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Utah Business

Catherine Wong of DOMO discusses how her habits keep her focused when working from home

In late February, my colleagues at Domo and I were planning for a new quarter and prepping for Domopalooza, our annual user conference. There is never a good time for a pandemic but weeks before your largest annual event brings a new level of disarray, so my early COVID-19 work-from-home plan was to embrace the challenge. 

Fortunately, the decisive pivot paid off and Domopalooza ended up being one of the first successful virtual events. While working from home with kids remains an adventure and brings new challenges every day, here are some of the lessons that I’ve learned:

Discover how and when you function best

As is often the need when facing major problems, I had to first take a step back in order to understand how I was going to move forward. I started with a little journal, jotting down the moments in the day where I felt the most energized. I noted the things that sparked my creativity or gave me a fresh perspective and the times of day when I was the most tired or unable to focus and analyzed those patterns over the first few weeks. 

I also kept up my early morning rituals of breakfast, stretching, meditation, and centering. I continue to get up and get ready the same way every day because it helps provide a sense of structure and rhythm, and the daily routine helps me prepare to face the day. I now spend most of my day on video calls, so getting ready like I would for a day of in-person meetings also bring a sense of normalcy to my schedule.

Create a space where you can sustain your new normal

Sustaining creativity can be a challenge when you are also adapting to a different environment. Our homes are also now our offices, break rooms, restaurants, and recreational facilities. You can lose much of your sense of sanctuary when you are scheduled in back-to-back video conferences or and feel tethered to your desk all day. 

I count myself very lucky — I am still employed and can work from home, and I have enough space to create an office in my house. My at-home space is small, but I’ve divided it into different zones to help me keep my energy up and focus sustained. In my workstation zone, I have a good monitor, a webcam and a task chair. In my break area, I have a comfortable chair with a nearby window for fresh air, a mini-fridge and a microwave. 

My daily calendar is still full — that hasn’t changed — so the second I log on I have to be going full speed. Minding my time is absolutely critical. Having both work and break spaces nearby allows me to maximize my time without being distracted by what’s going on outside my office doors. 

Even though we are working from home, we need that variety of space, in whatever ways we can get it. Even a little physical movement and the ability to change things up really helps. 

Plan for personal time and use it wisely

Now that my office is mere steps away from me at all times, I find it more important than ever to be intentional about personal time. Another thing that I learned from journaling was that scheduling time for my priorities is important. Winging it is hard with the backdrop of a global pandemic, kids needing to do school from home, and having each family member’s normal schedules changed. Because of the loss of school and extracurricular structure for the kids, I schedule breaks for family time, including daily walks or backyard hikes, creating meals together, and even simple things like roasting s’mores. 

The events and entertainment I usually do with my husband and four kids aren’t on the table anymore, so we have to be a little creative. It’s kind of a throwback to a different era. This time has been good for hobbies – hammocking, board games, and building tree houses have been very popular at my house, as is using technology to stay connected with friends. I’ve even picked up playing the piano again, which has been fun to share more frequently with my husband and kids. 

Building an ideal work-home environment means embracing it, understanding its place in our lives and making sure we can sustain it. Creating patterns and maintaining our rituals can help us to not just survive, but thrive, in these remarkable times. This doesn’t mean tossing out all of the old and implementing only the new – a mix of both keeps me sane and allows me to be the best leader, wife, and parent that I can be. 

This article is part of a month-long work from home series where executives and entrepreneurs discuss how they’ve adjusted to remote work. Read more here.

Catherine Wong is chief product officer and EVP of engineering at Domo, provider of the Domo Business Cloud. In her roles, Catherine leads Domo’s engineering, product and design teams. Catherine joined Domo from Adobe and Omniture, where she started as a software engineer. During her tenure, she ascended through the ranks, taking on increased and varied responsibilities with key roles in product management, M&A product integration, technical architecture and engineering management, leading global teams of more than 500 people. Within eight years at Omniture, Catherine became the youngest VP at the company. Over the course of her career, Catherine has been awarded patents in data segmentation, data visualization, and SaaS data collection. She is an original member of the advisory board for the Women Tech Council in Utah and served on the advisory board for the College of Engineering at the University of Utah. She currently serves on the industry advisory board for the College of Engineering at Utah State University. In 2015, Catherine received the Technology Leadership Award from the Women Tech Council; in 2018, she was recognized as the Women in Tech Champion from Utah Tech Council as well as named a Woman of the Year by Utah Business Magazine for her vision and leadership at Domo and the greater Utah community; and in 2019 Catherine was recognized by Utah Business Magazine as CXO of the Year. Lastly, already in 2020 Catherine has been recognized as one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Technology from the National Diversity Council.