Learnings from my home office

RACQ Bank CEO Michelle Bagnall shares some personal insights on working from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

A few weeks ago, when my leadership team and I were preparing to send our teams home to work, we spoke a lot about how we would support our people – operationally and from a wellbeing point of view.

It’s amazing what you learn, even in just two weeks of real-life experience – especially what you learn from each other and your people.

The things we thought we knew, but probably didn’t appreciate the impact of, at the start of this experience.

We’ve started to talk about this as “the new normal” of how we operate and we all reckon we’re at the beginning of a marathon.

Connection is everything

Whether it’s our daily stand-ups on our Microsoft Teams platform, instant chatting, virtual training sessions, or having a virtual drink with your team while they feel comfortable enough to hang out in their kitchen or cook dinner in the background! Each interaction is a way of staying connected, giving your people a “voice” and celebrating even the small achievements each day.

Too many emails; too much time sitting in the one place

We’ve all realised we are spending a LOT more time on our phones with each other. We are trying to avoid unnecessary emails but we are also consciously connecting more to just ask “how are you doing?” The pitfalls are too much time sitting in one place and there have been days when my emails resemble the population counter! Prioritisation is key and for me that starts with my people. The reality of that means that sometimes my “other work” is being done in hours out of business hours. So prioritisation and focus become even more important.

Treat people with uncommon humanity

Yes, we have hard work to do and tough decisions to make, but real life happens. Some of the best moments in our team meetings are when loved ones accidentally stroll across the back of the screen or my 10-year-old decides he needs a random hug. We take a long-term view of our people and know that we are coming out the other side of this stronger as a team. We are treating our own people with the same respect with which we treat our members – we’re striving to be uncommonly human.

Routine and structure help

I'm trying to work to a similar structure I would be using in the office. I’m getting up at my usual time and trying to stick to my exercise routines as much as I can. I'm doing the same with my kids. Each night they write their schoolwork schedules on their mini whiteboards; this means that each day they know they've achieved everything they need to. As a leadership team we have set in place a new operating rhythm and we’re sticking to it. It is helping to create clarity in a rapidly changing environment.

Look after yourself first

On week one I made the mistake of abandoning my routine and found myself in my study chair from 7am to 7pm – it just never stopped. In week two, I made a conscious decision to get back to a routine including working out and creating ways of “separating” from my workspace at home. All those hours on the phone with my people? I’ve taken to pacing the hallways of my home as much as I can. It drives my kids crazy but is helping me stay mobile. Every little bit counts and new habits are just as important as old ones. If I look after my wellbeing, I’m in a much better place to help my people look after theirs.