Work At Home
Creating a Productive Work Environment for You and Your Team
I’ve spent more time than usual with customer service people lately because of our move. There are always things that need to be fixed with cable, household repairs, new furniture, internet, the post office…. these are things we learn to deal with in everyday life, but hopefully not to the extent I have recently. I spent 18 hours, yes, 18 hours – 10 phone calls with Sprint. They had erroneously placed lost or stolen on all of our phones, so when Gary lost his phone, and we ordered a new one and started shifting phones, we couldn’t. It is frustrating. It’s especially frustrating because there are so many people working from home now. I posted about it and some guy said the customer service guy put him on hold because his cat was looking at him funny. That’s the way things are for now.
I’ve always preferred working from home. Even when my husband and I shared a storefront, I scheduled time to work at home. I get more done at home. At the age of 20, I learned to schedule my time. I learned what I could and couldn’t do and still be productive and make money. It’s easier for us, whose income relies on our productivity, but not so easy for people who are being paid by a company to work from home and get paid hourly. That’s not true across the board, but, for the most part, it’s true. It has been so hard to get customer service that I started surveying the people who gave good customer service in comparison to those who didn’t. The good customer service people were working in the plant/office/store, and most of the customer service people who were noneffective were at home. It could be that they were very high performers in the office and are just having trouble staying focused and attached to the outcome from home.
For those of you who’ve brought your businesses home, you’ve probably already learned some secrets to productivity for yourself. I’d like to give you some tips for keeping your team productive.
These are some valuable home office tips, productivity tips, software recommendations, and organizational tools.
Acoustical considerations are so important. You do not want to be talking on the phone with a client or vendor and have dogs barking or kids playing in the background. Clever ways to offer acoustical privacy include wall upholstery, special wall treatments that insulate against sound, and water walls that provide their own kind of soothing sound.
Another major consideration is zoning and city regulations. My city required a separate entrance for our home offices.
In office design we take into consideration a place that promotes spontaneous collaboration. This may or may not be an issue in your home office, but almost guaranteed, you will want to be sure that you do not leave yourself open to spontaneous collaboration with a 6 year old who got loose from her babysitter. We go one step further with software that allows me to talk to Amanda while we’re working. I’m in Florida and she’s in Michigan. We do this with special software. I use Nifty. Nifty is a software that allows me to communicate with my team, as well as providing calendars, to-do lists, messaging, and tracking. I can get on a video call with Ashlie with the click of one button. That’s easier than being in the office together. (I am not an affiliate for Nifty, just sharing my experience). There is other software like Slack, Ring Central, Google Suite…. They do the same thing. I just got a deal during Nifty’s beta and was able to combine several processes.
Many home offices that I see are a desk in the bedroom with a file cabinet and a closet. Home offices can be so much more than that, a good home office functions as well as any office in any other corporate setting. Ergonomics are important here too. Don’t just pull a kitchen chair in to sit at your desk. There is furniture that is designed specifically to your height and weight and can save you from experiencing aches and pains from sitting all day in uncomfortable positions in uncomfortable furniture. My favorite is an old classic; Herman Miller’s Aeron Chair. It is pretty basic and if it is not executive looking enough, there are leather chairs that are ergonomic too.
It is amazing how close each of us is to true health and happiness. All we have to do is to take the power one step at a time. Make changes in your own life, and you’ll surely make a difference in the lives of others.
Each of us can spread health and happiness faster than a virus.
Do you like lists? This is the time to create a list of all of your office needs.
- work tables and chairs
- meeting tables
- storage needs like samples
- health books
- print copies of your programs
- industry reference manuals
- office supplies
- forms and stationery
These all require a different type of storage. Clever design can make it all function perfectly for you and still look attractive. Bulletin and chalk boards as well as paper organizers can be especially fun to work with and display in a home office. BUT, you don’t have to have them. There are software programs that offer desktop “white boards”. I like Mind Meister. (not an affiliate) This is a “brain dump” type software that lets you brainstorm, prioritize, organize, plot and plan.
If you have a hodgepodge of furniture from all over the place and time, paint it all the same color to unify the look of your office. Nice custom furniture is a plus, but it is not a necessity. Some of the most interesting office pieces have come from used office furniture stores. My favorite ever was a big old library table that we had glass cut for to protect the table top. You can also use dining tables, or boards with file cabinets as pedestals. Gary turned his closet into a little “retiree office” with a cabinet and a white piece of plywood. I bought him a $60 counter stool that was black leather on Amazon. Pretty good deal. If you spend more than 30 minutes at your desk, invest in a better chair. My desk could not be replaced when it started to show wear and tear. I loved the shape (a very large L or boomerang) so I had beautiful raw wood cut and finished in the same shape and put upon the platform of my old desk. Whenever someone comes to my office, they always ask where I got my desk. A closet can be made into a perfect desk space. A properly placed shelf for the desk surface and shelves above and to the side can make into a perfect little mini office that can be closed off at will to hide clutter or just to offer multi functional purposes to one room. It is very important to keep a space like this light in color and to add some kind of artificial light to keep from feeling “closeted in”. Under cabinet lighting and a nice task lamp can solve this problem. Closets can also be a nice place to hide electronics like printers, faxes, copiers and credit card terminals. It can also hold forms and office supplies (but you knew that).
Eye strain is an important consideration. Your monitor shouldn’t be in front of the window. The light from the window will add strain. Fluorescent lighting is not good for your eyes while you are working on your computer. Natural and indirect light should be used.
Chalkboards and bulletin boards are wonderful work tools for home offices. They hold notes, memos, art displays, vendor notices and can be attractive and contain clutter all at the same time. They can be hung on the wall or place on an easel or art shelf. Closet doors can be upholstered or painted with chalkboard paint. Even an entire wall covered in cork or upholstery can be used, plus this doubles for acoustical privacy!
A separate little inclined work surface can be used for drawing, planning, and piling things out of the way. It can be moved around for light and different purposes, it also doubles for display.
Office systems are expensive, however, they offer many ideas for simplifying and offering a safer environment. One of them is “smart” furniture where wiring and multiple plugs are enabled within the piece for all of the electronics we have on our desk. This can be replicated at home with clever planning.
You can use all of the clever boxes, containers, baskets, and jars that you use elsewhere in the home to help keep things organized. Shelves are the most important storage asset in a home office. Do not rule out housing manuals and books in hall libraries outside the home office.
Habits to get into if you work at home:
- Take a lunch break
- Set a schedule
- Set one day aside to catch up (prevents overwhelm)
- Set boundaries with your family
Home office design should also take into consideration your particular needs. If you meet with people in your office, you want comfortable conversation seating. If you stock oils or vitamin supplements, you need attractive and safe storage. You will also want to consider a lock for child safety. As in all things, it is the differences that add the potential for greatness.
Many meetings are done online. I’ve tried many different things, but Zoom seems to be the most up to date, easy, and used globally, and offers many options. (not an affiliate). If you plan a large meeting, it is sometimes to your benefit to be sure everyone has correct operating systems, as well as the rules of protocol, and working knowledge. Zoom interacts with Nifty, so that is how I can click on a button and meet with my team.
Share this information with your team. One of the secrets to having a business with workers from home is connection. We talked about collaborative areas. Even virtual collaborative areas can create great things for your business and offer support in otherwise isolated situations.
Accountability is important too. We use Hubstaff. Hubstaff not only keeps track of hours, but it also keeps screenshots of the homeworkers’ activity, as well as productivity. Productive and confident team members are a result of accountability. It is my belief that all companies large and small can benefit from software like Hubstaff. Whether your workers are employees or subcontractors, it’s helpful to them to see what they’ve done and how they’ve used their time.
Team meetings are important. Some businesses require daily meetings with direct supervisors. We have weekly meetings because a prerequisite of my team is to be self-directed and independent.
- Now is a good time to take a trip down the “customer experience” pathway and see where your holes are. If you’re creating problems in your explanation of a product, you can save your customer service team a lot of trouble. If you have an overworked customer service team, lighten up or spread out their time. Give positive reinforcement and adequate training, operation manuals, and don’t forget your values statement and purpose. The clearer your team is, the happier your customer will be.
Did you enjoy this blog?
Sign up to receive a weekly notice.
Still Have Questions or Need Help?
We're happy to answer any questions you have and help you make the best decision for you.