Sunday, March 29, 2020

Six Tips To Make Working From Home Successful

Thirty six years ago I started what became a very successful business in my kitchen.  I thought that at this time of social distancing and working from home, I would share some of the tricks I learned.

Just to put this in context, in 1994 when the late, great Jay Chiat moved his office to Maiden Lane in Manhattan, no one had a permanent desk, instead, the agency had workstations. Jay established the first advertising virtual office thinking that people could and would work remotely from home or at each other’s homes, coming in only for meetings.  It didn’t work.  Almost everyone wanted to go to the office and actually went every day. ( The result was there was not enough space for all of all the Chiat\Day employees.  Almost immediately he knew that he had to find more space.)

Today, most of the New York, Chicago and Los Angeles (and lots of other cities) marketing and advertising people are forced to work at home, which, based on the Chiat experience, is undesirable. Unfortunately, it is mandated because of the health crisis.

But you can make working at home tolerable, efficient and successful.  It just requires a few simple things.

1.    Make a workplace for yourself
It is important to have a place from which to work.  It should be your own private area.  Not on your bed.  Not necessarily in your living room or kitchen, where your family will disturb you.  When I started working in my kitchen, my wife knew to leave me alone – from 9am to 5pm, she mostly stayed away from me.

2      Discipline yourself not to watch television or otherwise be distracted
It is important to replicate, as much as possible, a real work environment and to avoid distractions.  At the office, you can walk in to a colleague’s office or space, just to take a break.  When working at home, it is permissible to call someone you work with to exchange ideas or just to give yourself a break. But it is important to be disciplined.

3.    As much as possible keep your routine
You should get up at your regular waking time.  You should shower and get dressed for work.  Do not laze around in your PJs.  When I started working from home, I would shower and shave, get dressed in work clothes and go to the corner newspaper stand and buy a paper.  I would also get coffee to bring home. All this to replicate what I did at work. It may sound silly, but the break it gave me between getting dressed and going to work allowed me to make a transition and get my mind set to work. I stayed in the kitchen all day, pausing only to get lunch. Given the stay-in-place rules which have taken over today, some of this may not be possible, but the point is to set your mind up to actually work.

4.    When speaking to others, use Skype or Facetime as much as possible
Seeing others is important.  It makes business and work conversations more serious.  When talking on the phone, it is too easy to let your mind wander or to actually do other things while talking.  Using video will allow you to focus. 

5.    Keep informed about your business
Read your trade press.  It is important to know what is going on and to keep a big picture about what you do.  Spending some time online while home will inform you about all the important happenings.  I suspect, given the current situation, companies may be less inclined to send out staff emails or otherwise communicate, but much can be found online.  The trade press is vigorously working online.

6.    Obey the rules
Working in place means just that.  Don’t go to meetings at someone’s home.  Don’t have people in to your home to brainstorm.  The thing to remember is to stay healthy. The phone is a very good way to do that.

If you follow this advice you will work efficiently.  It will also avoid getting lonely.  

And to all my readers, stay safe and be well.


  1. ABSOLUTELY. One other thing, when I was working from home and we had a dog I made it my business to walk the dog for a half hour which made me feel as though I had commuted to the office...........note, I lived in Manhattan.

    1. Walking the dog is the same as going to buy a newspaper. Both chores enable you to get into a work mindset.

  2. Probably because we have the tech it do it right now vs. in 1994 but I don't think working from home is undesirable at all. I prefer it, just not when kids are home from school like they are now. I agree with all your advice and don't understand it when people talk about not getting out of their pajamas.

    1. Thanks. Staying in pajamas is something someone does on a lazy weekend day. The operative word here is lazy; it is not conducive to getting work done. Unfortunately, teaching kids to stay away is close to impossible.

  3. Pauly … I don’t have much to say about working from home except to say that it requires serious discipline and focus. FOCUS being the most essential ingredient for success in everything and anything. Meanwhile, I just read your fabulous March 20, “Wheelchair” article and belatedly commented on it just now. Hope you like what I said. Best, Bill

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I would welcome your comments, suggestions or anything you would like to share with me or my readers.

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