Working from Home … Since 2007

On March 11, 2020, the world was turned upside down when the WHO declared a worldwide pandemic. COVID-19 has completely disrupted the workplace, with many companies deploying remote work as an alternative to the traditional office.   To paraphrase Liam Neeson from Taken, our team, team, while equally rattled by the sudden changes, has a very particular set of skills, skills we have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make us a resource for people who may not be used to working from home (WFH)—NewGround PR and Marketing has been a remote company since 2007. 

 About a year after I founded NewGround, I made the decision to make it a remote company based on two major factors: I wanted to hire the most talented people no matter where they were located versus being limited to hiring people who could drive to an office in Los Angeles where NewGround is based. This was hard even for people living in Los Angeles! And, being a company with clients across the country, it was rare for clients to come to our office. During the recession, it became clear that the money I was spending on office space would be better used as an investment in talent and new technology.

 Working from home is a real art. Lots of people think it’s all daytime TV and curling up on the sofa with your laptop, but in many ways, it’s much harder than working from an office. You need discipline, motivation and you have to be very happy in your own company!

But, the benefits of working from home are obvious. If you’re a regular employee: you skip the commute and there are no office distractions for the day. If you’re an entrepreneur: reduced overheads, no commuting, and a congenial working environment. It takes a bit of planning and trial and error to get the perfect home office environment, though. And – everyone is different.  Below are some tips from our team to yours on how to crush the great WFH experience of 2020.  I hope they’re helpful.

Robert O’ Shaughnessy – President of Marketing and Digital Services

Managing in a Working from Home Environment

We’ve used a WFH model for more than a decade and at this point, it’s in our blood. As a manager, it is all about routine. For managers, keep consistent and be sure your team is following a routine and using the same technologies. If different people use different tech, challenges emerge. Managers should have clear and consistent policies on which meeting tool, which communication tools, which project management tools are used. For NewGround, we rely on GoToMeeting for teleconferencing and video conferencing, Slack for immediate communication, Google Docs for creative collaboration, Dropbox acts our central server and we use Basecamp for project management.   

On a personal level, I say: go to the office! But wait, the office is your bedroom? Well, still treat it as “going to work.” By that I mean wake up, do some fitness routine, get your coffee, shower, button up that shirt, then “go to the office.” Just because nobody can smell your breath doesn’t mean skip brushing your teeth.

Carol Ruiz- Principal and Founder

Best Practices for Introverts and Extroverts

I was aware when I decided to operate a remote company that working from home is better suited to some personality types than others. It’s commonly thought that introverts are better remote workers than extroverts, but there are challenges for both personality types as well as solutions that can make it a rewarding and successful experience.

 For introverts, the challenge is that they may embrace it beyond what is actually healthy, both mentally and physically.  So, it’s important to find a balance. On very busy days, it’s great to isolate while being consumed by work, but on slower days using technology to connect with co-workers, friends, and family, and getting outside during the day to get some sunlight and exercise, can create that balance and keep one feeling human.

 For extroverts, who get their energy from being with other people, the challenges of working from home are obvious. Technology can help with feeling isolated so instead of relying solely on email, picking up the phone to hear another human voice or using video conferencing can go a long way in easing the feeling of isolation. In ordinary times, extroverts can use co-working spaces or working at a coffee house a couple of times a  week for in-person interaction. During these ‘social distancing’ times, though, another technology solution is to find a YouTube channel that loops office sounds!

One of the best perks for all is that it’s much easier to avoid accidental interactions with the most annoying office personalities. No more cubicle drop-ins from Debbie Downer or Mr. TMI (not that we have any of those personalities at NewGround). 

Shelley Miller – President

WFH with Family and Pets

When you have a houseful of family and pets, it’s important to communicate with your loved ones what your workday entails and their need to be respectful of that. Whether it’s a video/phone conference or just much needed quiet time, communicate what times are off-limits. This allows having friends over, playing loud music, PlayStation screams (!!), and any “bothersome” questions when there’s a break in the day. Pets, on the other hand, don’t understand these rules and will attempt to disrupt things as much as possible. For conference calls, designate a quiet space for yourself, and be mindful of the daily barking triggers…basically, anything that’s going to prompt the doorbell to ring. Keep plenty of dog chews and treats on hand for really long calls. In the end, setting guidelines with your loved ones (human and non-human) will make all the difference in your workday!

Jamie Latta Corson – VP of Social and Content

How You End One Day has a Huge Impact on How You Start the Next

Have rock-solid end-of-workday and morning routines. I find that how you end one day really impacts how you start the next.  At the end of each workday, I look at the next day’s calendar and make my to-do list and schedule accordingly. This does two things: it puts a button on the end of my workday and allows me to let it go and move into my personal life without constant thoughts about what I have to do and it allows me to actually have personal time.  Write it down, let it go and it will be there for you to tackle tomorrow. In the morning I ALWAYS start with “me” time. Because I know what my day has in store, I can wake up in time to do yoga, meditate or whatever I need to ensure I’m at my best.  I say fill your cup first, so you have more to give. Otherwise, you will run on empty and that’s not good for anybody.

Katy Biggerstaff – Public Relations Director

Workspace Essentials

I’ve spent equal amounts of my career working from an office and working from home. While there are a lot of obvious differences from what you wear (slacks or sweats) to how you spend your breaks (cat nap anyone?), one thing remains constant: Having an organized and dedicated workspace is key to being productive (and happy).  As more businesses are enforcing work-from-home scenarios, here are my top ways to get your workspace set up for success.

  • Find yourself a dedicated and comfortable spot to work, preferably separate from other members of the household.
  • Bring the outdoors in. If possible, try to find a space with natural light. Sunshine is good for the soul.
  • Also, buy some plants. They make the air healthier and bring life to a space (Home Depot is delivering plants in our area right now).
  • Keep near you a few items that inspire and create joy – pictures of your friends/family, inspirational quotes, or a trinket from a special trip. Try not to go overboard and clutter the space.
  • Create a cozy environment. Light a candle or diffuser, put on some warm fuzzy socks, turn on some ambient background music. It’ll help get and keep you in the zone.
  • Only spend time in your workspace during “work hours.” You need to create a work/life balance.

Chandra Blair – Account Director

Schedule Your Day Like a Work Day

Create a daily schedule similar to what you did when you worked outside the home.    Get up and get ready to start your day at your normal work start time (much shorter commute – YESSSS ), take normal breaks, eat your lunch at your usual time and outside of your office/desk area.  Don’t get in the habit of eating lunch at your desk!   Sign off of your laptop at the normal time you would, working outside of the home.

Julie Fornaro – Publicist

Stay in Shape and Keep Your Body Moving

Working from home has so many benefits. For instance, I really enjoy the (10 second) commute. However, working from home can also influence you to be more sedentary, if you aren’t careful. To ensure that I get my body moving each day, I prioritize exercise just as I do my deadline work assignments. Each day when I wake up, I look at my calendar and what projects and conference calls I must complete. I immediately find a time and block it out (i.e. I make an appointment with myself) for my “me time exercise” and commit to this appointment just as I would an important client meeting. Before the coronavirus outbreak, my daily exercise often occurred in a gym, dance studio or as a bike ride on the beach. With social distancing in place, I am now participating in once-daily online dance, gym or yoga sessions that I can easily do in my living room. If you belong to a gym or other type of fitness studio, chances are high they are currently offering (or looking to implement) online classes for you during this time. YouTube is a great resource for free exercise videos as well. Try Fitness Blender’s channel, which offers a wide range of workouts to follow along to. There are also many dance fitness videos offered by numerous channels on YouTube. In addition to the workout benefits, dance is a known mood lifter. Let’s get moving everyone!

Ann Yasko – Operations Manager

Working While Parenting

Working from home can be distracting, to say the least – add kids home from school and things get really crazy! When it comes to working from home with kiddos, you have to have boundaries. Write out a schedule that shows which times of the day you are absolutely not available- like for conference calls. Make sure to have an engaging activity for them (or let’s be honest – some screen time) planned for those times. Then shut your office door! Good luck out there. We know you can do it!

Rob and Jo Beck – Director of Engineering and Digital Designer

Have Dedicated Workspace and Work Like a Human Being

We’ve been working from home for years, and are fortunate to have our own rooms (two extra bedrooms) that we converted to offices. Having a dedicated space that is separate from your living space is key. We also enjoy a really short commute from the bedroom to the office with the only traffic risk is the possibility of tripping over the dog.

 Here are our top three tips for working at home that will help you feel like a member of the workforce and less like a troll:

  • Shower and dress before checking emails. The temptation is to quickly check emails and before you know it you’ve spent half the morning in dishabille. This may seem novel and fun at first, but it’s a slippery slope my friend.
  • Eat all meals in the kitchen or dining room. You see, the thing is that your kitchen is now right there, full of yummy goodies, and no one is watching! It’s so easy to grab snacks and drag them up to your office lair.  Resist this temptation! The pitfalls include losing track of what and how much you consume, crumby keyboards, and the missed opportunity to get up and stretch. Which brings us to obvious tip number three…
  • Get up and move around! Time slips by fast. If you need help remembering to stand up and stretch, set a timer to go off about once an hour.

Ryan Marquardt – Account Manager

Get to Know Yourself

Welcome to the wild, wild world of…you. In the days of social media and constant connectivity, it feels like we know more about those around us than we do about ourselves. Working from home, however, changes that reality. When you spend this much time with yourself, it’s important to make sure you appreciate and respect yourself. Strive to get real about things you might never have considered in a traditional office environment: Where does the personal and professional life begin and end? Where do I go after work if I’m already home? How does an organized vs. messy space impact my mental clarity? How do I avoid laziness, or conversely, burnout? How do I keep myself accountable for literally everything, from deadlines to lunchtime? How do I continue evolving professionally? It’s a lot. It’s normal. But it’s not a hindrance. This is your burgeoning self-awareness. You’re getting acquainted with the unfolding dimensions of you.

 It’s not always easy, yet it can be remarkably beneficial if you’re already exploring a self-awareness practice you enjoy. For example, if there’s a therapist or life coach you regularly gain insight from, that counts. Maybe your curiosity soars at reading the results of credible personality quizzes, like DISC or Myers-Briggs. Perhaps you meditate every morning, or see a tarot card reader every month, or study your family’s genealogy in your downtime. Maybe you write a gratitude list each night.

 Whatever the case, try to establish and maintain a self-awareness practice in your personal time. It will transform your work (from home) “problems” – and there will be many – into personal and professional growth spurts.

John Chilson – Social Media Manager and Content Manager

Create a Light and Airy Workspace

What are the keys to a successful workspace? Lots of light and air. If you can, choose a space near a window so you can get the morning, afternoon, and late afternoon sunlight streaming into your workspace. Natural light has so many advantages including boosting vitamin D, sleep improvement, increased energy, and reducing your health risks (bye-bye ugly office fluorescent lighting). Match that with a nice breeze and your space is comfortable to work at any time of the day. And with a window nearby, take a break from your monitor and look out the window once in a while. Your eyes (and brain) could use a break.

Christine Rombouts – Publicist

Get a routine

I’ve been working from home for more than 15 years so I like to think I have this self-quarantine thing down. There are many tips out there but there’s just one thing you do have to do—WORK. You still have to be a productive person and a part of the team. How is this possible? Here are my tips.

  • Try and work regular hours and try to work a full day. I usually wake up around 7:45 am and start working around 8 am. I stop at 5 pm. Even if there are times in between where you’re running errands, exercising and so forth, put in a full day every day as much as you possibly can.
  • Try and set up a space that is just for work. I have a home office so I’m fortunate. I’m not one of those people who take my laptop to Starbucks and work while I’m sipping on coffee. My husband always says, “why don’t you take your laptop to the back yard once in a while and work from there…it’s so nice out here…” NOPE. It doesn’t really feel like I’m working that hard if I’m not sitting at that desk. You have to avoid little mental setbacks because it takes an incredible amount of will and self-discipline to successfully work from home.
  • I like background noise so I always have the radio or TV on. Since it’s just me at home, it feels too sad and lonely if it’s completely quiet. If you keep the TV on, keep it on low and pick a show that you don’t really care about so you won’t be tempted to actually watch it. I’m a news junkie (and I do work in PR), so I love to keep certain news programs on but this may not be a good idea for everyone, especially now. It’s embarrassing, but good old Young and the Restless and Bold and the Beautiful are two shows I have on every day. I don’t pay attention to every scene, but somehow those TV characters do provide companionship. That’s right, Victor Newman and I are great friends!
  • Once you’ve accomplished the first three things above and it’s 5pm. It’s good to have something that allows you to transition from work to non-work, even though you’re in the same place. I move from my office to the living room where I like to unwind by watching The Office and sipping on a glass of wine.

Try and enjoy this experience as much as possible. Working from home is the BEST! It’s going to be hard for you to go back when this is all over. For now, stay sane, stay healthy and stay away from everyone.

NewGround understands that this is a big change for many. Working from Home takes an adjustment period. Hopefully, these tips from our team will offer some hope. Let’s all remember, WFH in these trying times saves lives and keeps our economy moving. We know you can do this!

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