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How to Be Productive and Stay Sane Working at Home: 7 Success Strategies

How to Be Productive and Stay Sane Working at Home: 7 Success Strategies

Whether you telecommute, are a freelancer or mompreneur, working from home can be isolating and lonely, not to mention challenging. From constant interruptions all day long to not leaving the house for days at a time, working from the comfort of home can start to take its toll.

Having worked at home for the last nine years, I’ve learned to love the freedom and flexibility of being in my own space, but it’s a constant struggle to keep that joy from turning into madness and to keep your productivity high.

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Here are seven ways to work from home, stay sane and be highly productive:

1. Schedule Breaks and Downtime During the Day

When you work in an office there’s lunchtime, breaks and going to the break room for birthday cake to get out of your chair. There’s a reason that those of us who work at home are more productive, there are simply fewer breaks. From eating in front of your computer to staying at your desk for a 10 hour stretch, it’s easy to get carried away. Take your calendar and schedule time away from your computer throughout the day so you can refuel and reset.

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2. Unplug Entirely

With easy access to email and other apps all day and night long, boundaries can easily be blurred. Make a point of scheduling time where you unplug entirely. Maybe it is on the weekends or you take several breaks during the year where you are not connected to the Internet 24/7. Getting off the email and social media train can help you truly relax and get focused on what really matters.

3. Get Out of the House

Have you ever gone days without leaving the house? The reality is that over time you can become less apt to want to leave the house, especially during times where you are engaged on big projects or deadlines.  As the saying goes, a change is as good as a rest. Make a point of scheduling outings, meeting up with a friend for coffee or lunch or arranging coworking dates with another friend who also works from home.  That break time can help your brain so that when you do work you are far more productive.

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4. Go Outside

A change of scenery, however short, can make a major difference in your perspective and productivity. Scheduling time to get out of the house and simply go for a brisk walk around the block, sit on your porch or something else where you can get some vitamin D is crucial. Even in the cold and snow, a blast of icy fresh air can help spark a new idea, clear a block or give you a new perspective.

5. Get Support

Working at home does not mean you need to be alone. If you are a remote employee, carve out time in your schedule to catch up with co-workers the same way you would in the office and chat outside of the weekly conference call. If you are freelancing or self-employed, seek out networking groups online or offline of like-minded people. You can use groups on social networks, or even mastermind groups to help you find the right people to connect with and share your challenges.

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6. Communicate with Your Loved Ones

Depending on your situation, you may have kids at home, a partner who works from home or other people that impact your work at home serenity. The key is to be clear with everyone about when you are working and what they can expect. This may mean meeting with your spouse to let them know if they have a day off, that doesn’t mean you can play hooky or teaching your children that when you are working you are not available.  Most of all, be realistic. Part of the joy of working from home is being able to do things you couldn’t if you worked in an office.

7. Carve Out a Dedicated Workspace

Carve out a dedicated workspace, however small, so you have somewhere to keep your supplies, files and technology equipment. It may be a corner of your bedroom, or you may need to get more creative like my friend Megan Flatt and spruce up a corner of your garage. As a work at home mom with two small children, she needed a space that was removed from the rest of the family for when she is working.

As you continue your work from home adventures, try to be more aware of how it impacts your mind and body. Give a few of these tips a trip to help you be more productive and help save your sanity.

Featured photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eulenfan/8618013263/ via Flickr

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Published on November 12, 2020

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

What’s the most draining, miserable job you’ve ever had? Maybe you had a supervisor with unrealistic demands about your work output and schedule. Or perhaps, you worked under a bullying boss who frequently lost his temper with you and your colleagues, creating a toxic work environment.

Chances are, though, your terrible job experience was more all-encompassing than a negative experience with just one person. That’s because, in general, toxicity at work breeds an entire culture. Research shows abusive behavior by leaders can and often quickly spread through an entire organization.[1]

Unfortunately, working in a toxic environment doesn’t just make it miserable to show up to the office (or a Zoom meeting). This type of culture can have lasting negative effects, taking a toll on mental and physical health and even affecting workers’ personal lives and relationships.[2]

While it’s often all-encompassing, toxic culture isn’t always as blatant or clear-cut as abuse. Some of the evidence is more subtle—but it still warrants concern and action.

Have a feeling that your workplace is a toxic environment? Here are 5 surefire signs to look for.

1. People Often Say (or Imply) “That’s Not My Job”

When I first launched my company, I had a very small team. And back then, we all wore a lot of hats, simply because we had to. My colleagues and I worked tirelessly together to build, troubleshoot, and market our product, and nobody complained (at least most of the time).

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Because we were all in it together, with the same shared vision in mind, cooperation mattered so much more than job titles. Unfortunately, it’s not always that way.

In some workplaces, people adhere to their job descriptions to a fault:

  • Need help with an accounting problem? Sorry, that’s not my job.
  • Oh, you spilled your coffee in the break room? Too bad, I’m working.
  • Can’t figure out the new software? Ask IT.

While everyone has their own skillset—and time is often at a premium—cooperation is important in any workplace. An “it’s not my job” attitude is a sign of a toxic environment because it’s inherently selfish. It implies “I only care about me and what I have to get done” and that people aren’t concerned about the collective good or overall vision.[3] That type of perspective is not only bound to drain individual relationships; it also drains overall morale and productivity.

2. There’s a Lack of Diversity

Diversity is a vital part of a healthy work environment. We need the opinions and ideas of people who don’t see the world like us to move ahead. So, when leaders don’t prioritize diversity—or worse, they actively avoid it—I’m always suspicious about their character and values.

Limiting your workforce to one type of person is bound to prevent organizations from growing healthily. But even if your work environment is diverse in general, the management might prevent diverse individuals from rising to leadership positions, which only misses the point of having a diverse work environment in the first place.

Look around you. Who’s in leadership at your company? Who gets promotions and rewards most often? If the same type of people gets ahead while other individuals consistently get left behind, you might be working in a toxic environment.

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However it manifests in your workplace, keep in mind that a lack of diversity is a tell-tale sign that “bias is rampant and the wrong things are valued.”[4]

3. Feedback Isn’t Allowed

Just as individual growth hinges on being open to criticism, an organization’s well-being depends on workers’ ability to air their concerns and ideas. If management actively stifles feedback from employees, you’re probably working in a toxic environment.

But that definitely doesn’t mean nobody will air their feelings. One of the telltale signs of toxic leadership is when employees vent on the sidelines, out of management’s earshot. When I worked in a toxic environment, coworkers would often complain about higher-ups and company policies during work in private chats or after work hours.

It’s normal to get frustrated at work. That’s just a part of having a job. What isn’t normal is when dissent isn’t a part of or discouraged in the workplace. A workplace culture that suppresses constructive feedback will not be successful in the long run. It’s a sign that leadership isn’t open to new ideas, and that they’re more concerned about their own well-being than the health of the organization as a whole.

4. Quantifiable Measures Take Priority

Sales numbers, timelines, bottom lines—these metrics are, of course, important signs of how things are going in any business. But great leaders know that true success isn’t always measurable or quantifiable. More meaningful factors like workplace satisfaction, teamwork, and personal growth all contribute to and sustain these metrics.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, and they shouldn’t be the only concern. Measure-taking should always take a backseat to meaning-making—working together to contribute to a vision that improves people’s lives. If your workplace zones in on quantifiable measures of success, it’s probably not prioritizing what truly matters. And it’s probably also instilling a fear of failure among employees, which paralyzes employees instead of motivating them.

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5. The Policies and Rules Are Inconsistent

Every organization has its own set of unique policies and procedures. But often, unhealthy workplaces have inconsistent, unspoken “rules” that apply differently to different people. When one person gets in trouble for the same type of behavior that promotes another person, workers will feel like management plays favorites—which isn’t just unethical but also a quick way to drain morale and fuel tension in the office.[5] It only shows how incompetent the leadership is and indicates a toxic workplace.

For example, maybe there’s no “set” rule about work hours, but your manager expects certain people or departments to show up at 8 am while other individuals tend to roll in at 9 or 10 am with no real consequences. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that your organization’s leadership is more concerned with controlling people and exerting power rather than the overall good of their employees.

How to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment

The first thing to know if you’re stuck in a toxic work environment is that you’re not stuck. While it’s ultimately the company’s responsibility to make positive changes that prevent harmful actions to employees, you also have an opportunity to speak up about your concerns—or, if necessary, depart the role altogether.

If you suspect that you’re working in a toxic environment, think about how you can advocate for yourself. Start by raising your grievances about the culture in an appropriate setting, like a scheduled, one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.

Can’t imagine sitting down with your supervisor to air those problems on your own? Form some solidarity with like-minded colleagues. Approaching management might feel less overwhelming when you have a “team” who shares your views.

It doesn’t have to be an overtly confrontational discussion. Do your best to frame your concerns in a positive way by sharing with your supervisor that you want to be more productive at work, but certain problems sometimes get in the way.

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Final Thoughts

If your supervisor truly cares about the well-being of the organization, they will take your concerns seriously and actively take part in changing the toxic work environment into something more conducive to productivity.

If not, then it might be time to consider the cost of the job on your well-being and personal life. Is it worth staying just for your resume’s sake? Or could you consider a “bridge” job that allows you to exhale for a bit, even if it doesn’t “move you ahead” the way you planned?

It might not be the ideal situation, but your mental health and well-being are too important to ignore. And when you have the opportunity to refuel, you’ll be a far more valuable asset at whatever amazing job you land next.

More Tips on Dealing With a Toxic Work Environment

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

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