Laura Vanderkam has worked from home since 2002, so she knows a lot of strategies about how to manage successfully and productively. Since the coronavirus pandemic forced millions of Americans to adjust to a new reality of working remotely, her podcast The New Corner Office aims to give us the tools we need to balance our work with our families as well as our other interests and pursuits. These quick, three-minute podcasts are sharply focused and rich with effective suggestions, whether you’re struggling with time management, handling kids or other distractions, remote project coordination or awkward Zoom meetings, or anything else. Here are just five to get you started – or further down – your path to productivity.
Laura points out that working from home is often an advantage. Commutes burn a lot of time you could be spending on actual work; skipping the commute also allows us to get more sleep or incorporate an exercise routine into our day. “Sleep and exercise don’t take time – they make time,” she says. And when employees are used to working at home, companies can be more nimble reacting to not only pandemics but also weather disasters or road closures. There are a lot of advantages to working from home, even when the world isn’t in quarantine.
Working from home is a skill, Laura tells us in this episode, so it’s no wonder millions of Americans aren’t very good at it right away. “Imagine if millions of people decided to learn tennis or speak French at the same time,” she points out; there would be a lot of bad tennis games and French conversations for awhile. But with time and dedication, we can get better at it; for example, learning to use people’s names on Zoom calls, so everyone knows who you need to hear from. If you’re feeling impatient with yourself about how hard working from home seems to be, this episode provides a much-needed check-in.
Everyone is seeing a lot more of their kids than they’re used to these days, and when you’re having to work while also managing their education or entertainment, it can get really stressful. Laura suggests putting the kids “on your team, so to speak.” Depending on their ages, there’s a lot they can do to be helpful around the house, lightening the load on your home tasks while you concentrate on work. They could even be a part of your work, making copies, Googling specific research topics, or even coming up with ideas for social media posts or campaigns. This helps take away the mystery of work for them while also helping you be more productive.
It’s summertime, and if you work from home, you should take advantage of it. Many companies have accepted the reality that most people don’t accomplish much after lunchtime on Fridays, so they've embraced half days during the summer months, and so should you. It’s a great way to find time for things besides work and family responsibilities. With that half day, you could take a long bike ride, read a book undisturbed, take a yoga or dance class, or have an afternoon date with your spouse while you still have childcare. “Make the most of it,” she says.
A lot of work advice out there says to never work on your vacations, but Laura says this doesn’t have to be true. By allowing herself to work a few hours during her vacation, she enables her family to take longer trips, sometimes for weeks at a time. She points out that location flexibility is a huge perk of working remotely, and you can accomplish just as much from a beach rental as from your own kitchen table if you handle it right. Devote a couple of hours in the morning before everyone is awake, or a few hours in the afternoon while other family members nap or have screen time, and you can let the good times roll for a lot longer.
Get all these great tips to help you thrive in the "new world of work" on The New Corner Office.
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