March, 2020

Distraction Struggle Bus–Work From Home and Actually WORK

With the latest virus issues forcing many people to work from home, I’m seeing a lot of struggle from folks who are used to a typical office job environment keeping you on task and publicly responsible. While its nice to spend more time with your kids and spouse, avoid a commute, and let’s be honest, wear our pajamas all day, I’m also seeing a lot of people aimlessly surfing Facebook and Instagram and posting about how they aren’t getting anything done, fighting with spouses, how their house is a mess, their kids are wild, and they are eating all their quarantine food. Ah, freedom. Double edged sword.

Work from home and be productive!

I’ve worked from home for about 15 years, with one remote full time job in there and the rest of the time working for a variety of clients across the country. I live alone, but I also have a farm, high maintenance show horses, indoor dogs, neighbors wanting me to help, and a lot of personal hobby distractions. Here are some tips for getting work done while working from home.

  1. If you haven’t fully left the office yet, put any digital files from your network or local hard drive into a Dropbox. You can work on them, keep the latest version accessible, and also share it with anyone else you need to see or edit it without uploading, downloading and huge email files. There’s a free version of Dropbox that allows for quite a bit of storage. Obviously, if your company has a very strict privacy policy or sensitive info (banks, hospitals) this may not be possible. When you go back to work, you can easily transfer the files back to their local places. Save paper!
  2. Set aside a dedicated work area. Hopefully you have an office at home with a desk and a door. Ergonomics are your friend. Don’t try to work from the couch or the kitchen stools. It won’t work long term, and you’re going to end up needing a chiropractor and a massage. Also, NO NAPS, it’s a slippery slope. Also, if you’re a music person, cool. But TV tends to be super distracting.
  3. Stay on a time frame. THIS ISN’T VACATION. If you normally get up at 5, get up at 5. Instead of getting ready or commuting, take the extra time to start a load of laundry, walk the dog, exercise, or read a magazine. Stay on a work schedule. Also reminder, no naps. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!
  4. Some people say to dress in regular clothes (that means bras and shoes, people!) I don’t have a thing with this one, I pretty much wear comfy clothes or barn clothes all day. However, I will warn you that if you’re doing #5, your regular clothes aren’t going to fit next time you put something on with a zipper…and if you’re doing video conferences…or you even MIGHT get a FaceTime from a client or boss, you may want to put more effort into appearance ahead of time.
  5. It is not an all day buffet! Don’t go to the kitchen/bar cart all day. You are going to regret the stress eating and grazing. Do your normal coffee, lunch times, etc. but maybe take some time at to set out some food for dinner, be a little healthier, or prepare a more labor intense dinner. If you have kiddos, make them a “lunch” bag or box, and they an only have the snacks you set out for them, not more. When they are at school or daycare, they have a schedule for snacks. Stick to that. If you’re an “out to eater” try to patronize the small local mom and pop restaurants for to-go if that is still an option. We need to support them now or we are going to get real sick of our own cooking come June.
  6. If you have kiddos (I only have furry ones) they are going to want your undivided attention. They are winning at this #quarantine2020 game. I promise if you are quiet and then get on a conference call or VIDEO they are going to scream and bark and run through behind you carrying a pair of underwear. I fake mine out by closing my door 15 minutes or so ahead of time and then talking to myself, doing a quick call to my mom, or playing videos with talking so they get it out of their systems. I also let the dogs out or even lock them outside before any scheduled calls. You can still look professional. Try distracting them with treats and movies and even (for the dogs ok, but I’ve suggested it for kids) crates if they can’t be chill while you’re working. You have to be strict here and not allow them to constantly bother you, or you won’t get a thing done. If they have home school, set them a task and expect them to “WORK” just like you’re working. Earn rewards. Go outside for recess. Sunlight and activity are good for all of us!
  7. IF you have FaceTime or video calls (Zoom, etc) try to visualize what your surroundings look like. Put on decent clothes, check what is behind you (we can see your toilet and dirty laundry).
  8. If you’re at home with your significant other, you have to keep boundaries. Many of my friends are complaining that they aren’t ever around each other this much. You aren’t forced to hold hands while working from home. Just cuz you’re both there doesn’t mean you have to hang out together. Go to different areas of the house and then meet up for a scheduled “lunch date” in the kitchen. If you have kids that are very young, split the day up. One is in charge in morning, one in afternoon. Don’t bother the other one, you’re a single parent during this time! Dads, this means you have to find the snack and change the diaper, and moms, you have to let them and not micromanage, remember you’re at work! Even if it’s just behind the guest room door.
  9. STAY OFF SOCIAL MEDIA. This one gets me too. It is a time suck, and right now its very distracting and mood killing. Fighting, politics, panic, etc etc etc. Getting sucked into the media and numbers is just causing more stress, which hurts our immune systems. Set a time to catch up on a few things, but don’t lurk on there all day. Focus on getting projects done.
  10. You can multi-task. Put a load of laundry in. Get up to move your body, stretch, switch loads. Start the dishwasher before you start “work.” But if you’re working, you’re not cleaning the bathroom right now. And when you are doing one of these extra things, listen to a podcast or a book.
  11. If you’re not busy with work, and some of us are very very slow, use this time to work on YOUR business. I’m doing some websites and emails for folks who’ve always wanted to sell online or start a side hustle. I’m building content for them to use for months to come. Update your business marketing. Haven’t done any new social media content? Do you need a new brochure? Have you done any email marketing? Still have time? Go through your closets, garage, etc for things to donate or sell. Train your dog (my pro trainer friend is doing online dog training), catch up on family movie night. Us horse folks are doing extra training if we can find dry arenas. Go for a hike if you can without people. Clean out your camper/boat for the summer. Plant a garden, read some books, there are some free online resources right now for education to up your hobbies or work game. Always wanted to learn a new skill? Now is the time.
  12. Catch up with friends and family. I have a happy hour FaceTime scheduled with an old friend out of state. We have the luxury of time right now, use it wisely, but still get your work done.

We don’t know how long this quarantine is going to last, but I think everyone would like more flexibility in their jobs, with less commute and more time to do what they like with their friends and family. Even if you’re an office person who likes that building, having freedom to accomplish work and goals from anywhere is a nice thing to have. If you can show your remote capability, professionalism, and productivity to your boss now, maybe your future looks a little more flexible for when we head into summer and beyond. Embrace remote but don’t treat it like a vacation, and we may all have a more flexible future doing more of what we love while still making a living.

Product Flow–Potential Hazards That Can Cripple Your Company?

Cargo containers, imported goods, dock, shipping, import, export, tariffs, global economy

Importing components, finished goods, or packaging from other countries can cause a hiccup in your supply chain.

Right now Coronavirus aka COVID-19 is taking over the news. The virus and the debate on if it is “just like the flu” or if it is the next death scourge pandemic is causing panic, shelves to be stripped of water, cleaning agents, toilet paper and canned goods. Major events on our radar, like South By Southwest (SXSW) and the American Quarter Horse Association convention, are being canceled, causing economic repercussions in cities such as Austin and Las Vegas, costing individuals and companies hundreds of thousands of dollars in cancellation fees, which trickles down to airlines, hotels, restaurants, etc. all losing money and fewer dollars in workers pockets. BUT, it brings up another side point. China is still being hit pretty hard with the virus, causing workers to be quarantined, and becoming too sick to work. When you have a product or component or packaging that is made in China….it may LITERALLY be on the slow boat or not coming at all.

Many companies, even if products are assembled or made in the US, import components from China. Electronics, sensors, plastic, metal, heating units, footwear, most tech clothing, etc. are all MOSTLY manufactured in China. Apple has already warned investors it will not hit sales targets this quarter as factories and stores in China are closed. But besides the obvious cell phone, iPad and printer that are made in Asia, have you considered that the packaging, labels (many times required by US law on food and apparel), fasteners (buttons, velcro), and even packaging tape, printer ink, or shopping bags are made in China? Think through your ENTIRE product life cycle, including marketing materials and packaging, fixtures, labels, packing materials and anything you purchase from an outside vendor. Could factory and shipping delays from China potentially interfere with YOU getting your product out the door and money in your bank? If you can’t ship completed product on time, will you lose sales? For retail stores, where is your product coming from? If you can’t fill your fixtures, what will you replace it with? Something mundane like packaging may seem silly, but if you can’t ship your product correctly and it’s damaged, what will you find for an alternative? Do you have an alternative printer for your labels if they are required on your product?

According to Economist Sung Won Sohn of Loyola Marymount University, the virus outbreak, along with the Trade War, are causing some US Companies to rethink their reliance on Chinese suppliers (All Things Considered, 2/20/2020), and consider shifting the supply chain to other parts of the world, which may increase costs. I might argue that cutting costs in the short term by using overseas suppliers may not pan out so good in the long term when you’re crippled by a missing piece of the puzzle and can’t ship or sell.

Many of my clients are running into issues with components of their process, not necessarily the end product. Steel, velcro, neoprene, and plastic supplement buckets all come on the boat. So does bubble wrap, ziplock bags, and printer ink. Now may be the time to find alternative producers, less packaging, and not put all your suppliers in one boat. Because that boat may be a long time coming.