Working from home: Making the new normal work for you

Work and career pivots are powerful because they keep you grounded while you look for options. A pivot points you in the direction of alternatives and options when the play you had in mind gets blocked. The ability to pivot during the pandemic is an important skill.
Written by Vala Afshar, Contributing Writer

What's the one movie you watch every time it comes on -- even if you've seen it before? This weekend I was watching my favorite sports movie (again), Hoosiers. The story about a small-town team from Milan, Indiana, inspires me every time. I find myself cheering for the guys to come together as a team. And to win the 1954 championship when they make it to the big city of Indianapolis. No matter how many times I watch that movie, I always discover something new. What struck me this weekend is what the best basketball players -- the ones who are playmakers on offense -- have in common. One strategy. The pivot. 

Hoosiers shows us how Norman Dale, the new high school coach pivots towards trusting his players during a crucial time. Jimmy Chitwood, the best player in town, pivots toward playing basketball again after watching the new coach commit to excellence and player development. And ultimately the entire town of Hickory, Indiana pivots towards trusting the vision and execution of their new basketball coach. 

Pivots are powerful because they keep you grounded while you look for options. A pivot points you in the direction of alternatives and options when the play you had in mind gets blocked.

What was your pandemic pivot? When I found myself grounded -- after flying thousands of miles each year -- I scanned the field of play looking for alternatives. A way to put points on the board. And to be a play-maker even when my playbook had to change.

Instead of doing my "stand and deliver" keynotes on stages in person, I challenged myself to write 100 articles by the end of the year. Since the start of the pandemic in March, I have published 83 ZDNet articles. I wanted to use my platform to share inspiring and informative stories about leadership, business, and innovation opportunities during thesedifficult times. And to help our team and our customers win in the process. And as it turns out, I have delivered more keynotes via digital channels than any other year in the past. 

I teamed up with my favorite Hoosier -- outside of the movie -- Karen Mangia. Mangia is an internationally recognized thought leader whose TEDx appearance, keynotes, blogs, and books reach hundreds of thousands of business leaders each year. She is the author of Working from Home: Making the New Normal Work for You (Wiley), Listen UP! How to Tune Into Customers and Turn Down the Noise (Wiley), and Success With Less (Marie Street Press). A prolific blogger and sought-after media interview, she has been featured in Forbes and regularly contributes to Thrive Global and ZDNet. As Vice President of Customer and Market Insights at Salesforce, Mangia engages current and future customers around the world to discover new ways of creating success and growth together. 

Mangia is also a member of the Salesforce Work From Home task-force and an expert on how to succeed from anywhere. The outcome of our teamwork is a new playbook for success available now:Working From Home: Making the New Normal Work For You. I asked Mangia to share the big takeaways from her new book and to also provide advice on people who can successfully pivot during difficult and uncertain times. 


Karen Mangia, Vice President of Customer and Market Insights at Salesforce and author of Working From Home.

Karen, what is the most important thing people need to know about working from home?

Success is not a location. Success is available to anyone, anywhere. The key is to define what success means to you right now. The pandemic has changed everything, why not change your definition of success?

You have a theory that two words limit success -- whether that's with work from home or in life.

Have you ever heard or said any of these phrases before:

  • We should be back in the office now.
  • I should be able to balance work from home and e-learning with my kids by now.
  • The pandemic should be over by now.

Labeling your life with a "by now" tag is a recipe for suffering, not success. Remove "by now," and success starts to get more real. More right now.

By contrast, you believe two words invite success. What are they?

Two words have helped me to do the impossible -- like author two books Working From Home: Making the New Normal Work For You and Listen Up! : How to Tune In To Customers, And Turn Down the Noise during a global pandemic. Two words have opened me up to new possibilities. And enabled me to see beyond my own limits. They changed everything for me, and they will for you, too.

Why not?

Simon Sinek famously said, "Start with why?" I say start with, "Why not?" If you want to be a better partner, parent, or professional, instead of exploring all the reasons that might not work, ask "Why not?"


Karen Mangia has written two books, published over 20 articles, and has delivered numerous keynotes since the pandemic while working from home. 

Building an authentic digital brand is a key differentiator right now. I believe your Digital Brand = Digital Footprint + Digital Exhaust. What advice do you have for people who are looking to build their digital presence?

Building a digital footprint is more important now than ever before. If you are motivated by educating, inspiring, and possibly igniting positive action, then this is your opportunity to be engaged and helpful. When you learn, teach. When one teaches, two learn. During a crisis, leaders are revealed. And this the time for all of us to be teachers and students, willing to improve ourselves and others by giving and sharing what we know to be of value. 

With over 34 million people unemployed as we have this conversation, connecting with people who can help is key to your success. Offering value is a great way to foster authentic connections and to add value. That value can range from adding research or a point of view onto someone else's Tweet or LinkedIn post or starting a blog of your own. What insights and expertise can you offer to be of service? To showcase what you're discovering and how someone else can put your insights to use to get results?

Then, be sure to personalize the messages that you send. The simplest messages are the strongest. Especially when you're looking for a connection, a referral, or a job. In a few sentences, establish who you are, what you have to offer of value, and a clear ask.


Working From Home: Making the New Normal Work For You, by Karen Mangia.

We are wired for reciprocity. I do something for you, you do something for me. Give to get.  Building an authentic brand in the digital world is exactly the opposite of that. Authentic people offer help and share what they know without expecting anything in return.

We are all experiencing setbacks and changes because of the pandemic. Navigating the unexpected means every skill is relevant. Every person has something to offer. The next best idea can come from anyone, anywhere. Sharing an idea and inviting others to help you make it better becomes its own reward. And creates its own return. 

So many people are struggling with burnout right now -- juggling the demands of work from home and life from home. What advice do you have to offer?

Establish routines, rituals, and boundaries to help put work in its place. You may not have loved your commute to and from work in the past. What that commute did, though, was put some boundaries about where and when work happened. Establishing that same kind of routine in your new context is critical. Work is a guest. And it only shows up where it's invited. Inviting work to every room in your house at all hours of the day and night creates scope creep. Suddenly nights and weekends evaporate.

What routines, rituals and boundaries help you show up at your best? I've discovered music, mindfulness and movement work best for me. Vala, I know you enjoy deciding what's for dinner with your family each night. Whatever you decide, make sure you choose something you enjoy. Something you look forward to that helps you stay at your best. And to sustain a healthy relationship with work.

I did my first tweet at age 41, my first blog at 42, first book at 43, and my first podcast at 44. It's never too late to pivot.

Agreed. You have permission to evolve as your context evolves. To try something new. To redefine what success means to you now. The key is you can't get better until you get started.


What are you discovering as you work from home? We invite you to join us on Twitter @valaafshar and @karenmangia.

This article was co-authored by Karen Mangia, vice president, customer and market insights, at Salesforce

Karen engages customers globally to discover new ways of creating success and growth together. From Executive Advisory Boards to strategic consulting engagements, her insights are central to Go-to-Market strategy, product development, marketing, and branding. In addition, Karen influences industry thought leadership in her role as Chair of the Customer Experience Council for The Conference Board. Formerly responsible for Insight Innovation at Cisco Systems, she led a global team with oversight into Customer Satisfaction and Experience, Diversity Business Practices, and Global Offset and Countertrade. Karen is also the author of Success With Less and a TEDx speaker.

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