Here are the 3 Keys to Create Success and Productivity
If the recent health pandemic has thrown your life into a new spin-cycle of working from home… no worries. As an entrepreneur of many years and self-proclaimed work-from-home warrior, I’m here to help!
Here are a few best practices to help you stay on track, get work done and preserve your sanity. All those who regularly brave the daunting task of staying focused at home are cheering you on!
> ESSENTIAL STEP 1: Designate a workspace.
Wherever your new designated workspace is located, act as if you are beginning work at a new company or are moving offices.
- Take inventory of everything you will need including a computer, printer, scanner and other basics, down to files and paper clips. One extremely common work-from-home disruptor is a lack of supplies or resources. If you will need to print from your company laptop, get it set up right away. Don’t be afraid to request a budget for any additional resources. Everyone is stressed and stretched. Your goal is maximum productivity!
- If you are fortunate to have a room for an office, use it. But first, clear out anything that has been gathering dust, clutter, or is unrelated to your actual work. (Crafts, hobbies, piles of mail or paper, children’s toys or belongings – all out!) Dedicate the space anew to ease and productivity.
- If you are setting up shop at your kitchen or dining room table, don’t despair. Many people make it work with just a laptop and a table – and it works beautifully if you do it with conscious intention! Read on.
- Wherever you are working, evaluate the height of the computer surface and position of the mouse. You will develop neck and back strain quickly if you do not make an ergonomic decision. If necessary, have someone take a photo of you to check if your shoulders, arms or wrists are in unnatural positions. You will be glad you’ve taken the time to do this after a full day at work.
- Your chair is key. Working at home includes sitting for long periods of time in chairs that were not typically designed for an 8 to 10-hour day. Order a new office chair that is adjustable and has proper support. Your productivity will increase 100-fold. (I learned this the hard way!)
- Create a mobile Office Supply Box. If you are working in a mixed use or temporary space (like a family table) designate a crate or a box to organize all your work supplies. This box is off-limits for anyone to touch. Be clear to family members that this is a boundary to respect, as there is nothing more frustrating or disruptive to a work-at-home day than expecting paper, a stapler, folders or other supplies to be available and then having to chase down their whereabouts. It might sound extreme, but my 20-year, sage advice is to limit the potential for frustration with family members “borrowing” your supplies. Save yourself the headache.
> ESSENTIAL STEP 2 : Prepare for your family to make (or break) the work-at-home experience.
Fact: Your family members are now with you at work. This means that interruptions that were formerly confined to phone calls, texts and emails now have every opportunity to become in-person disruptions. After all, you are in their space now.
Hold a family meeting. Chances are that your family is adjusting to being home more as well. They deserve clarity from you: to know your work personality, your boundaries, expectations and rules. Listen to their requests and questions. Children (no matter their age) will often misinterpret something simple like, “I am on a conference call.” (For example, they could be thinking you’re in a group chat rather than sitting with the entire division on the line judging you and every noise that comes from your end.)
I enjoy sharing with my three teenagers the details of exactly who is on the call, what we discuss and how crucial it is for me to be focused and able to respond. They seem genuinely surprised that “conference calls” are so important.
Communication is key. Role play if necessary. Act out a scenario with you at your laptop sitting at the kitchen table with your productivity box full of work supplies. Walk through likely scenes of them walking in and talking to you. Now that you are officially at your work table getting paid, it is the same as if they were interrupting you at work.
I explain, “You are the most important thing in the world to me. So if there are any crucial issues, you can talk to me no matter what. And by crucial, I mean choking, house on fire, baby sister escaping her crib, etc… It does NOT include a normal family crisis like running out of toilet paper, fighting over the TV or having a question or random thought about an event happening two weeks from now.”
Best practices are to share your work hours and responsibilities with loved ones. They can be your biggest advocates if you are clear from the start.
> ESSENTIAL STEP 3: Someone will knock on your door. Hold the line.
Make a plan that if the house is full, someone authorized (e.g., the oldest kid) will be responsible for anyone that knocks. If you are like me, Plan A is for everyone to go into hiding until solicitors leave. When someone knocks, the kids all run to a designated area with no windows and giggle till they give up.
An AT&T sales rep once knocked repeatedly at my door while I was working. My kids ran. I was on a call.
Aggravatingly, the sales rep would not stop, so I muted the call (I always mute business calls anyway as a practical measure) and spoke through the door.
“Who is it?”
He responded, “AT&T. Who do you have for internet service?”
Me: “I am on a conference call.”
AT&T Rep: “How many TVs do you have?” (Are you kidding me?)
Me: “I am on a conference call.”
AT&T Rep: “Are you the homeowner?” (THIS guy.)
Have a plan. Someone will knock on your door. Your job is to stay on task.
> ESSENTIAL STEP 4: Firmly close up shop at the end of the day.
Then when business hours are over, clear the table and put away the supplies box. You’re home. And your home is sacred.
Fight the compulsive urge to check company email after hours unless it is absolutely required.
Consider ignoring business calls. Act as if you have walked back into your house and have no access to a work phone. Turn it off to cook and enjoy dinner. Ask your family to do the same.
Just because you’re now working from home doesn’t mean your work life has full access to your personal and family space.
The best advice I can offer from years of working at home is to treat the work as work and set boundaries. Work from home can be amazing if you keep the two as separate as possible.
You’ve got this.
Light Your Fire,