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8 Ideas to Make the Most Out of Working from Home

It’s not for everyone. I’ve met people who look at me in complete shock and horror when I tell them that I spend most of my time working from home. To some, the prospect of losing things like the social interaction and usual distractions of a day spent at the office, is simply unthinkable.

I really can’t blame them. It’s easy to lose track of time and blur lines when your workspace is also your home. Easy to either spend too much time working or to fall into procrastination with the excuse of some chore that just needs to get done. Still, it’s achievable. And all that time that’s not wasted in traffic, commuting back and forth can leave you with some unexpected – and much appreciated – free time.

I’ve been working from home for a few years, which has given me enough time to do it all wrong and learn a little bit from my mistakes. I’m not going to say I never surrender to the appeal of my favorite couch, but I know how to prioritize and how to be productive and respect my workspace and schedule.

Working from home. Photo Credit Ella Jardim. Unsplash

Create your own space within your home. It helps keep boundaries.Photo Credit Ella Jardim. Unsplash

The Subtle Art of Working from Home

1Designate a work space. Stay out of your bedroom unless it’s absolutely necessary, that way that area can be a getaway from the workspace. If you have the room to create your own office, do it. If not, find a corner of the house and make it your own. A designated work area will also make it easier for others to respect that this is where you keep your work stuff. A concept that can seem a little bewildering to office goers.

2Have a morning routine.

Have breakfast, take care of personal calls or emails, shower and change before starting the workday. You obviously don’t have to dress up, but it helps to make the beginning of the day real. If I don’t change into street clothes, I will very rarely manage anything productive once I’m done with the more pressing work. This is how you end up with last-minute assignments that can take over your entire weekend.

3Schedule your work ahead of time. I’m easily distracted, so anything that brings a little order to my day is appreciated. Look at what needs to be done through the day and set goals before you decide when to take breaks and when to stop working for the day. It helps to have a fixed work schedule if the nature of your job allows it. It may be impossible to avoid projects that demand more and may sometimes entail working late or on weekends but administering deadlines can let you plan ahead. In order to do this, you need to set clear expectations with your boss, your clients and yourself.

4Prepare your lunch ahead, just as if you were planning to leave the house. There are two reasons this is a good idea. First of all, it makes you keep up the illusion that “you’re not home”, which can be key in concentrating. Second, it can save you time, money and keep you away from unhealthy meals and snacks. You can assign time to get out of the house and get something to eat now and then, but your pocket will probably appreciate occasionally staying in. To avoid overdoing it with the snacks, (it’s easy to fall into this trap when you’re so close to your very own fridge and pantry) prepare some for the day as well. Also? Research shows that when we choose all our meals for the week at the same time, we tend to have a healthier and more varied diet.

5Avoid family and friends during work hours. My mother has a really hard time understanding that working from home doesn’t mean I’m just hanging out at my place, a misunderstanding she shares with friends who have free time during working hours. Likewise, some friends have mentioned how important it is for their kids to understand that mommy’s working, even if she is home.  Avoiding them will not only make you more productive, it’ll help them understand that your work hours must be respected. Just as they would be respected if you were at the office. Having your own office space also helps set boundaries and avoid interruptions from your children, partner and other house guests.

6Get out of the house. Make sure that you make time to do other things, like taking a walk, going to the gym or having lunch with work colleagues. It helps you clear your mind and it’s important when so much time is being spent in your house. Remember, vitamin D is important so make time to step out into the sun. A certain flexibility comes with working from home and that can usually mean you can take that class or wander off for a couple of hours to do something that will make you happy.

7Take advantage of projects that allow you to collaborate with others. While there are many upsides to working from home, creating your own schedule and being in charge of your own time, it can be pretty isolating too. Being part of a team and the interaction that comes from it is good for our mental health and can motivate us to work harder, providing a fresh perspective that’s not always available when doing home office. Look for projects that will allow you to collaborate with other people and make time to meet up for lunch, coffee or drinks every now and then. You don’t always need to be confined to your workspace. If you collaborate with larger companies, it may be a good idea to stop by the office to say hello now and then.

8Stay in touch. Make sure you’re talking to the people you work with, especially when you’re a part of an international team with multiple time zones. Differing time zones can make it harder to keep up with everyone, especially if you’re trying to stick to your work hours. Try to schedule conference calls and video chats at times where all, or at least most of the team can join. If it’s not up to you, be open to them and try to engage and make your presence felt. It’ll help you and others to feel like a part of the team, even if you and others are working remotely.

Working from home has its advantages. You decide when to take a break. Photo credit: Free Stocks. Unsplash

Working from home has its advantages. You decide when to take a break. Photo credit: Free Stocks. Unsplash

The Benefits of Working from Home

While some people feel that working from home would affect productivity negatively, a robust two-year study held by Nicholas Bloom, from Stanford University, proved that people in a work-from-home situation actually worked full-shifts and found it easier to concentrate while working from home.

The main problem for most people is how isolating it can be. Like I said, it’s not for everyone. Some people need the very specific aspects of a more conventional work environment to be productive. However, more and more companies are finding that the rise in efficiency of their home office teams and the money that can be saved by reducing office space might be worth looking into.

If done right, home office can make you the master of your own time. It takes some effort to perfect it, but you can learn not to procrastinate, to choose the right collaborations and the best people to collaborate with. It’s all about avoiding distractions, managing your time, sticking to your priorities and building a good relationship with the people you work with.  In any case, it’s looking more and more like it could be the standard for the future, so this is a good time to start exploring the benefits!

 

Working from home. Photo Credit Emma Matthews. Unsplash

Prioritizing and sticking to your plan is an important part of being productive. Photo Credit Emma Matthews. Unsplash

How to overcome anxiety inside and outside of work

We live at a time when anxiety is one of the most common disorders. Today I invite you to identify some triggers and explore how to overcome anxiety to live a fuller life.

The feeling of anxiety goes beyond a diagnosis. Here some questions to detect if you feel anxious.

  • Do you feel nervous?
  • Are you always in a hurry or running against the clock?
  • Do you constantly have more things to do than you can?
  • Do you feel the need to do more and more?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions you have probably felt anxious in recent times.

Ferris wheel, a great way to slow down.

Find ways to slow down. Photo Credit: Johannes Daleng. Unsplash.

Anxiety crisis

Sometimes anxiety can end up in a crisis. You may cry, or binge eat, or feel overwhelmed. There are even those who experience panic attacks. We live in an era when time seems to have accelerated, and we seem to speed behind it. We could say that we live WITHOUT time. Everything is NOW, everything has to be IMMEDIATE.

Let’s do an exercise: Pay attention to commercials. How many of them highlight the value of speed, the famous “you can have it now” for a service, for a medication or for a meal? How many ads underscore that by using this or that product, you can continue to do anything without stopping?

None of those ads will tell you: “if your head hurts, rest for a bit,” or “if you’re exhausted, go to sleep.” No. They will tell you what to do if you have a headache so you can go on for a while longer without interruption.

How to overcome anxiety caused by our current work style?

Most people who work in an organization tend to live against the clock. That is, having to deliver projects always faster than is possible. We have the perception that there are more and more demands placed upon us and that whatever we do, it will never be enough. In fact, this is partly true because work is inexhaustible. That “more” that we constantly hear is what causes us anxiety.

New policies being developed in leading companies

Pioneer companies, however, are using research that suggests that working 24/7 and being always “on” is counterproductive to encourage leisure time. Many are forcing their associates to take vacations in order to disconnect and recharge batteries because they know that without these regular breaks you can’t think, produce, endure. Without these recovery intervals, anxiety takes hold.

What to do when we feel anxious?

Candle and book

If you want to overcome anxiety, take time to do what you enjoy like reading a book, or enjoying the smell of a candle. Photo Credit: Ellieelien. Unsplash.

If you’re wondering how to overcome anxiety, there are several ideas you can explore. Hopefully they will trigger others.

1Stop. Check where you are at. Breathe.

We could define the feeling of anxiety as “not having time”, that is, living in a hurry. It is necessary, however, to have time to do something for and for you. And when I say “have time” I don’t mean simply having chronological hours. If the day had one more hour, you would likely do more of the same. You would work harder and you would continue to hurry because you would still not have enough time for all your activities. That’s why I emphasize the lack of time is not just about not having extra chronological time. You need to create human time.

2Humanize time

The only being with time is the human being. Animals do not “have time,” they exist. Time becomes humanized when you find things to do that bring you satisfaction, when you do something you want, that you like, that you love. Have you done something like this in recent times? Or is it an exception for you to take time every so often to do something that is pleasing to you and that has nothing to do with your work?

3Get Bored

Boredom has bad press. But we have seen how important it is for kids and teenagers to get bored. It enables them to find their own resources, develop, discover or invent them. If we are constantly entertaining kids with activities or gadgets, if we never let them get bored, they are likely to become adults who won’t know what to do when they are not working. This is also true for you. Getting bored gives you the opportunity to discover new aspects about yourself and unleashes your creativity. Have you allowed yourself to get bored lately? Or do you spend all your time working or filling up your calendar with various activities?

4Explore slow movements

Human activities require time: cooking, painting, dancing, or practicing a sport. Going to the movies, strolling, sleeping. Building relationships. None of these activities can be done without time. Many have an almost meditative effect. Perhaps some of this is what the slow movements are trying to bring back. Films that last the entire length of a transcontinental trip, filmed with a camera attached to the fuselage of an airplane, invite you to sit and watch for hours as the landscape slowly changes. It is not always possible to live like this, but it is important to make time for yourself.

How to overcome anxiety tip explore slow movements

Watching birds fly can be a great way to slow down time. Photo Credit: Husen Siraaj. Unsplash.

How to overcome anxiety generated by changes at work?

Joining a new company, changing sectors or starting a supervisory role requires certain amount of time to fit, to understand the organization’s culture, to feel that you belong, to develop relationships. And frequently, you don’t control that timing as you depend on others to do their jobs. It is common for people to want to skip these stages. You may feel bad because you started your new job a month ago and you think you should’ve already overcome this or that milestone. Or assume you should have already adapted to the new role or culture. Stop! Respect the process and respect your times.

How to help reduce anxiety in your organization?

Bring cooking courses to your company

If you have a chance to bring ideas to your organization, try this: Cooking classes! Photo Credit: Kloe Arledge. Unsplash.

If you have a chance to offer new ideas in your company you could create a list of activities and interests of your teammates, department or division. This would lead to hiring experts to carry them out and perhaps to establish a series of rotating courses. Here are some options

Painting, sculpting, drawing

Getting involved in any of the art disciplines during working hours can release stress and expand creativity in an unconscious way.

Cooking

Organizations are expressing an increasing interest in fostering good health. What better way to promote your company’s support for healthy eating habits than to offer cooking classes? People can prepare their lunch to eat at work or cook dinner to take home. (Thus alleviating the time it takes to prepare dinner once employees get home.) It is also an excellent opportunity to learn about other cultures and strengthen ties between people from diverse backgrounds.

Literary or film clubs

This type of course leads employees to take time to watch a movie or read a book together or on their own and then meet to have a meaningful conversation.

Knitting & weaving

Knitting and weaving groups have shown excellent results to establish and strengthen connections in different communities. It is also an activity that has an almost meditative rhythm that forces you to slow down.

As you can see, there are many alternatives to foster spaces to create time for yourself. Paradoxically, this time that may seem unproductive at first is critical for your health. It helps reduce the anxiety caused by the feeling of lack of time and it promotes your well-being at work and in your personal life. So take time to make time.

To overcome anxiety take time to make time

How to overcome anxiety: Mainly, take time to make time for yourself. Photo Credit: Roxanne Desgagnes. Unsplash.

Elderly parents: The one thing that works for me

As women, one of the roles most of us face at some point in our lives is caring for our elderly parents. And even if you’re not involved in the daily routine of care giving, as your parents age everyone must adapt to a new situation and embrace change.  Here’s what is working for me.

Let me first qualify my advice: This is my perspective as a daughter. And as such, I’m making everything up as I go. Just like children don’t come with an instruction’s manual neither do parents. And granted, my situation is particular, given that my parents live in Buenos Aires (where my brother and sister live as well) and I live in New York.  But many of you may be able to relate to the story even if your parents didn’t move to Florida to retire or they don’t live far away from you.

For the last thirty years my parents and I have had a consistent pattern: Once a year they come to visit me and once a year I go see them.

You got this sign

You got this sign- Photo Credit: Sidney Rae- Unsplash

In recent years, my mom’s been suffering from severe back pain. Her spine has practically collapsed and she has little cushion left between several of her vertebrae, which has limited her mobility. As walking became increasingly painful, I suggested that she get a wheelchair. Call it prejudice, push back to keep her independence, or hard-headedness, she wouldn’t budge. Of all the changes life requires as we age, this was one she wasn’t ready to make yet.

She still drives, goes food shopping and runs errands daily, and as she’s very sociable, she remains involved in many activities. The problem has been that what she can and can’t do depends on how close to where she’s going she can park her car. As you can imagine, that’s not always possible, so her activities have become more limited.

A few days ago my parents arrived in New York for their annual trip. On the second day I took my mom to an orthopedic pharmacy to rent a portable wheelchair. And as we tried the various kinds and I lifted them to select the lightest one so it would be easy to maneuver in and out of a car we found the perfect one. It was small, light, and comfortable. I said, casually:

“I think you should buy it.”

“But what would I do with it when I leave?” She asked.

“Either you leave it at my house for next year or you take it to Argentina with you,” I replied matter of factly.

And at that moment, without hesitation my mom replied:

“Let’s buy it, and I’ll bring it with me to Argentina.”

End of story. A decision that had seemed so difficult a few years ago, had suddenly become possible given the right circumstances. She was on vacation, relaxed, her mind was more open and her pain had become increasingly unbearable.

True. It was the end of one story and the beginning of a new chapter. Here’s what happened next.

Elderly parents wheelchair bound

Elderly parents wheelchair bound- Photo Credit: Steven Hwg- Unsplash

Helping your elderly parents’s adjust to changes naturally

Right after we purchased the chair, I took my mom to a strip mall nearby, where we proceeded to make several stops. I got the wheelchair out of the trunk, sat my mom down and ran around the strip mall, speeding, laughing, engaging in conversations with people who told her how pretty she was, and who tried to speak Spanish to her as they heard the two of us chatting animatedly. We went in and out of a shoe store, the supermarket, the pharmacy and a restaurant.

I get it: If someone in your family uses a wheelchair, this will all sound trivial to you. Or you may have an entirely different experience than we did. As I said, this is a personal story and it was the first time both for me seeing and pushing my mother in a wheelchair and her first time (other than at airports) out and about in one.

The next day, I enrolled one of her closest friends, who happened to be also visiting New York. She played a critical role in helping my mom feel that having the wheelchair was the best thing that could’ve happened to her. As her friend easily wheeled my mom around, took her to the pool and then to lunch, it proved that the wheelchair gave her a wider access to activities she had given up on.  They immediately started making plans to go out shopping, to art galleries and to the movies together when they both returned from their trips.

My parents and I in the Meatpacking district

My parents and I in the Meatpacking district

Two days later we engaged my dad who, for reasons of his own, had probably also been a bit reluctant to give into the idea of his wife being wheelchair-bound. We drove into Manhattan, parked the car and visited the beautiful Hudson Yards. We shopped and had lunch, took pictures, drove to the Meatpacking district and then we took a leisurely walk around the neighborhood. By the end of the day, we had clearly incorporated this new tool that would make my mom’s life easier from now on.

Of course it will be different when she goes back home. For one, the sidewalks in Buenos Aires leave a lot to be desired, but also, because it won’t be all fun and games like it is when she’s here on vacations. There’ll be doctor’s appointments and banking and all the daily things to which she’ll have to adapt with her new chair. But having taken the first step while in a relaxed environment helps.

Staying cool under pressure always helps in times of change.
Wheelchair sign

Wheelchair sign- Photo Credit: Matt Arts. Unsplash

I’m sure part of the fun was that according to my mother, I “drove” the wheelchair like I drive my Mini Cooper: Fast. But here’s my big reveal:By de-dramatizing, de-stigmatizing the fact that she now needs a wheelchair, we made it possible for her to admit it. To take the step and sit on the driver’s seat of her new situation. She could still be her social self, engage with friends and strangers alike, and be an active participant of the world around her. She could see her new circumstances in a brighter light. And most importantly, we were all part of the process rather than have her go through this change alone.

I’m sure some of her fears had to do with becoming less independent as she’d need others to take her places. (She doesn’t have the strength to put a wheelchair in and out of the car herself so she’d always need someone with her.) But by helping her experience this new stage of life in a natural, no-drama way, she was also able to see that having someone who pushes her wherever she wants to go, is not that bad. It may offer a new kind of wind beneath her wings that enables her to continue to live her best life with the necessary adjustments along the way.

Innovative packaging helps manage women’s periods at work

Cora has designed a chic and smart packaging to help manage women’s periods at work. Never again hide a tampon up your sleeve on your way to the bathroom! Their sleek black clutch could be a cosmetics case. And with a 100%  organic product, there’s one less stress factor to worry about at work!

Molly Hayward, founder of Cora, a company that offers an innovative method to take care of women's periods

Molly Hayward, founder of Cora, a company that offers an innovative packaging to help manage women’s periods

Meet Molly Hayward, the female founder of Cora. As in, yes, there’s also a male founder. When I first heard about a company focused on how to manage women’s periods with a 100% organic product wrapped in the most stylish packaging I’ve ever seen, I was struck by the co-founders. A man and a woman who, as I’d learn later, didn’t know each other before they got into business together. Today we interview Molly to find out what inspired her to create a product to better manage women’s periods wherever they happen to be. We then talk about the stress connected to women’s periods at work and we ask her about what it took to get investors to buy into such a female-oriented idea.

Molly is a young entrepreneur with a strong social conscience. She practices business with soul. In the last ten years, her travels through five continents became the springboard for her interest in how to manage women’s periods. The seed of a brilliant idea for Cora, a business that favors the circular economy. A business that helps professional women manage “that time of the month” fearlessly, openly, and with style.

I’m sure you didn’t grow up thinking, “When I grow up I’ll found a company focused on how to manage women’s periods.” How did you stumble upon this as a need?

The idea for Cora originated from my travels throughout the developing world, meeting girls who were missing days of school each month because they couldn’t access or afford safe and effective menstrual products. I had the idea to create a brand and a company that could offer women in my own society a better period experience, while also helping girls in need.

For too long women's periods have been a source of stress at work. Molly Hayward is set to change that!

For too long women’s periods have been a source of stress at work. Molly Hayward is set to change that!

What’s different about the product itself?

Cora offers only 100% organic tampons, made from premium cotton. This is vastly different from conventional tampons, which are made from non-organic cotton (one of the dirtiest crops in the world) and synthetics like rayon and polyester (which have been linked to higher risk of toxic shock syndrome.)

Cora is also one of the first companies in the U.S. to offer an organic tampon in a compact plastic applicator (BPA free.)

Is there any research regarding the stress at work women feel due to the stigma surrounding women’s periods?

Research in this area has been primarily focused on the effects of stress in the workplace on women’s menstrual cycles, as opposed to our menstrual cycle’s contribution to stress at work. But there’s no denying that the workplace isn’t always the easiest place to easily manage our periods. From shoving tampons up our sleeves to walking to the bathroom from our desks to forgetting tampons altogether to the anxiety of wondering if we are leaking through our pants in the middle of a meeting, periods definitely bring stress into our working lives.

That’s why Cora created high-performing organic tampons, as well as accessories for stylishly and discreetly storing and carrying them whether you’re at home, the office, or out on the town.

How much are people attracted to the product because of the chic packaging that looks like cosmetics and jewelry cases? Do you think this contributes to a more seamless work-life integration?

Cora's products chic packaging makes it easy to manage women's periods at work. Gone are the days when you had to hide your tampon on the way to the bathroom.

Cora’s products chic packaging makes it easy to manage women’s periods at work. Gone are the days when you had to hide your tampon on the way to the bathroom.

I think the sophistication of Cora’s brand and products makes women feel confident at work—a place where we all want to feel more confident. We want women to feel like wherever they are, they can manage their periods without fear or shame.

You met your business partner while seeking investors, right? How did it happen? Did you think that a man would be a good partner for a company selling a product for women’s periods?

Yes! We were introduced by a mutual colleague. She knew that we were both working on similar concepts independently and suggested we meet. After our first conversation, we knew we would work together because our value around organic products, sophisticated design, and giving back to women and girls in need.

Walk us through the process of getting funding for an idea. What did you need to show your investors in order to receive your first round of funding? And how hard was it to get funding for a product that dealt with women’s periods?

With unique packaging like this black clutch, Cora makes it easy to carry your supplies as any of your other accessories, reducing stress at work.

With unique packaging like this black clutch, Cora makes it easy to carry your supplies as any of your other accessories, reducing stress at work.

Early on, we showed investors the positive data and reviews from our early Beta customers, and shared our future vision for the brand and everything we were doing to prepare and execute to make the vision a reality. We laid out our plan and showed where we’d already accomplished goals.

Can you share any negotiation strategies that you used during the meetings with investors to get to a Yes?

For us, it’s never been about negotiating. When seeking funding, we bring investors into the story and mission of Cora. We show them the negative experience that women currently have because other brands on the market don’t actually solve the pain points of having a period. When they consider the magnitude of the problem, it becomes a logical decision to join us.

You can find out more about Cora via social media:

Instagram: @corawomen

Twitter: @corawomen

Facebook: www.facebook.com/corawomen