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How My Team and I Make Working from Home Productive

This post was sponsored by Steelcase, who also furnished two SILQ desk chairs for our review. All opinions are my own. When I talk to people about my business (and the many reviews, blog posts, speaking engagements, and TV segments we manage every week), many are surprised to find out that my full-time team is […]

Steelcase SILQ desk chairs

This post was sponsored by Steelcase, who also furnished two SILQ desk chairs for our review. All opinions are my own.

When I talk to people about my business (and the many reviews, blog posts, speaking engagements, and TV segments we manage every week), many are surprised to find out that my full-time team is just Danielle and I— and that we work from my home.

Danielle (pictured here, pretending to think I’m funny) is my right-hand superstar—she does everything from produce those TV segments to get me to the airport on time. We have worked together through two different home offices and a move in between them and a couple of co-working space memberships. But we’ve finally settled on the workspace where we’re most productive: my kitchen table. (Bonus: It’s closest to the food!)

It’s not just us: While it’s not totally conclusive, recent research suggests choosing a home office can be good for business. In one two-year study that randomly assigned workers at a company to either continue working from the office or work at home, the work-from-home group’s productivity increase was equivalent to an additional full day’s work each week. Researchers attributed the jump to things like getting commute time back, taking fewer breaks and fewer sick days, and being able to concentrate better at home.

But while you may not be surrounded by 50 loud, simultaneous phone calls, distractions are still ubiquitous. For us, it’s not always easy—everything from the FedEx guy to the pile of dishes in the sink to dogs that need to be walked can trip us up. We try to get most of our work done before the kids roll in during the afternoon, but if we’re still at it (and sometimes, there’s no avoiding it!), then requests for snacks, help with homework, and dinner desires also start to creep in.

So it’s no wonder that even with the incredible boost in productivity discovered in the study I mentioned earlier, researchers don’t unanimously conclude that everyone should take calls from their couch. Instead, they found that “the effectiveness of a work-from-home program isn’t a given…it’s tied to the way the program is executed, and the specific needs of the organization, the individual, and the circumstances.”

To help figure out what that might look like for you, I’m sharing how Danielle and I make it work for our work, without ever leaving for an “office,” in the traditional sense.

1. Get Comfy

Kitchen chairs are great for dinner, but many aren’t ideal to sit in all day… and when your butt starts to go numb, you’re less likely to hit that client deadline or schedule that blog post. We took Steelcase’s SILQ chairs for a spin and our butts were the happiest they’d been in a while. They differ from most office chairs I’ve sat it in a couple ways:

One, they’re gorgeous and highly customizable; tons of materials and colors allow you to order them in looks ranging from “Sensible Office Chic” to “Whoa, that’s a statement!” The chairs we tested were a soft grey that worked really well in my home, and the light-colored legs and wheels made it even more palatable in a home environment.

Two, they’re ridiculously comfortable. I can’t fully describe it, but it molds to you? And responds to how you move by moving as you move and supporting you? Steelcase tells me SILQ’s unique make up of material composition enables the chair to truly fit to you. I didn’t find myself shifting in my seat all day, and endlessly adjusting arm height and incline like I do in most other desk chairs. It was like it knew where I wanted to be and kept me there. Other than one simple seat height adjuster, everything else was intuitive, which felt fantastic.

SILQ chairs are also really lightweight, easy to move and roll around, and didn’t scratch the floors, which made them welcome in my home anytime. Of course they’d be ideal for an office environment as well: I used to roll around quite a bit during my early days as a start-up web designer: this chair would have given me the ability scoot into any impromptu meeting with ease (and in style).

Other things you can do to make yourself more comfortable? Invest in laptop stands to bring your screens up to eye level, along with wireless keyboards and mice to create a portable, yet functional workstation without having to contend with a giant monitor.

Steelcase SILQ desk chairs

Steelcase SILQ desk chairsSteelcase SILQ desk chairs

2. Make To-Do Lists

Tbh, I’d put a good to-do list system at the top of any list related to working effectively, but it’s even more important when you have to stay extra organized without the structure built into an office environment. We have two lists: a personal one for me, and a work one for the whole business. We use an app called Asana to manage that one, along with all our client project deadlines and our editorial calendar, and we go over it every Monday and Friday, together, to keep things from falling through the cracks.

3. Rely On the Cloud

Working from a home office means you also don’t have the sophisticated (or at least large) tech system of an office set-up. I’d go crazy if I was constantly running out of storage space or couldn’t access my files and programs from wherever I am at a given moment (especially since the nature of our business means we’re on the go a lot). If Danielle is running errands or I’m traveling, that doesn’t stop us for a second. Everything is saved up in the Cloud, and thanks to our go-to programs like Evernote, Dropbox, and Google Docs, we can collaborate and keep working wherever we are.

Steelcase SILQ desk chairs

Steelcase SILQ desk chairs

4. Create Boundaries

This is most important in terms of my kids. If they see Danielle and I together in the afternoon, they know they have permission to share a short hello, a highlight from their day, and any little questions—but after that, we have to get back to work. I’ve taught them that the big download of the day happens after mom’s work hours are over. This is easier now that my kids are older, but even little ones can be “trained” to respect that you’re at work, even though you’re home. You may also have to apply this tactic to friends and family who will feel compelled to “stop by” or call to talk for an hour because they equate you being at home and/or setting your hours with you being free. I’ve had to nicely but firmly explain my work schedule before, and after that conversation, the boundaries were more clear.

5. Act Like You’re Not Home

Speaking of boundaries, you can set them for yourself, too! I focus on cultivating a state of mind that says even though I’m at home, I’m at work. To support that mindset, I try to avoid tasks like answering the door, receiving packages, moving the laundry into the dryer, or doing the dishes.  (Having my packages delivered to a P.O. box helps, so I don’t have to worry about them sitting on the porch and getting stolen.) Another way to make this mindset stick is to have set start and stop times, which can help prevent overworking. Since there’s no natural “Honey, I’m home!” moment, you have to create that for yourself.

6. Leave Personal Tasks for a Designated Non-Work Time

Similarly, when you work from home, there is major temptation to take care of non-work tasks like dentist appointments, grocery runs, and other errands during work hours (especially because you can totally just breeze into the post office when it’s 3:00 p.m. on a Wednesday).

When Danielle and I are together, I try not to have to dart out. Since the kids get home at 4:00 p.m., we need to be super-efficient with our time. If I’m running to a “quick thing” (there is no such thing in LA because of traffic!), that can derail the whole day.

That being said, I do like to get out of the house to take a lunch break. Danielle is always hungry, so we (quickly) hit up fun places each day to get out of our “work space” and return refreshed.

Again, the research supports this approach: In the study that showed workers were more productive at home, the majority of them also decided not to work from home all of the time after the trial period because they felt too isolated sitting on their laptops alone all day.

While Danielle and I have each other, I can still get a bit stir crazy. We also know that people who take breaks get more done in the long run. So be a good boss to yourself and don’t be afraid to get out and take a break. Just keep it focused—and then get back to that dining room table.

Do you work from home? Share some of the tips and tricks that have helped you stay focused and get more done in the comments below!

Thanks to Steelcase for sponsoring this post, and furnishing two chairs for us to test. Thanks to YOU for supporting our sponsors, without whom we wouldn’t be able to keep the blog up and running!

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