Alli Worthington, a serial entrepreneur, best-selling author, podcaster, and business coach, shares her tried-and-true “musts” for setting yourself up for work-from-home success, and how to keep yourself ready for eventual re-entry into working at an office.
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Creating the perfect work environment goes beyond just picking out the most ergonomic office chair, right? What are some “musts” you had when creating your work environment at home?
I spend the majority of my workday in my office coaching business owners, writing, and leading my team. It’s easy to feel isolated in that type of environment, especially when you know your family is waiting for you on the other side of the door. The perfect work environment for me primarily involves two components. The first is I surround myself with things that make me happy. I put in a wall of bookshelves that doubles as a great background for videos and Zoom calls. I filled it with photos of places and people I love, items that remind me of good times, and books that have captured my heart and my mind in some way. You can’t help but feel good when you’re surrounded by happiness.
The second must-have for me is solid communication with my family related to the expectations of my workday. My work hours are set at home just like they would be in an office away from home, and they are clearly communicated to my husband and my sons. They know when my office door is closed not to come in, but if they have a question or need something, they can text me. I also tell everyone if I will be finished with work at a time other than 5:00 p.m. If I’m done at 4:00, I tell them the good news; if I’m finished at 5:30, they have a heads up that I’ll be delayed. This keeps us all on the same page and reduces stress in our household.
Self-care might seem like it would be an easier practice to implement when working from home, but that might not be the case. How do you make sure you’re maintaining a good balance between staying focused and taking breaks?
Good balance in any area of life comes with a good plan, otherwise tyranny of the urgent takes over like the terrible tyrant it is! I wake up at 5:00 every morning and 5:00-7:00 is what I call investment time. I read my Bible, pray, exercise, read for fun, or maybe take an online class. It’s an investment in myself, the ultimate self-care. Then I spend from 7:00-8:00 with the kids and get them set up for the day. From 8:00-10:00, I work “on” my business instead of “in” my business so I can keep building my company instead of using all my workday to help build my clients’ businesses.
For the rest of the day, I’m on coaching calls, investing in other women, helping them build their businesses. My calls are 30 minutes long, and I have calls in one- or two-hour blocks with 30-60-minute breaks in between. I find the scheduled work and break times keep me focused and on track throughout the day.
Offices and companies will hopefully be able to welcome employees back to a physical office space again soon. What should professionals working from home make sure they do now to keep that future transition back as smooth as possible?
A couple of things came to mind immediately as it relates to preparing for a future transition back to an office outside the home. My first thought was, “Get used to wearing actual clothes again!” I learned a long time ago to get up and get ready for the day, just as if I were going to an office outside the home. Wearing pajamas all day was fun for a while, but that PJ life got old really quick.
If, however, you are still working in leisure wear all day, you will want to reacquaint yourself with a morning schedule that includes getting yourself and everyone else ready and out the door at a certain time.
Another thing to remember is change is hard. When the pandemic hit and threw us all into the chaos of figuring out how to turn our playrooms into classrooms and dining tables into desks, it was crazy, but the adrenaline got us through it. While it might seem like going back to the office should be a cakewalk, the reality is it’s going to be a change. Our schedules will be upside down again, our workplace may have new PPE guidelines in place. Setting an expectation that things may be different and allowing ourselves grace in advance is important.
What words of encouragement would you give to the woman struggling with working from home?
I think every woman in the universe is a rock star right now, but especially moms. Look around you, Mom. You are killing it. Yes, your schedule might be in a constant state of flux. Yes, you have had chicken nuggets or pizza for a few meals this week. Yes, you might consider “brushing your teeth” self-care, but you are doing it!
You’re working, running a household, educating your kids, all while dealing with your emotional needs (hopefully) and the emotional needs of everyone else in your home feeling the effects of the COVID life. I tear up just thinking about how amazing you are. I hope when you look in the mirror, you see what I see — an incredible woman who has taken life’s lemons and made not just lemonade; you’ve built a freaking lemonade empire. You got this!
Alli Worthington is a serial entrepreneur, best-selling author, podcaster, and business coach. Her books include Breaking Busy, Fierce Faith, and The Year of Living Happy. She hosts the weekly Alli Worthington Show and is a sought-after speaker.
She served on the Intel Social Media Advisory Board and has worked with companies such as Disney, Verizon, and Procter & Gamble. Alli’s no-nonsense, guilt-free take on business, family, and balance led to appearances on the Today Show, Good Morning America, Redbook and more.
Alli, her husband Mark, and their five sons live outside Nashville, TN with the only golden retriever who refuses to retrieve.