COVID-19 has led a permanent change in the way workplaces will operate in the future. We’re going to see more and more businesses moving to flexible working arrangements and working from home options in the wake of the global pandemic.
We know many businesses in the wedding industry may already be working from home and adapting to the differences COVID-19 means for your business procedures. Even though restrictions might be easing and schools might be going back, it’s important to make sure that you are ready for these changes in working. Even if your situation hasn’t changed, if the situation of someone in your household has changed this could play a part in changes to your own routine.
If you’re looking for working from home tips to make the most of during this time we recently ran a webinar with US wedding industry expert Sam Jacobson. Sam runs Ideaction Consulting, a firm aimed at helping wedding businesses grow their sales and marketing. He took us through some of the ways he works from home, and the advice he is giving to his clients about their working from home arrangements.
Sam says: Set boundaries for when you can or can’t be disturbed
Sam is currently sharing his home space with his wife and their two children. So he knows how busy the house can get when you have two adults working from home and two children who might be homeschooling at the moment as well!
“There are so many distractions for us all so it’s really, really important to make sure that you go at it with a structured plan,” Sam says.
“One of the first things that I recommend doing is making sure that everybody’s on the same page. You as parents have to get your game plan together and then when you come up with what your plan is, you’ve got to involve the kids.”
Sam and his family have worked on ways to create working areas out of other spaces in their home. Sam has his office, his wife is working from their bedroom upstairs, and the kids are schooling in a more communal area.
He recommends trying to use spaces that already have doors or sections where they can be cut off. A closed door is a clear signal that someone is at work and not to be disturbed.
“In one of the areas we have French doors,” Sam says. “If the door is open you can come in, if the door is closed but the shade is not down, you can knock and get permission to enter. And if the shade is down on the door, then it says stay out.”
If you don’t have a designated door that you can shut then a visual cue can work just as well. Sam says at times when he’s had to work in a communal space like a kitchen, a pair of noise-cancelling headphones can work to drown out distractions and also signal that he’s not to be disturbed.
“It’s another visual cue when I have these on,” Sam says. “People know not to bug me. This means that I’m in my office right now.”
If you have kids, make them feel involved
“Kids want your attention and they’re going to continue to push buttons until they get your attention,” Sam says.
“So what I recommend doing is talking with your kids, letting them know how important it is for you to have your time, but make sure you allocate some time before the workday starts to spend with them and give them that quality time that kids really crave from their parents.”
“Also at the end of the day when you’re done with work, make sure that you fully tune out so that you can spend time with your family and they won’t feel like you’re distracted while you’re with them.”
“That’ll help the middle of the day go by easier because they know that they can count on spending time with you both before and after the day.”
You can also break your day up into blocks of when you’re being attentive to your kids or when you’re busy working. Children crave routine to having these blocks in place will make it easier for them to know where the boundaries are being set.
Sam also recommends including your kids in the options of what is going on in the house. Particularly, if they’re going to be homeschooled at the moment.
“Involving the kids especially is really important because it’s so important to provide options for people to feel like they can participate and even sway some of the input their way,” Sam says.
You can get input from your kids when it comes to working environments, signals for when someone is working, or blocks of time to spend together. A good way of doing this is to have a few options for each that you are happy with and then letting the kids choose from those options. It means that they have a choice in what they are deciding, but that you are still guiding them on what will work for the family.
Make sure you have a schedule in place for working and winding down
Sam says that particularly in a time like COVID where a lot of businesses might have an open calendar in front of them, it’s more important than ever to make sure you have a schedule in place.
“What do you do when you have an open calendar, which is what a lot of us are facing because there’s no immediate wedding coming up next weekend, which is really what drives so much of what we’re doing?” Sam says.
“That can be really scary because there’s no structure to the day, there’s no benchmark to connect with. So I would recommend going through and trying to identify what you can do to start filling in these empty spots that are on your calendar.”
“If you are your own boss create a schedule, block out those 40 hours a week and make sure that you can create some sort of structure to the day like you normally would. You’ve got to maintain regular office hours. I think that you’ve got to make sure that you take your regular meal breaks and take regular breaks. Put on something that makes you feel like it’s a uniform for being in work.”
“Managing your time is really about making decisions on what’s important to you and what you need to do to allocate time on your schedule to make sure that you are giving it to the proper resource. How can I take that time and put it onto my calendar?”
Sam recommends tracking the time that you spend during the day on each task and looking at where you can spend more time or how you are using that time. When you’ve mapped our your working week you can also schedule downtime or other break time.
“I’d absolutely recommend some sort of shutdown procedure,” Sam says. “Just like you turn your computer off, if you can turn off your mind that’s focused on work you’ll be more present with your kids, with your significant other, with your pets, with yourself, with your friends, whatever it may be.”
Sam says: map out high-value tasks vs low-value tasks
Particularly in a time like COVID when it’s important to make sure you’re getting those bigger tasks done, prioritising your high-value tasks over your low-value tasks is so important. Here’s how Sam recommends doing it.
“Make a list of all the things that you want to do and just put it down on a piece of paper. Then one of the things that I recommend is to just draw a little grid, just a simple little plus sign with an X and a Y-axis. Go through and put times. Does it take a lot of time or a little bit of time? How much is it going to do for my business, a little bit or a lot? Go through and take each one of those tasks and assign it to a quadrant.”
“It’s going to be low-time low-value, low-time high-value, high-time low-value or high-time high-value. Then figure out a way to push to the back burner the high-time low-value and instead push to the front burner the low-time high-value.”
“That’s really what you want. You want to make a big impact without spending a lot of time on it. And when those things are finally done, then you can move on to the high-time high-value. But really, what you want to do is make sure that you’re focused on the high-value items first.”
Use lists to keep your momentum going
“One of the things that I like is to make a list every morning when I get started with the day,” Sam says. “The first thing I put on there is ‘make to-do list.’ And then when I’m done with making the to-do list, I cross it off.”
“That’s important because we want to have a sense of momentum and we want to build on activity and on the action and a sense of feeling like we’re getting things done.”
Coincidentally, getting those small milestones ready is the same way that wedding sales experts, including Sam, talk about getting couples to purchase a product or service. It’s about making them comfortable with the little features before getting them to say yes to the big one. Sam explains using this idea of momentum and milestones when he was learning to run a marathon.
“When I was going out for my long runs, especially on the weekend, I would put my shoes at the base of my bed,” Sam explains. So when I got up I would see my shoes and then I would tell myself ‘just put your shoes on and see what happens’. And that was the thing that then got me out the door.”
“And then I would say: ‘you don’t have to run all five miles today. Just go out and run one and see what happens.’ And by the time that I got out of bed, put my shoes on, walked out the door, started running, ran a mile, I was like ‘this is amazing I’m going to run all five miles.'”
“So when you’re making that to-do list, go through, start checking them off, make sure you’re not putting massive, huge projects on there. But put in the milestones. Keep that momentum going.”