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February 5, 2010

Advice on working virtually to Inc. Magazine staffers from In Good Company Workplaces

Starting this week the staff of Inc. magazine started an experiment. For the month of February, they will all be working virtually and then writing about their experiences.

We love this initiative! We asked some of the ladies of In Good Company to share their advice and tips with these newly untethered writers.

Posted below is what some had to say . Do YOU have advice for the Inc staffers? You can tell them here.

1. I've converted all of my email to be accessed entirely electronically on any computer. I run my work email through gmail which sends it via my work email's pop server so that recipients can't tell that I'm sending it through gmail but I have the web accessibility (and endless storage!) that gmail provides.

On a personal and non-technological level, a key benefit of virtual working is minimalism. It made me recognize how few of the office supplies, papers and the other mountains of activity that used to accumulate on my desk I actually need. Now, the contents of my office are pared down to a couple of well-organized file boxes, a laptop, a moleskine notebook and a little nerd-sac filled with the bare bones of requisite clips, post-its and pens. I also have a redweld folder of stationery, folders and envelopes for sending packages. All of this fits into the equivalent of a small gym locker. And I can't remember a time in the last months where I needed something that wasn't contained in that tiny space.

Alexandra Machinist
Linda Chester Literary Agency

2. I find that the best way to be productive working at home is to create an area at home that’s specifically for “work” only and block out a chunk of hours to devote to a specific project etc – so you’re not constantly distracted by the laundry you need to do or your sink full of dishes. Turn off email alerts if possible and get situated to crank out a few solid hours of whatever it is you’re working on. Creating a daily schedule for myself (coffee — and sometimes laundry breaks included), even when I’m at home, is beyond helpful!

I have also found that working virtually has definitely allowed me to be much more “green” without necessarily realizing it. I print less paper, have fewer file folders and am able to stay organized more effectively.

Working virtually and not being in an office or corporate environment with a computer guru on-hand can be a little daunting and often frustrating. One of the most helpful additions I’ve done with my business is to have immediate access to great computer assistance over the phone and/or online with Help with a Smile, a virtual or in person computer service. The guys are always available when you call and can jump into your computer virtually to solve any minor (and some major) problems quickly. Having a similar service is peace of mind if nothing else (and that means a lot when you’re working on your own!).

Marissa Lippert, Founder of Nourish Nutrition Counseling & author of The Cheater’s Diet (April 15th)

3. If you've always worked in an office setting, having easy access to co-workers may be something you take for granted - until they're not there!
Think about your preferred ways of breaking up solitary work time throughout the day. If you are someone who enjoys and gets energy from socializing, brainstorming or grabbing a quick coffee with colleagues, working on your own can be a major adjustment.

If that's the case, make sure to build time into your schedule, whenever possible, to engage in some of these activities.
If you are working from home, experiment with whether virtual contact via email, phone or Skype does the trick. If so, great. If not, try to find a public space with WiFi where other solo workers congregate and where you can go if you start to feel as though you're working in solitary confinement. You never know who you might meet! Or coordinate breaks with friends / neighbors who also work from home.

If you live in an area where coworking opportunities exist, consider checking them out to see whether they appeal to you. Depending on the types of packages available and the community of people who congregate there, you could wind up satisfying your need for interacting with others AND building your network at a price that doesn't break the bank.

Eden Abrahams
Clear Path Executive Coaching

4. Aside from setting a schedule, I think it is really important for you to get out of the house at least once each day. It could be for coffee, a walk around the block, a trip to the post office, a meeting, whatever. Sitting in front of your computer all day is a sure way to kill your motivation and creativity. Not only should you break up your day , but it is important for you clear your head and get a change of scenery. I find that it is during these “down” times that my best ideas can come to me.

Amy Abrams
Co-founder, In Good Company Workplaces

5. I find that I need to be very careful about defining “working” and “non-working” times. It is hard when you work from home or virtually to separate your work day from a regular evening at home. Where I have run into trouble is times that I have finished up work for the day and will be enjoying my evening and then somehow find myself looking at my blinking red blackberry, reading emails that have come in and thinking about issues that need attention and adding up to-do list items. Since I am not really “working” I can’t take action on anything, but I am distracted and un-relaxed. When this pattern is repeated I start to feel as though I am never off and never have any downtime. This doesn’t mean that I can’t choose to work late some nights, or take a break and then return to work after dinner, but I try to be clear with myself about what time is what. Non-work time is spent far from the blackberry and with my outlook closed.

Also, what works best for me is to schedule like tasks together. I try to put phone calls back to back, and group accounting and detail work, and then carve out time for more thoughtful work like writing. I don’t work well when I do 15 minutes of one thing, followed up by a phone call, followed by 30 minutes of writing, and then back to another phone call.

Adelaide Lancaster
Co-founder, In Good Company Workplaces

6. As a business owner I often feel like there are dozens of things I need to be doing at any given moment. This often leads me into super over drive mode which can only last for so long before my brain waves get jammed and short circuit leaving me with little fuel in my tank for business projects and tasks. I have luckily discovered the perfect solution for getting my creativity, focus, motivation and inspiration flowing again. And living in NYC definitely helps. I just go on a little adventure. That’s right… sometimes in the middle of the work day! Over and over, I find it’s the best thing I could ever do for myself and my business. When I take an hour or two out of my day for these little field trips, I get it back ten fold. Just last month, I turned off the laptop and went directly to the Museum of Art and Design for a 2 hour field trip. The Slash exhibit there features paper cutting artist unlike anything I’ve ever seen! Another favorite is Papabubble candy shop… I find their creativity very stimulating! Or take a tour at the Tenement Museum, it really puts things in perspective. A mid morning stroll at the Highline is down right exhilarating! Immersing myself in these experiences is just what my brain needs to reboot itself and the positive side effects on my business are tremendous.

Erica Ecker, The Spacialist

7. Schedule time for fun and breaks, not just time for “work” I often block out time to be in “writing” mode, or “blogging” mode or “client service” mode, but then if I spend ten minutes on HuffPo or shopping on gilt.com I feel, well, guilty. So now I actually schedule short 15 minute breaks for guilty pleasures (snacks, online browsing, phone calls to friends) so I don’t feel so indulgent about doing them and then I’m more diligent about getting back to work. Building in breaks winds up being more efficient /productive / effective then having them creep up on me—in my world, three minutes on YouTube often turns into thirty minutes online, ten minutes on the phone and twenty minutes in the kitchen and next thing I know I’ve lost an hour.

Jodi Glickman Brown, Great on the Job

Share you thoughts & advice!!

1 comment:

Michael Hsu said...

Thanks for sharing. Good tips for anyone (including me) trying to run a virtual office environment.