Steel Products

Thoughts on Working from Home: Part 2

Written by John Packard

Since our inception, Steel Market Update employees have not worked in a formal office environment. Right now, our entire staff produces research, articles, edits and publishes our newsletters from home. We plan our workshops and conferences, interact with one another and the CRU offices in Pittsburgh, London and elsewhere around the world all from the comfort of our domiciles.

We would like to share our work-at-home experiences and some suggestions to better assist those of you who might soon be asked to work from home for the very first time.

Working from home can be heaven or hell depending on your personality, ability to organize and your ability to focus with so many distractions around you.

John Packard Perspective

I have been working out of my home since 1997 – 23 years. Before that I worked out of offices like most of you. I had assistants at my disposal. Decision makers were but a few steps away. Doors, even when closed, could be opened under the right circumstances. When an argument needed to be made on behalf of a customer, it could be done in person – face to face. Credit, logistics, operations were all at your fingertips.

Maybe the most important piece of working in an office is the interactions one has with coworkers and friends. Having someone to go to lunch with, having the ability to blow off steam and release the tension associated with a hectic office environment, is an advantage to a traditional work environment.

I left the office environment to start my own business. Having to put food on the table for two children and a wife can be a great motivator. Not wanting to fail is also a strong deterrent to losing focus.

As an employee used to a comfortable work environment, it can be quite challenging to stay focused with so many distractions around you. However, if you focus on the task at hand, you will find you can be an even more productive employee at home than at work.

The key is finding the right space that affords you some privacy so that you can remain focused on the task you have been given.

If you have a room that is not being used for daily living – a spare bedroom, the formal dining room that never gets used, a basement or even an oversized laundry room, this is where you need to set up shop. I remember speaking to the founder of the Washington Speakers Bureau who began his business in a closet belonging to one of his friends.

From there the issue is how to use your time effectively. You will have interruptions from your spouse, children, TV or just needing to get away from your workspace for a while. Managing that process and those distractions is the key.

  • Make a list of what needs to be done. Prioritize the tasks.
  • Use a calendar such as Outlook where you can put projects into time slots.
  • Post-it notes work if that is what you prefer to use.
  • Make sure you are interacting with others in your office. Don’t isolate yourself from people entirely.
  • Take some “me time” during the day. Get some exercise. Talk to your family. Take a nap.
  • Don’t watch TV. News should be held off until after your workday is complete. Music in the background is OK if it is only background noise and not affecting your ability to concentrate.
  • Try not to sit on furniture that is going to put you to sleep.
  • Try not to have social chats during the day – save them for before and after work.
  • Do keep in touch with your family – especially those who live elsewhere. It is important to reassure one another and to deal with the anxiety of sheltering in place. FaceTime, Zoom or Skype if possible.
  • Ask for work if you find you have completed the tasks on your list for the day. See if others in your area of expertise need help.
  • Read SMU religiously….

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