to be online 24/7.

So instead, I work my personal needs around the business needs. I schedule time on my calendar to take care of myself (gym, hair salon, lunch with friends). This does mean that I might be working on something for the business at 9pm… but, let’s be honest, in my 9-6, in office world that would happen anyway. With my current setup, I’m able to build out a work/life harmony that I have control over.

Thank you, Cheryl, for the great advice!

SPONSOR: SPOONFUL OF COMFORT

Check out this episode’s sponsor Spoonful of Comfort for custom homestyle meals-by-mail that are beautifully packaged and always appreciated. Learn more at spoonfulofcomfort.com/leaderassistant.

LEADERSHIP QUOTE

A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but where they ought to be.

– Rosalynn Carter

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