Yesterday I spent an hour with my November/December calendar–not penciling things in, but cancelling pending events and making choices that supported a more open, spacious, restorative winter schedule.
Does the thought of hanging lights and attending holiday parties make you want to grab your sleeping bag and run for the nearest cave?
It would be an understatement to say this year has been intense. In addition to the chaos we’ve all been experiencing on a macro-level, most of us have felt over-scheduled, overworked and unable to unplug. Many of us have navigated big career and life challenges—and we’ve had little time to integrate these changes. Frankly, we’re exhausted. We’re ready for rest. Not a relaxed evening by the fire, but a serious stretch of lazy days, long naps, walks in the woods, deep nourishing slumber and joyful, easy, simple connections with friends and family that feed us emotionally and spiritually. What we most need in the coming weeks is not the latest iPhone or one last trip to the mall, but permission to rest, relax, unplug and do nothing.
But with all the expectations, activity and invitations that come with this season knocking on our door—what are we to do? I challenge you to take the road less traveled and take a radical stand for what you most need this year. Consider the following five ideas to help you do less:
Schedule down time now. Block out periods on your calendar during the holiday season for “dedicated relaxation,” where your only job is to unplug from electronics and rest. Schedule half-days, full days, weekends or an entire week if you can swing it. Maybe you’ll feel like a nature hike when your period for renewal rolls around or maybe you’re better served by staying in your pajamas, turning off your phone, sipping on hot tea and watching the leaves fall from the trees. Make downtime a priority and schedule this now so you can honor your commitment to deep to-the-bones self-renewal.
Just say no. Decide what’s most important to you and let everything else go. If it’s not an “absolute yes,” then it’s a no. Don’t want to miss Aunt Tracy’s special Christmas Eve dinner but feel exhausted at the thought of attending your neighbor’s cookie exchange? Just say no and let it go. You’ll be glad you did. The opportunity will come back around next year. Our quality of life is always enhanced when we let go of things-not when we add them.
Ask for help. Give yourself permission to ask for and receive help whether it’s cooking, gift giving, socializing or hosting family. Do it different. Be willing to let go of tradition for the sake of enhanced emotional well-being. Step out of your comfort zone, reach out to friends, neighbors and coworkers and ask for their help during the holidays so you can create more space for yourself and your family to just “be.” What are three things on your plate right now that you could delegate, outsource or ask for support around?
Do less to experience more. Positive psychology researchers say we’re happiest when we keep things simple and have fewer choices. We create stress when we try and cram too much into our schedules and then try to control everything we’re juggling. My friend, author Joan Borysenko says, “Your to-do list is immortal; it will live on long after you’re dead.” How can you simplify your plans (do you really need to go chop down your own Christmas tree, make your mom’s famous Cathedral stained glass cookies and host your husband’s department dinner)? Popcorn, hot cider and an evening of great conversation with people who let you show up “warts and all,” is hard to beat. Do less, so you can experience more.
Unplug and spend time in nature. My friend Richard Louv author of the Nature Principle says, “Time spent in nature is the most cost-effective and powerful way to counteract the burnout and sort of depression that we feel when we sit in front of a computer all day.” I call nature the ultimate antidepressant and re-set button. If anyone in my family is exhausted or out of sorts, off to the greenbelt we go. Typically during the holidays, my family unplugs completely and heads to the Davis Mountains in West Texas to enjoy some of the darkest night skies in the world. Being in nature offers us nourishment and renewal on all levels-physical, emotional, spiritual and mental. It is a powerful, restorative and healing force. Tap it!
There is an innate push and pull that many of us feel during the winter season. As the Dec. 21 winter solstice approaches–the longest night of the year–our natural rhythms are calling us to slow down, reflect, go inward and contemplate where we’ve been and where we want to go. (Think of our friends the bears, they’ve got it right!) Counter this with the world around us that is swirling madly with activity and constantly telling us to do, eat, buy and be more. It can feel quite confusing, exhausting and overwhelming.
I challenge you: do it differently this season. Pause and enter the holiday season mindfully and with a clear intention. If the call to making rest and renewal a priority resonates with you this holiday, make this #1 for yourself and for your family. Then, you can bound—instead of crawl–into the new year fully present, refreshed and clear on how you want to use your energy in the days ahead.
Written by Renee Peterson Trudeau for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
While the COVID-19 crisis has ushered in an array of unsettling changes, one outcome has been touted as overwhelmingly positive and long overdue: the shift to remote work.
Freed from the burden of commuting to an office, employees are more productive and have more time to manage family obligations, or so the thinking goes. But in a world where domestic duties typically fall to moms—as the pandemic has made painfully obvious—does working from home really leave mothers and fathers on equal footing? Not even close, according to the results of a new survey from theBoardlist and Qualtrics.
Men and women have vastly different takes on how working from home has impacted their careers. The poll surveyed 1,051 US adults between the ages of 18 and 65, including 685 respondents with children. Almost half of men (42 percent) believed that working from home for an extended period of time would have a positive affect on their career progression, but only 15 percent of women said the same. Nearly half (49 percent) of female respondents believed it wouldn’t have an impact either way, versus 20 percent for men. Twice as many women as men believed it could have a somewhat or extremely negative impact on their careers (19 percent vs. 9 percent, respectively).
A deeper dive into the data proves that women are right to be wary of remote work: Over one-third of men with children at home (34 percent) say they’ve received a promotion while working remotely, while only 9 percent of women with children at home say the same. On a similar note, 26 percent of men with children at home say they’ve received a pay raise while working remotely, while only 13 percent of similarly situated women say the same. Dads were also far more likely than moms to have taken on additional leadership, been given responsibility for important projects, to have received praise or recognition inside the company and to have received a positive formal review while working remotely.
“Because women often earn less than their male partners, women more often choose to leave their careers at the height of their advancement and earning power in order to raise children and keep their households running. The hardest part of that equation is that employers often judge female employees as less dedicated to their jobs as a result when often it is the farthest thing from the truth,” said Shannon Gordon, CEO of theBoardlist.
Other recent studies confirm that moms have scaled back their working hours lately. A study published in the academic journal Gender, Work & Organization revealed that mothers have reduced their work hours four to five times more than fathers in heterosexual couples where both the mother and father were continuously employed and have children under 13, reports The New York Times.
Even when we are working, it’s not always easy to focus. Dads are also far more likely to say they’ve been more productive working from home (77 percent) compared to 46 of moms who say the same, according to the survey from theBoardlist and Qualtrics. Similarly, an English study found that dads get twice as much uninterrupted work time during the day (5.1 hours) compared to moms (at 2.6). Nearly half (47 percent) of moms’ paid work hours are split between work and other distractions.
You can probably guess just what those “distractions” are: making lunch, dispensing snacks, helping with school assignments, putting away dishes… the list is infinite. And while research shows men are pitching in more around the house during the pandemic, there’s simply too much work to be done without the army of caretakers and teachers parents typically rely on. Working moms simply don’t have time for it all. Something has to give, and too often the answer is paid work. A recent analysis by the Center for American Progress, analyzing data collected in the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, found that three times as many out-of-work Millennial moms (defined as those born between 1981 and 1996) cited school or childcare closures as the main reason they weren’t working right now, compared to only 11 percent of Millennial dads who said it was why they weren’t working.
Experts have long hoped that remote work would lead to a more diverse workforce, and there are good reasons to believe they’re right. “If someone can work remotely for their position, that removes one financial barrier to entry by eliminating relocation fees and paying for housing in a more expensive city. It also creates geographic diversity by opening up an entirely new pool of talent because the candidate can be located anywhere,” said Manon DeFelice, the founder and CEO of Inkwell, in an op-ed for Working Mother.
But this most recent survey seems to confirm what economists have feared: that the pandemic could have a long-lasting negative impact on women’s advancement in the workforce, and working from home might not be a panacea for our problems, after all. “Our study findings would indicate that women are cognizant that their careers could be impacted more than men if they were to work from home often,” Gordon says. “This discrepancy should be a red flag for employers.”
Written by Audrey Goodson Kingo for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.
Coronavirus: An opportunity to build customer trust, not to push sales.
With COVID-19’s rapid spread, the bull market constantly bucking up and down, and the recent declaration of national emergency from the President, consumers are becoming increasingly anxious about the reality that is about to face them. Panic buying is rampant, schools and universities are closing, and offices are asking workers to work from home.
Certainly both online and offline businesses are feeling anxious as well. For some businesses, sales may be surging because of supply hoarding, until the bull-whip effect sets in and no supply remains on the shelves. For other businesses, sales have dipped significantly as consumers guard their wallets and spend on essentials first, as they nervously watch the unpredictable market rise and fall.
So: what’s a brand to do?
Over the next few weeks, things will more likely than not continue to get worse before they get better. While sales may be down for your business, there is still a huge opportunity to win with your customers by building their trust in your brand, especially if you are an online retailer with an email list or any business with an engaged online community.
7 Ways to Build Customer Trust During the Coronavirus Outbreak
1. Send an email to your list or a post to your online community with a statement on your business’s approach to coronavirus.
Sending a thoughtful email to your list outlining what your brand is doing in the wake of the coronavirus is a great way to build trust with your customers. You should avoid being promotional in this email. Its purpose should instead be to establish expectations for your base for any orders placed in the coming weeks and to quell any anxieties your customers may have about deliveries, supply chain, or your production process. Another best practice is to address your customer by name directly or to address your brand’s community as if in a formal letter and to end your message with a warm sign off from a member of your team. We love the email sent by DTC brand GEM below.
2. Keep customers updated on how you are handling any potentially unstable supply chains.
After your initial email to your base with your plan for handling supply and demand, keep your list updated if anything changes in your supply chain. If stock on a popular product runs out, try and give a reasonable estimate of when it will be available next. If you don’t know, be honest about that too, and recommend any alternative in-stock products to your customers. Put honesty and transparency above all else, and the consumer will trust that you are doing everything you can to resolve their issues. When you are honest and transparent, they will also understand when certain things are out of your control.
3. Give them your brand's promise, whatever it may be.
If you refuse to price gouge even when demand is high in the market (see: toilet paper, hand sanitizer, cleaning wipes), let your customers know. If you foresee any issues with delivery, assure your customers that they will be fully refunded if the product does not arrive to them within a certain time window in the event of supply or delivery issues caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Finally, remind customers of any existing promises your brand has made in the past that you plan to stick to, like abiding by certain regulations, practicing a sustainable supply chain, giving back X% of proceeds to your chosen charity, etc. Just make sure the promise you make is a promise you can 100% keep.
4. Share with them what your business is doing to combat coronavirus.
If you feel comfortable doing so, share with your customers the practices and precautions your own brand is taking in order to care for your employees and their loved ones. It is an excellent “we’re all in this together” approach. If you have introduced a new work-from-home policy or guaranteed sick leave for employees, share with your customers that your brand is doing its part in containing the virus as well.
5. Assure them that they will be taken care of.
Customers want to know that they can rely on your brand. Remind them that they remain a top priority, and that your brand will do everything they can to make sure orders are met. If supply or delivery circumstances change, have a plan to address customers that may not receive their order when expected, including refunding an order or providing store credit for future purchases.
6. Offer an outlet to voice any concerns they may have.
Along those lines, inform customers about how they can best reach a member of your team to voice any concerns or ask any questions. If you have multiple channels of outreach (phone, social media, email, etc.), let them know which channels will get their questions answered the fastest. Additionally, give them realistic expectations of wait time given the changing circumstances, as well as a promise that your team will get back to them as soon as they can.
7. Provide educational content to help them in this time.
Thanks to the coronavirus, the lives of many Americans will be changing drastically over the next few weeks to next few months. No matter what business you are in, there are a number of ways you can address the coronavirus in a way that provides extra value to your audience and puts them more at ease.
Blog content is a powerful tool because it can be flexibly used both to nurture your existing audience and to draw a new audience to your brand. At a time when most consumers are not buying as much, you can focus on filling the top of your funnel with new email leads for your list by promoting gated content.
Need ideas for content, or content itself? We've got you covered.
Because the coronavirus on everyone’s minds today, it’s a topic that any industry or brand can find a way to relate to. However, coming up with content ideas may be difficult. That’s why we’ve broken down some content ideas for you below!
We’ve listed a few examples below, but you can find a comprehensive list of 30+ content ideas for coronavirus communications here.
Content on reducing stress and mental health best practices
Ideas for staying connected even when practicing social distancing
At-home workout routines or tips for working at home
Positive round-ups of some more uplifting stories from the past week
Tips on keeping healthy & hydrated to ward off illness
Whether you’re working from home this summer or have returned to a “covid -19 pandemic” version of your workplace these parents have some great tips on surviving the summer.
Finding the right camp or sitter for the summer has never been easy for working parents, but this year the COVID-19 crisis has made those decisions downright daunting.
Do working parents send our kids to camp or daycare and risk exposing them to the virus? Do we ask Grandma to watch the kids, knowing she’s especially at risk if she catches COVID-19? Or do we continue to watch them while working from home, feeling guilty about all the screentime they’re getting? Not to mention, it’s not exactly the best time to be perceived as distracted at work, in an era of mass layoffs. Or do you (gulp) quit your job or take a furlough just to get through this challenging time?
There are no easy answers, and each family will have to weigh the risks and benefits of each option and make the decision that works best for them. As for my family, we’ve decided to cancel summer camp for our son, because it would have required a commute on the subway here in New York City, and instead we will send him to daycare with his baby sister when it reopens. We aren’t great (read: really bad) at working from home while taking care of a 4-year-old and a 9-month-old.
Here’s what other working parents plan on doing, and why:
Going back to daycare/preschool.
“My kids start preschool on June 1, with lots of extra protocols and smaller class sizes. We are looking forward to some normalcy and them having friends to play with. And I’ve read a lot about kids not likely being good spreaders of the virus. It’s a risk we feel we have to take for our jobs to remain stable.” —Samantha Walsh, mom of two, officer of advancement and development at a Jewish day school, Denver, Colorado
Working from home without childcare
“Our daughter was going to go to camp before starting kindergarten in the fall, but it has been canceled. For now, our plan is to keep her home this summer. My husband is a firefighter/paramedic so he is off enough that I can get work done—as a freelancer, I can be flexible with my work hours. Plus, we just don't feel safe sending her, and we wouldn't have sent her to camp if the decision wasn't made for us. There's still so much unknown about the virus, and we'd much rather make do this summer, create "camp" experiences in our backyard, carve out some time for kindergarten readiness activities and hope that things will feel better/safer come fall so Mila can start kindergarten.” —Lauren Brown West-Rosenthal, mom of one, freelance writer, Fairfield, Connecticut
“I’m working the summer without childcare. I already paid for a spot in summer camp—as of now, they are planning on opening, but I’m not optimistic. Honestly my summer plan is not to have a nervous breakdown.” —Italia Granshaw, mom of one, chief of staff at Office of New York State Assembly, North Bellmore, New York
“We are still undecided, but leaning toward not sending the kids to camp. Our daughter's June dance camp has canceled, and we're still waiting to see what the sports and dance camps do for July and August. My kids are older, 8 and 13, and my husband is also working from home. We can easily keep up our current arrangements. I just feel badly for the kids—while we have a big backyard, they miss their activities and hanging out with friends.” —Jacqueline LaBrocca, mom of two, senior director of conference operations and logistics, Salisbury Mills, New York
“Most of the camps near us are now canceling. Some have canceled only for June right now and plan to do virtual camps. That just seems like more work for us, and I don't think my daughters would appreciate it or find it interesting. Some camps have said they will be open for my older daughter but not my younger daughter, a 6-year-old. This also is not helpful. We've come up with a system that works for us while we are working from home, so we'll just continue that. With the new data coming out about how this virus impacts kids, it just doesn't feel safe.” —Marianne Drexler, mom of two, university program coordinator, Durham, North Carolina
“I'm going to keep working from home with the kids, even though it's bad for our mental health. Our daycare for Zach, 2, so far, is taking more children as of June 1 (they've been open this whole time for essential workers with up to 10 kids at a time), and I haven't gotten word about camp for Jeremy, 6, but I'm not comfortable sending them into any group situations yet. We all had some sort of virus in mid-March, but we couldn't get tested when we tried. Because there are reports of reinfections, and experts say it could take as many as six weeks to know whether cases are truly going up or down because of reopenings, I'm going to continue on as we have these past nine weeks. I already wish I had kept the kids out of daycare and school those first couple of weeks of March. I don't want to regret sending them in again. And maybe by keeping my kids home, I'm keeping other families healthy.” —Meredith Bodgas, mom of two, Working Mother editor-in-chief, Bellmore, New York
Hiring a sitter
"Still no word on camp. Some are opening, some aren’t. We have a nanny starting today. That does freak me out, but the daycare/camp suggested reopening instructions were far freakier: Temperature checks twice a day. Kids in groups of five max. Everyone masked all day, including kids 3 and over. How can I ask my 3-year-old to be masked ALL day? He’d flip out." —Rachel Stuhler, mom of two, screenwriter, Los Angeles
Relying on grandparents
“I’m hoping summer camp/daycare opens. If not, Grandma will come to babysit some of the days. I can’t have the kids inside on an iPad all summer long.” —Nicole Beniamini, mom of two, vice president at Edison Research, Hillsborough, NJ
“I’ll be honest. Up until now, we quarantined. My in-laws also quarantined. Since we know no one in the two households has seen anyone, and we tested negative, they will help us once summer break hits. Without that, I don’t know what we would have done. Camp is canceled and our daycare is closed until at least July 7.” —Larry Collica, dad of two, senior manager of retail planning, Northridge, California
“We live in Brooklyn, but we’ve been renting a house in the Catskill Mountains with another family in our neighborhood who we knew had been self-isolating as well. We have a 2-year-old son and they have two boys, a 3-year-old and 20-month-old. The seven of us have formed a parenting co-op. Each of us takes a two-hour childcare shift during the day. This allows each of us to put in almost a full day's work. It's been a truly ideal scenario, and I think all of the kids have really thrived from the social interaction they're getting with each other. But my husband was recently laid off from his advertising job. So, as sad as we are to leave the mountain house, it’s more important to us to keep our regular nanny employed and make other arrangements. We're taking a road trip to St. Louis, Missouri, to stay with my in-laws until at least August. They have a yard, a pool and ample space, which we think will be best for our son. We know none of these solutions is perfect and all carry their own risks, and we're very much aware of how lucky we are to even have these options, but it's what is working for us for now.” —Lindsey Perlstein, mom of one and content director, Brooklyn, New York
For many parents across the country, like Daniela Egan, a fundraising director in Boston, there are still too many unknowns, even this close to the summer. "Massachusetts has closed all daycares (except for some open for essential workers) through June 29. We use our work's daycare, and I'm not sure if they will want to delay beyond what the state advises or if reduced capacity will mean reduced days for us. Plus, I don't think our campus will be bringing back employees like us anytime soon. My husband and I split our days so we each get about five hours of working time during the day, plus evenings and weekends as we need it. (Spoiler, we do). I guess the plan is to continue in this status quo through the summer if we need to…"
No matter what you decide—or when you decide it—rest assured that there are plenty of parents agonizing about the best way protect their kids, their job and their sanity this summer.
Written by Audrey Goodson Kingo for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have an idea that you’ve been sitting on wondering if it’s the right time to start your own business? NOW is the time to position yourself for success in a post pandemic marketplace.
Have you ever considered a work at home career? Do you dream of ditching the commute to work and embracing a life of telecommuting?
Work at home jobs are appealing for many reasons, however, if you not careful you could be in for a disappointment.
How to Succeed in Working Remotely
There are few things as impressive as when you can work from home as a remote employee. You get the benefits of a steady paycheck and the flexibility in working in your home office.
But working from home is a privilege that requires additional responsibilities. If done wrong, you could end up getting fired and have a hard time finding a job replacement – unless, of course, you have a killer resume at the ready. You might also unintentionally limit your income and promotions.
Let’s look at what I’ve learned working from home, and how you can get the most from being a remote employee.
Communication is the undercurrent in working from home successfully. It’s kind of like how humans need air to breathe.
This idea is true with most jobs but becomes a top priority when working remotely. That’s because your primary connection with the company you work for and your co-workers is 100% through the digital space. If you don’t get good at communicating over the internet, you will leave a path of confusion and frustration.
Excellent communication isn’t just about the number of words you write. It more has to do with being clear, concise, and direct.
Over the years I’ve focused on over-communication, which I think is a good thing at its’ core. But I’m learning to write what I mean in fewer words, to make what I’m trying to communicate easier to digest and understand.
Excellent communication comes down to a few core principles:
Asking the right questions as early as possible
Making sure you understand each request or task
Explaining complex problems for anyone to understand, regardless of their background
Being careful about what assumptions you make
Taking an active role in whatever you touch
Organization and Work Efficiency
You could be at the top of your field, but if you can’t organize your workday, you could fall flat on your face when working from home.
I’ve worked with well-intentioned individuals who had a hard time getting this right. They were smart and talented but had a hard time organizing their time when working through multiple priorities at home.
It becomes about making order out of chaos. The better you become at what you do regularly, the more the company will go to you in solving those problems. Being organized means increased responsibilities and more tasks coming your way (and can anyone say cha-ching).
This idea isn’t about letting your employer put unrealistic expectations on your time; it’s about increasing your work efficiency. In most work at home situations, no one is going to dictate your every move. You have to figure this out on your own.
A few questions I like to ask myself in making sure I’m on track:
Are my priorities for today and this week clear?
Am I being blocked by anyone, and have I communicated this clearly to the correct people?
Are the expectations of what I will accomplish with my time realistic?
In regards to what I am working on: what are the main risks? Have I communicated these risks?
As you can probably tell, being organized is highly coupled with communication. Both communication and organization depend on each other, and the more you can improve these skills, the more you will increase your value.
If you want to excel at working from home, focus on your communication and organizational skills. You’ll decimate your competition if you do.
There is an element of working from home that requires a higher level of confidence than working in an office. People depend on you to work, even though they can’t physically see you at your desk.
The more you can convince your co-workers that you know what you are doing, and are reliable in solving problems, the more you increase your value as a remote worker.
Your value should be evident through your day-to-day output. If the company you work for starts to wonder if you are working at all, that is a bad sign.
But once you get to the point where people learn to rely upon you for high-value output, they will start to give you the benefit of the doubt. When something takes you longer than expected, they assume this is because it is a more complex task than expected; as opposed to questioning your abilities or work ethic.
And I can’t stress how important this is when working from home. When the company needs to let people go to cut costs, you don’t want to be at the top of the list.
It’s easier for a company to fire remote employees than their in-office counterparts. You can counteract this by being a necessary component on your team.
I’m a natural introvert. I suffer from social anxiety when I’m in crowds of people I don’t know very well.
But even if you are an introvert like me, we all need human connection. When working from home, this becomes more vital. Building personal relationships is harder when you aren’t physically working with people.
Creating a personal connection with your co-workers is about team dynamics. Strong teams know each other well. The more you can identify a human behind a name, the more you can collaborate effectively with each other.
There are several ways you can build secure personal connections when working from home:
Not being able to walk up to someone and have a real conversation means it is difficult in having more in-depth discussions. Email does not work great when there’s a ton of back and forth.
Chat software, like Slack, helps solve this problem. It allows you to have private conversations with individuals, or have rooms dedicated to teams. It also provides a way of having lighter social conversations through general chat rooms. These can be fun and gives a break from the regular day-to-day conversations.
Being able to see your coworkers regularly during meetings does a great job connecting with your coworkers on a personal level. You can see expressions, hear voices, and interact with people, not much different from what you would do in an office environment.
If you work for a company that does not have this setup, I highly suggest you push them to implement video chat company-wide. Even if your company has a central office, they should be able to install a webcam so that you can be a part of meetings in the office. Google Hangouts and Zoom are great options.
You will want to have a decent web camera that produces a clear picture. Even if you don’t end up doing video conferences, you will want to have a good headset or microphone, that will record your voice crisp and clear. It can be annoying to be on a call with someone who is talking, but no one can understand what they are saying. “Did anyone hear what Chris said?”
In Person Gatherings
Spending in-person time with your co-workers adds a human element that is hard to replicate when you are a digital nomad. Sharing meals, chatting over a beer, and attending conferences can do wonders in building a personal bond with your online co-workers.
The goal is not necessarily to become best friends with everyone at your company. But the more you can connect with others on a personal level, the more integrated you become into that company.
If you work remotely for a company and don’t do any of the above, I recommend you request these things. Otherwise, you are going to feel like you work on an island, and work depression can set in quickly.
Internet Speed and Reliability
When working from home, your internet connection is your lifeline. Without it, you’re left sitting at your desk twiddling your thumbs.
I’ve worked with people who tend always to have some internet issue. They either take forever downloading a large file (which wastes time), or their internet is not reliable, and they will frequently go offline.
Besides slowing you down (literally), it doesn’t put you in a positive light if you seem to have constant internet issues. Having a reliable internet connection is a vital aspect of working from home.
In addition to getting stable internet, spend extra money ($100-$300) on a reliable wireless router. The best routers are mostly set it up and forget about it and will work reliably for multiple years. The one I use has lasted over 3-years and is still going strong. I can even get a reliable internet connection from my front porch!
What if you are needed for a critical issue and end up losing the internet? Losing your internet connection can happen to anyone, but the more you can reduce this risk based on your internet provider and hardware, the less likely this will occur at the wrong time.
Being at the top of your game means you need to prioritize your physical wellbeing.
If you are always dead tired when you work at home, you are going to find it challenging to focus on the problems at hand. You also might end up taking your frustration out on your coworkers or managers, which is never a good thing.
In my case, when my sleep schedule is not consistent or if I’m having problems sleeping, my monitor feels like a gateway to hell. Words look like mush and issues seem impossible to solve. My comfortable work environment doesn’t make this any easier.
Save yourself pain and suffering by making sure you are performing at the top of your game. Figure out what sleep schedule works best for you and your family, and try to stick to it (during the weekdays at least).
In most cases, your remote employer will talk to you about the expectations on the hours you work. Whatever is decided and agreed upon, stick as closely to the plan as possible. And make sure you are keeping timezones in mind.
If you are scheduled to start working at 8 AM MST, make sure you are online at that time, and not 8:15 AM. Keeping a regular schedule relates to building trust with your company.
This idea might seem like a small issue, but having your managers wonder why you aren’t online is not a good thing. Coming across as flaky doesn’t put you in a positive light.
When you need to take off early, or take an extended lunch, make sure you communicate when you will be gone and about when you think you will be back. It’s not about having people micromanage your time; it’s to limit the possibility of someone looking for you and not being able to get a hold of you. Do this a few times, and people might start to wonder what you are “really” doing at home.
Have you ever tried to get work done with a small child yelling in your ear? It’s not fun, and it is incredibly hard to focus. Let’s face it: For some of us, a remote job – especially one where you might be your boss, may not be as fun as it sounds.
Having a distraction-free work at home environment will make your time more efficient. It also doesn’t help your work at home status if your coworkers think that you spend most of your time watching kids at home.
Luckily, my kids are older, and even when they are off from school, they keep themselves busy by playing outside or doing things on their own in our house.
In the past, I was interviewing with a possible employer for a remote position. At the time, my youngest daughter would have these tantrum fits (she was four years old at the time). During this video interview, she would storm into my office and start wailing. I’m convinced that part of the reason they didn’t make me a job offer was that they were concerned I didn’t have a place where I could work undistracted.
Having a solid work ethic is required while working at home. Would you hire someone to do a job who you thought was lazy?
Developing a driven work ethic takes time, and isn’t going to form just because you are working from home magically. It helps if you like what you do, and have lots of experience. It also helps in thinking about what you are working towards. Do you envision having this job long-term? Or are you pursuing financial independence?
Like any job, some days you might find it hard to work. But if you have an end goal in mind, this can help you push forward.
The goal is to work as hard as you can, to give you more options in the future. This goal might be more money, or the opportunity to switch to a different role that fits you better.
Optimize your Home Office
Being able to work from your home office means that you can define your work environment.
Improve anything that will help make your day more enjoyable. For me, I’ve grown to love working on Mac laptops, as I’ve found them to be reliable and I don’t have to worry about viruses (so I’ve always requested a Mac work computer). I also like to use a standing desk, and have decent speakers where I can pump up the music and enjoy some Kendric Lamar.
Anything that is going to make you feel comfortable, relaxed (but not too relaxed), and helps you focus on solving problems, is money well spent. Some of these things you might have to cover out of your pocket. But you won’t know unless you ask!
A crappy chair that gives you back pain is going to become a bigger problem over time. Solve these types of issues early, and your future self will thank you.
More recently, I’ve converted to a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, which has simplified my computer setup. I also have a USBC/Thunderbolt 3 doc that allows me to connect + charge my laptop with one cable to all of my workstation equipment: monitors, ethernet, speakers, charging cables, etc.
And for the love of God, please set up a computer backup solution! There are online backup services you can use, or like me, you could purchase a computer backup drive that is compatible with your OS. I use a WD My Passport drive, and it works flawlessly with my setup. I don’t have to think about it and know if I am connected to my workstation, everything is getting backed up regularly.
Be Quick On Your Feet
Sometimes you are going to have to work on things that don’t fill you with feelings of butterflies and rainbows. But remember, working from home means there are hundreds, if not thousands of people who would love to do what you are doing.
Being a valuable remote employee means that you are willing to tackle things that make you uncomfortable, up to a certain point. If you push back on every task that is assigned to you because it doesn’t fit with what you want to do, eventually your employer might decide they need to find someone who fits that role better.
Don’t underestimate the value of being a kick-ass problem solver. Learning new things, or tackling problems that make your insides squeal, can often have you learning much more than if you only stuck to what makes you comfortable.
It takes skill and tact to understand what type of tasks to push back against, so I would advise you to move forward carefully until you know your value and your strengths.
Own Your Mistakes
When you make a mistake, own up to your part of the problem. Show your coworkers and managers how you are going to prevent this problem from happening again.
Owning your mistakes not only is the right mentality to have in general, but it reflects how valuable of a remote employee you are.
If you are continually looking for others to blame and playing the blame game whenever you can, this erodes how much people trust you. People will wonder if you are trying to cover your tracks and if you care about what happened.
You might work alone in your home office, but you are still part of a team. Show that you are a team player and care about the results and effectiveness of the team above everything else.
Working from home is a tremendous opportunity. You have more freedom with your time, and the commute is fantastic.
But just because you work in your home office, doesn’t mean you can take it easy and watch Netflix all day. Doing your job seriously, and improving your communication and organizational skills ensure that someone will most likely always be looking to add you to their team.
Written by Michael for Your Money Geek and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.
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Because we all just need to stop and laugh for a minute…
As I write this, Charmin, Cottonelle, and Downy Soft toilet paper, to name a few, are “currently unavailable” on Amazon. This verifies what you’ve always suspected: When things get scary in the US, the first thing most of us think about is pooping. The average American goes through 30 rolls of toilet paper a year, which is kind of impressive but still not a reason to stock an entire wall of your basement with them. Seventy percent of the world’s population doesn’t even use bathroom tissue. They use a variety of things, including, in some countries, the left hand. I have no intention of covering that technique here.
People have always devoted a lot of thought to cleaning their backsides.
As early as the 6th century, the Chinese scholar Yan Zhitui wrote that he preferred not to use paper containing quotations from the sages. The first task-specific toilet paper was invented in China in 1391. The sheets were initially intended for the royal family. They were big and perfumed. A 16th century French writer recommended “the neck of a goose that is well downed.” Doesn’t sound like a bad idea. On the other hand, it’s tough stockpiling goose necks.
The Romans pooped communally—just like they did most things—and used a sea sponge attached to a stick to clean themselves.
Between uses, the stick was plunged into sea water. This, incidentally, is where the phrase, “the sh*tty end of the stick” comes from. The Vikings used old sheep wool and smooth pottery shards. They were hardy people. The Eskimos used two of the better toilet paper substitutes: snow in the winter and tundra moss when it was available. Snow, incidentally, is often ranked both as one the best and one of the worst alternatives by natural-bathroom-tissue experts. On the plus side, it is fantastically effective, both smooth for comfort ,and mildly abrasive for effective cleaning. What’s more, it can be custom-shaped. On the minus side, it’s really cold. It’s also wet. A wet butt is not a good thing.
In this country, until the late 1800s, it was common to find a corncob hanging from a string in the outhouse.
I know, I don’t want to think about it either. Seems like it would start out too smooth and end up too rough. And, of course, it was communal. Really, I have no idea why it was so widely used.
The Sears catalog changed everything and was a quantum leap in bathroom technology. It was free, contained hundreds of soft, uncoated pages, and gave you something to read in the meantime. The sort of toilet paper we use today wasn’t commercially available until 1857. Gayett’s Medicated Paper for the Water Closet contained aloe and was marketed as being good for hemorrhoids, which were called “piles” back in the day. The patent for rolled toilet paper was granted in 1891. Fun fact for settling bar bets: The original patent drawing shows the paper unspooling from the top rather than the bottom. This is the only sensible way to do it, but some people like to quibble.
If you find yourself in a survival situation—or if you just can’t buy toilet paper anywhere right now—you’ve got options.
Believe it or not, smooth stones, like river rocks, of a fairly small size are considered one of the better choices for the task. Not particularly absorbent, but they’re better than a corn cob. The cones of Douglas fir trees are recommended because they are said to be comparatively soft. “Comparatively” is the key word here. A handful of grass stalks, all carefully and tightly bundled and then folded over to create a “brush” is another popular alternative on survivalist websites. It actually looks sort of doable.
But if my ass were on the line, I’d reach for one of these six options, at least one of which is available anytime and almost anywhere in the great outdoors.
The gold standard among natural toilet papers. Think of it as green Charmin. Moss is soft, absorbent, and full of iodine, a natural germ killer. It grows all over the country, and not just on the north side of trees. Don’t be particular about species. For one, it’s extremely difficult to identify. For another, it doesn’t matter. Go for it. Make sure you have more than you think you’ll need. (Note: This should probably go without saying, but the time to go look for wiping material is before you lower your trousers. It’s a lot harder to move around afterward.)
Old man’s beard
There are 87 kinds of old man’s beard, including Spanish Moss (sort of, it’s complicated) and similar lichens. They all grow on trees and look like tangled fishing line (but make much better, softer wiping material). It also contains usnic acid, which is effective against Streptococcus and Staphylococcus bacteria. Dried, it also makes a great fire starter. Win-win.
Another standout. It’s not native but grows throughout the US. The leaves are big, quite soft, and absorbent. They are said to feel like sitting on a cloud, which may be stretching things a bit. Lamb’s ear has natural antibiotic qualities that makes it nice on your backside. It also makes a great alternative to a band-aid if you don’t have any.
Similar to Lamb’s ear and found in all 50 states. You just can’t do better than those big, soft, absorbent leaves. It’s also fairly sturdy, which reduces the chance of poking through it. Throughout history, mullein has been used by just about everybody for just about everything. Tribes in the Southwest smoked it to treat mental illness. Eastern tribes used the leaves to treat colds, bronchitis, and asthma. Choctaws used a poultice of its leaves for headaches. Early European settlers used common mullein seeds to paralyze fish. The seeds were also crushed and put into diked areas of slow water. Today, mullein leaves are occasionally used to fashion insoles for weary hikers. You can’t do that with real toilet paper.
Okay, these leaves are not soft and absorbent. If anything, they’re kind of like sandpaper because the hairs on them contain silica crystals. On the plus side, that is the same property that makes them effective at cleaning. Just be gentle.
It’s said to be one of the best butt wipes ever, but only during a small window of time. The mature fruit is too big to get into the relevant area; what you want is young fruit. The small crevices and bumps on its surface are said to be of the ideal texture for cleaning. You want to make sure to use undamaged fruit, because Osage orange contains a sticky sap that you really don’t want back there.
Finally, a couple words of caution. If you can’t find any of the six above and decide instead to just reach for whatever leaf is handy, give it at least a cursory glance before putting it into action. Most will be fine, but you’ll want to stay away from anything on this list.
Also, wash your hands. I know you are already doing a lot of that lately, but fecal bacteria is a major cause of backcountry nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. There’s only one right way to do it, assuming you’ve got a companion. After you’re done, have someone squirt some water and some soap into your hands. Your contaminated hands shouldn’t touch anything. Wash thoroughly. Then, you can get back to scouring the internet for toilet paper.
Written by Bill Heavey/Field for Popular Science and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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