Many small businesses are being jolted into a new direction of doing business. Sometimes for the first time ever people are working from home. Forced to make critical changes just to keep afloat, and it seems like we can’t keep anything under control. So many of us are feeling the same, not knowing where our next client is coming from or when the next customer is going to walk in the door. We don’t know if we’ll be able to pay our employees or contractors. There are a lot of unknowns and a lot of uncertainty that we are all facing.
That’s why it’s extremely crucial for us as small business owners to focus on what we can control because that’s how we will survive and even thrive during these times. Coronavirus is just this X issue. But as small business owners we know that there are other times and other things that can put us into displacement and uncertainty.
In this guide I want to share the top tools, tutorials, WordPress and personal resources that can help you adapt to these changes help you streamline your processes and ultimately grow your business.
Get Ready to Work
Everyone’s situation is going to be different. You could be in a corporate environment and now working from home. Or you could be a small business owner trying to figure out what to do next. While this situation is temporary, it’s important to find ways to make the most of your new work environment and put in some work to help make the best possible decisions for you and your business (and more importantly family).
Keep Setting Your Alarm
This one probably seems like a no-brainer but it’s important to keep setting an alarm. Starting your morning off the same way you would as if you went into the office. Doing this helps you keep productive and on your typical schedule. This is a simple way to keep you in the same routine you would have if you were going into the office. If you haven’t been keeping a calendar before, now is a great time to own your time.
By setting your alarm every morning and holding to it helps you to keep running through the same schedule you had when you would go into the office. It just means that you get to spend a few more minutes in the morning with your family or you could use that time to commute to do a workout or read a book, or even do a crossword puzzle. The truth is all successful entrepreneurs work to keep a routine and it all starts in the morning. So, set your alarm and be ready to start your day.
Get Office Dressed
Getting dressed for your day helps set the tone for where your mind is functioning. Wearing pajamas or “comfy” clothes puts your mind in a relaxed state. Getting dressed as if you were going to an office is an easy way to trick your mind into being in “office mode.” While you’re working from home it’s important that you wear pants. I know it sounds funny, but there have been people new to working from home who are not taking this advice! Personally, I get dressed each and every day as if I am going into the office and I have worked from home for years. You just never know when you might stand up from your desk and your co-workers see your full body instead of just the waist up.
Keeping your schedule the same allows you to easily step back into office mode when the stay-at-home orders go away. Dressing up for your day allows you to feel like you are doing more than staying at home. It helps you feel like you are ready to be out in the world and will help your brain be in work mode.
It is so important to make sure your home office is set up in an orderly and ergonomic way. I’ll tell you that you need to have a comfortable chair at home. It doesn’t matter if you are working from home for a few weeks or a few months. You don’t have to work at the dining room table. We all spend a lot of time in our office chairs so make sure you have one that is comfortable. Just this week I saw a thread on my personal Facebook feed of all my friends taking their office chairs home. After one week it seemed everyone started understanding how important our posture is for our overall health. If you can’t bring your chair home right now, this is one similar to what I use or there is this office chair under $100.
Dedicated Work Location (if possible)
Because I normally work from home I have a dedicated office. But I realize that not everybody does have this option. If you have the room in your house or apartment you should definitely dedicate a place for you to work. I worked with one of the top developers in the space, he worked from home with his family (5 kids) who were all homeschooled. He worked from a closet. It worked for them and he had a space that everyone knew when he was in there he was working.
There are many reasons to have your own space, but mainly it gets you in the work mood. What I mean by that is if you’re sitting on the couch with your laptop chances are you’re not fully engaged in the task at hand. You might be watching what the kids or spouse are doing or a hundred other things that are going through your mind. Having a dedicated work location that you can set up shop and do work is going to help you keep on track. Working from home shouldn’t feel like a vacation.
In the situation we are currently in, my wife and I are both working from home and taking care of our children. So we are taking turns caretaking and working. This means being in my dedicated space some of the time doing focused work and other times co-working with my children. It isn’t ideal, but it allows both of us to accomplish what we need to get done.
Business Tools to Help Facilitate Remote Work
In this day and age, there are so many software tools to help you in your efforts to reclaim some resemblance of a schedule and normalcy.
As far as video software goes for doing any type of video calls iThemes uses Zoom daily. Zoom allows us to use our webcams so we can see and hear each other. We can even share our screen as we’re going through various topics to make sure we all understand each other. Zoom allows you to record calls. If someone can’t use the software there is a dial in number that can connect to the video call.
You can use zoom for free for up to a 40-minute call. For most meetings this gives you more than enough time to complete your work. However, if you need to go over the 40 minutes there is a pro plan. You can pay by month or by year to have unlimited calling time for your meetings. The pro or paid version of Zoom even allows you to set up breakout rooms so that if you have a large team and you need to break out into smaller groups you can do that with just a few clicks.
Google Hangouts is our secondary option that’s what we would use if Zoom was having an issue. Google Hangouts is free and you can even use Google Hangouts with your own G Suite accounts. Several schools are switching to Google Hangouts to do instruction from home.
We have been a half-distributed company from the start, so we have experience using chat software. Knowing how to set our team up for success working from home has been vital. We have used a few different kids, but now we use and love Slack. Slack allows multiple rooms both public and private rooms and direct messaging between one or several people. You can also get your friends together for a COVID-19 Quarantine Party on Spotify.
Self-Care So You Can Stay Sane
For a good portion of the United States it is quickly becoming spring. This means it’s time to get the yard work under control and ready for all those beautiful blooms. For those of us that live in the northern states we have just finished getting our last bits of snow. So now is the time to start doing that famous thing called yard work. There are a lot of people that think yard work will ease anxiety and is an important step in mental health.
Depending on your work situation you may have a lot of time to do yard work while working from home. Now could be a great time to spend time planting gardens you’ve been wanting to start. Trimming trees or even working on those flower beds could really boost your mental health. I think I’ll be spending some time out in the yard working on flower beds and picking up leaves.
To-Do List Items
It’s also a great time to start working on that to-do list that keeps getting longer. I recently moved houses (last July) and my to-do list grew quickly. There are so many things that I wanted to accomplish after moving into the new house. Having two little kids and a work schedule that had me traveling meant I didn’t get all the things done that I wanted.
So the next few weekends I’ll plan on accomplishing some of the tasks that have been piling up on my list. My wife will be extremely happy, and I will feel good to have some of those things done.
My family loves to go for bike rides. If you’re fortunate enough to have warm weather, take the family out for a bike ride. It’s a great way to get some exercise, get some fresh air, and just be together as a family. Plus, did I mention you get some exercise riding a bike? With all the stay-at-home orders, I don’t think I am alone being the only one spending more time sitting than normal. So, get out your bike and take a ride.
Living in Michigan it is just starting to warm up. Last week we were fortunate enough to have some warm weather and started to explore some trails nearby our house. This led to our little ones being able to enjoy nature as I walked through some old wildflowers. Giving us all some much needed fresh air.
It was interesting that more in our neighborhood are starting to do the same. From safe distances, of course. I have seen many new faces. We live in a large subdivision, but no one was ever outside until yesterday.
Make sure you get some exercise, take some long walks and enjoy your family. If you don’t have family that lives with you or you live alone consider listening to a podcast. Or call a family member or a friend and talking to them while you walk.
Hanging with Kids
If you have children they’re likely stuck in the house with you. It could be good for all of you to spend some dedicated time with them. Put away your mobile phone and your computer and don’t turn on the TV. Just spend time with them. This is time that you get to be with them and not be distracted by the world around us. We bought some new board games and try to spend a little time each day playing games with the kids.
Play A Musical Instrument
If you play a musical instrument or maybe you have in the past, look at spending some more time playing. It’s a great way to pass the time and a great way to practice. Even if you don’t play, put on some music and have a dance party. Or better yet, there are many services offering free streaming right now. The Met Opera is one we have listened to in our house.
Learn New Skills
If you are looking for a new job or a career change now is the perfect time to learn a new skill. Even if you are not looking for a new job or a career change it’s still the perfect time to learn a new skill. If classes are canceled or school is out there’s no reason to not learn a new skill.
We have opened up our iThemes training monthly plan to give you 30 days for free. This means you can check out the iThemes training library and watch any of our webinars at no cost. It’s a perfect time to catch up on learning how to build a website, how to improve your marketing skills, or even start your own web design or development business.
Connecting With Others
JackBox.tv Games is a fun way to connect with your friends or family and easily play games from a distance. We have iThemes lunches on Monday’s and many times have pulled these games up in our lunchroom. If you haven’t played these before JackBox has articles to help you get set up. My personal favorite is Drawful and they are giving away their tiered games for 3 weeks right now. And if that wasn’t all, they also have some resources for kids while they are home right now.
My friends and family all have Marco Polo. Like facetime and snapchat, it allows us to send video messages to one another or in a group message that can be viewed at your convenience.
Zoom / Google Hangouts
It isn’t just for work or school. Pull up a Zoom Room or Google Hangout and connect with friends and family. If I have learned anything during this time it is that I need people around me. We have spent years creating support systems of friends and we all still need to connect.
Changes to the World
Not everyone is ready to start looking at the upside of working from home, but maybe you are like me and want to find a positive. Spending time at home with our families is helping clean up the air all around the world. The Venice Canal which hasn’t been clear in years is now crystal clear. There is no doubt that soon we will all return to work as normal, but hopefully there are some things that are here to stay. I would like for my new house to be in order with my yard blooming with flowers, and I hope that we continue our family bike rides, and just maybe I will get to meet some of these neighbors who are also outside for the first time since we have moved in.
Working from home during this time doesn’t have to be an unproductive mess. Even if you only choose a few of these tips you will remain productive and when things get to a semblance of normal you won’t have missed a beat.
AJ brings over two decades of experience working on and developing membership sites with a wide range of clients.