Work At Home Tips From Woodcraft

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The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has forced many businesses to look for innovative ways to continue operations wherever possible. In some cases, that means allowing some or all of their workforce to work remotely. While working from home is already a reality for many people, not all companies have offered that type of flexibility until now.

In an effort to balance the safety and health of its employees with the financial well-being of the company, Woodcraft took steps recently to allow some of the corporate office staff the option of working from home. President and CEO Jack Bigger said, “For us to continue our operations, we must continue to have stores that sell, a website engaged with customers, a warehouse that ships products and a team that supports all of those basic functions.”  

Even in light of social distancing and self-quarantining, this arrangement is a whole new ballgame full of questions and uncertainty for some Woodcraft employees. Remote work offers perks like “no dress code”— but it can also present a variety of problems, especially if one lacks self-discipline. “Can I really do my job from home?” “Will I be out of the loop?” “Will I eat all of my quarantine snacks in two days?”

We polled some of our remote workers for their best tips for creating a successful work/life balance and we’d like to share those with others who may be navigating this new territory along with us. As Copy Editor Sharon Hambrick stated, “Working at home requires some discipline for me, so I have a few basic guidelines for myself to keep me in ‘office mode’ during regular work hours.” The key is to think of working remotely in the same way as if you were on site only your cubicles are further apart.

Brian Honey, Woodcraft’s Email & Social Media Specialist, uses a spare 43" TV as an extra-large monitor at home.

#1 - KEEP YOUR ROUTINE

We heard this over and over again: maintain a routine. It's essential if you expect to get your work done at home.  Get up, get ready and ‘go to work,’” is VP of Distribution & Purchasing Jerry VanCamp’s advice.

Brian Honey, Woodcraft’s Email & Social Media Specialist, who has worked from home in former lives, says, “If you've never worked from home, you might think, ‘Wow, this is gonna rock. I can get up, grab some breakfast, and lay in bed or lounge on the couch and get my laptop on.’” You can’t expect to watch all episodes of Tiger King on Netflix during the day and be productive. (Besides, that train wreck deserves your full attention.) While working in PJs might sound great, our regular “auto pilot” morning routine sets the tone to transition us from home to work mode.

Power Tool Product Manager Jessica Douglas says, “I’m still getting up at the regular time, taking the dog out for a walk at the normal time and starting/stopping work at the same time.”  Digital Marketing Director September Fleming agrees. “Keeping a routine helps make the workday seem normal, although I’m at home all day. Each morning, I shower and put on comfy clothes instead of ‘work’ clothes. I make sure I brew my coffee and start my day at 8:30 at the kitchen table as I would if I was in the office.”

Keeping a schedule includes taking a regular lunch break each day – preferably one away from your workstation. According to Sharon Hambrick, “I stop and fix lunch and eat somewhere else in the house because my home office is small. When the weather is warm enough to eat outside, I will do that just as I did at the office.”

Jessica Douglas and her husband are both currently working from home, but in different areas.
September Fleming works from her kitchen table but still keeps “office hours.” 

Sharon Hambrick created a workspace in her spare bedroom.

#2 – CREATE A COMFORTABLE WORK STATION

Brian Honey advises, “If you have a desk or good table you can use, great! If not, try to set yourself up with a laptop tray/support. Sitting on the couch and ‘working’ might sound fun, but your laptop can get uncomfortable.” Another tip: get a good chair! If you are improvising, at least make sure your chair has a bottom cushion, and use a spare pillow for back support. 

September Fleming’s kitchen workstation isn’t ideal, so she compensates by “standing up and stretching more throughout the day since my kitchen chairs weren’t meant to be sat in for 8+ hours at a time.”

Social Media Director Kyle Crabtree recommends having a dedicated space with proper lighting. Also, “Try to have everything you need at hand. There will be plenty enough distractions working at home. Having to get up a lot to retrieve things invites larger distractions.”

Buyer Darlene Colgrove suggests making good use of your smart TV: “It makes an excellent large extra monitor.”

Buyer Darlene Colgrove and Product Development Manager Kent Harpool shared photos of their work-at-home stations. 

#3 - STAY ENGAGED & BE HEARD

One of the biggest downfalls to working from home is potentially feeling isolated. But as Jessica Douglas recommends, “Keep communicating! Even though my work group isn’t down the hall right now, we still have to keep in touch. We’re utilizing technology for a daily call-in, plus text and emails throughout the day to keep projects and problems moving forward.” September Fleming also starts each day with a team video chat, and they all talk throughout the day when assistance is needed. This also helps a bit by eliminating idle chitchat that normally occurs in an office environment. Product Development Manager Kent Harpool says, “Check in with your supervisor at least once a day. A lot of folks are using Zoom for video conferencing.”

Katelyn Knost, Data Programmer, who has worked from home for some time, has daily morning meetings via Microsoft Teams. “This helps everyone in our group, including our director, to know what everyone is doing for the day and what we should be focusing on next.” Woodcraft has many technologies in place, like a ticketing system for IT and business applications issues, to allow remote workers to work efficiently and effectively. She says responsiveness and timeliness are key. “A timely response helps everyone’s comfort level with the remote environment.”

Director of Purchasing Jason Guthrie agrees that communication is a must: “The need to call and talk to people is important.  Emails and texts are fine for getting input on tasks but they are no substitute for a good old-fashioned conversation.”

Kyle Crabtree suggest having a good headset, headphones and mic so that you can conduct calls and web meetings. To that end, Digital Marketing Senior Merchandiser Lori Williamson advises it is important to test your setup/equipment before calls/meetings. She had some technical difficulties on her team’s first video conference call, so she felt that was important tip to share.  

Katelyn Knost makes use of technology to complete her duties as a data programmer.

#4 - MANAGE WORKLOAD

September Fleming set her team up for success by establishing direct expectations from the get-go: “I wrote up a clear agenda for each person on my staff. They know what they need to work on.” For herself, she creates a daily to-do list. “I love completing a task and ‘marking it off the list’—it helps me feel like I’ve accomplished things throughout the day. I prioritize my list based on deadlines.”

She also keeps her work area neat by having organized folders for different duties. “That way, I only keep a couple of folders at a time on the kitchen table to work on. The others I keep in my backpack until they are needed.”

Lori Williamson sets daily goals. “I am learning and adjusting myself on how best to accomplish my duties. For me, I am setting daily goals based on my workload. Marking off items as I go. My team is also sending summaries of our days a couple times a week.” 

Most of us are pretty decent at multitasking, but to maintain a successful work/life balance, keep it work related during work hours. Sharon Hambrick says, I resist the temptation during the day to do anything else, since there are always things to be done at the house. That way I can stay focused on work.”

Jessica Douglas noted, “At the end of the day, I close everything up and leave work ‘at work’ until the next day, the same as I would when I leave the office.”

Lori Williamson created a separate workspace away from her husband and children, who are also at home right now.

#5 - THOSE OTHER PEOPLE YOU LIVE WITH

One major distraction when working from home can be those pesky other people you live with: spouses, children and pets, to name a few. If you have the option of another person to help watch after little ones, that’s a bonus. But even if you don’t, try to setup a schedule, Brian Honey advises. “Take a break in the AM, at lunch, and in afternoon—and spend it with them. This can be good even with older kids too! Walk dogs if you need to, try to get your cat to acknowledge you as a living being for you cat people.”

Another tip he offers: “If you can, separate yourself from other family members or kids—different room, another floor. It helps establish a difference between you ‘home and working’ and you ‘home and ready to play, watch TV, etc.’”

Katelyn Knost makes sure her kids stay busy. Since Cameron (12) is a little older, he’s better at finding things to occupy his time, but “I plan a day’s worth of activities for Raelyn (6) so she is able to stay entertained and I am able to stay focused.”

Lori Williamson and her family are working together to find solutions as they all try to work and do schoolwork from their home. Her college-age daughter Emily and high-school-age son Andrew are home, as well as her husband Dave. “We all just sat down and had a discussion about what was happening and why I was working from home and it would be just like I was at work. As long as everyone is on the same page it can done.” They all work in separate areas of their home to keep distractions to a minimum.

Brian’s kids are older too, “But my dogs will bark at any old thing, all the time.” The pets at Jessica Douglas’ house are also making adjustments. “The animals are getting used to us being home all day and not being able to play at will—they needed some training, too, as we all adjust.” September Fleming agrees. “I’ve had to have more than one talk with the dog—he thinks since I’m home it is play time.” Or you might try Jason Guthrie’s suggestion: “Lock the dog in the other room—he snores!”

September also had to set up a “you gotta wear clothes” rule at her house after her husband walked into the kitchen for coffee wearing only his underwear when she was on a video conference call. Woopsy.

September Fleming’s coworker Jack, laying down on the job. 
Lori Harper’s coworker Lynard calling an impromptu meeting. 

 #6 - TAKE BREAKS

Working remotely, it is easy to get focused on a task and forget to step away from your work area. Jessica Douglas recommends building breaks into your day. “There are a lot fewer steps to the restroom now when you need a stretch and a break, so I try to make sure to stand up and stretch more frequently.”

Brian Honey echoes that sentiment. “Take a break, have some coffee or tea, step out on your porch and relax a bit, and if you're really stressed, just BREATHE, seriously. Really deep breaths can help calm you, and help get your mind in a better place.” Over your lunchbreak, get outside if possible. Take a walk. Walk your dog. “Some fresh air does wonders to help take your thoughts away from worrying about You-Know-What,” Brian said.

Another pitfall: watch the snacking. Jessica said, “The ‘vending machine’ is free and much too close now.  I try to maintain the same snack/drink/lunch schedule as the office so I don’t raid the fridge when I’m stressed.”

Jerry VanCamp advises, “Drink water and get some exercise in the evening. I am sitting more than ever at home with no one to ‘go see.’” Sharon Hambrick listens to music as she works sometimes, just like she did in the office.

#7 – FINALLY – DON’T STRESS

Jack Bigger stated, “We’ve all heard it repeated many times that we are in this together, and we truly are. We’re all in this together.”

September Fleming advises, “Have compassion. Not everyone is used to this whole work from home thing, and sometimes we need to be patient as everyone gets acclimated to a ‘new normal.’”

Things are going to happen. As Kent Harpool said, “Expect interruptions from kids, animals and spouses. It will be OK. It can be frustrating but hey, every day is casual.”

Brian Honey added, “If you get stressed at kid/pet ‘incidents,’ or having difficulty with the VPN, or if there is trouble communicating with your team, or your Internet sucks here and there, at WHATEVER—take a step back...and...BREATHE.”  Simply put, do your best, and try to not be stressed.

Kyle Crabtrees work-at-home station offers plenty of light and a roomy desktop. 

In the scheme of things, what matters most is keeping our office support teams functioning in a safe environment. Today’s challenges are giving us a “pause” to look at new ways of doing business and streamlining workplace functions with technology. Jack Bigger said, “Thanks to all who continue to support the sales efforts of our stores and keep us moving in the right direction.” We are thankful to work for an insightful company that values individual well-being as highly as collective productivity.

Stay safe and healthy, everyone! 

We hope youll be inspired!

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