©New Line Cinema/Courtesy Everett Collection
Now that it’s more important than ever to keep indoors and practice social distancing, working remotely, if your job allows it, is becoming the new norm. But as we stay put with our pets, families, and pajamas (the TV is also right there!), how do we stay focused and productive during work hours? Here, women in charge reveal how they get things done away from the office, sharing their tips on how to stay organized, connected, and calm during this time of isolation.
Misha Nonoo, Founder and Creative Director of Misha Nonoo
“When I work from home, I make sure to stick to my routine, including a morning meditation to clear my head and focus my mind. Organization is crucial and I swear by a curated to-do list to keep me on track, no matter where I am. Getting cozy in one of our matching sweat suits always helps too.”
Carly Cushnie, CEO and Creative Director of Cushnie
“It’s important to set a schedule like you would any other day. Wake up, shower, breakfast … it’s very easy to just roll out of bed and spend the day in sweatpants going between your couch and the refrigerator. Plan your tasks for the day, including what you plan on eating, so you don’t spend all day snacking, and make sure to plan some outdoor time even if just a five-minute walk (in a non-crowded area if that is accessible to you at this time). A little oxygen will do wonders for your brain.”
Cyndi Ramirez-Fulton, Founder of Chillhouse
“For me, the most important thing is to get ready as if you’re going into an office. While I never put on shoes, I have to switch out of pj’s. Having a clean home is also essential to not get distracted. If I HAVE to organize before I kick off my WFH routine, then that’s what needs to happen. Additionally, typing can get daunting, calls give you energy. Human interaction outside of emails or Slack reinvigorate you in great ways.”
Aurora James, Creative Director of Brother Vellies
“Finding grounding every morning is the most important thing I do to start my day; I use meditation and visualizations. Afterwards, I set clear intentions on what I want to accomplish and action steps. Maintaining a schedule helps me bring structure—a Pilates zoom class at 9 a.m., lunch at 1 p.m., etc. A sense of accomplishment goes a long way and scheduling group remote activities keeps my spirits up and maintains a sense of community. Happy people do the best work. Feeding your soul and heart right now is truly one of the most productive things you can do.”
Payal Kadakia, Founder and Executive Chairman of ClassPass
“Keep to a set schedule, just as you would if you were working from the office. Wake up early, shower, do your hair and makeup, and dress nicely enough that you feel professional and ready to be productive. Be sure to plan for meal-prep time and eating so that you don’t find yourself plundering your cabinets in a mad rush for food an hour past mealtime. Planning meals and even snacks ahead of time makes it easier to eat mindfully and healthfully. Also, plan workouts into your schedule. It’s far too easy to spend the whole day at your desk—whether that desk is at the office or at home. Block out time for workouts ahead of time—even when those workouts are at home, and keep those appointments just as dutifully as you’d keep a customer or partner call.
“Invest in a good work environment. Whether you have a dedicated home office or are carving out space in a 600-foot apartment shared with roommates, it’s always worthwhile to invest in as good a home work environment as you’re able. Create a workspace that gives you joy, complete with nice décor and sufficient lighting, and make sure your chairs and table are set up well ergonomically. A strong Internet connection and good video-conferencing service will help you stay connected.”
Marianna Hewitt, Cofounder of Summer Fridays
“Have a morning routine. Sticking to a routine helps so much so that you wake up with purpose and a plan before jumping into work. My current routine includes drinking water, meditating, making my bed and showering.
“Get dressed. When working from home, it is so easy to roll out of bed in your sweats and start tackling your inbox. For me, it helps to put on real clothes so I am in the mindset of being at the office.
“Work from a table. I never bring my laptop into bed or work on my couch. If I am sitting upright at a dining table or kitchen counter, I work much more efficiently, because I am focused and not relaxed or lounging.
“Give yourself a schedule. It is so easy to work, do laundry, watch TV. But treat working from home like you would an office. Give yourself a start time, lunch break, and ending time so that your work doesn’t creep into the late hours of the day. If you don’t give yourself a schedule, it can feel like work is taking over your life.”
Jennifer Bandier, Founder and CEO of Bandier
“In order to successfully work from home, you need to make sure (ahead of time) your work-from-home office is set up and prepared. This means: great Wi-Fi, great Wi-Fi, great Wi-Fi. Losing the face-to-face dynamic is the biggest challenge when working from home. To overcome this hurdle, Wi-Fi and utilizing video is necessary. Powering video conference is the major hack when trying to stay on top of meetings and communicating with others.”
Hanako Maeda, Founder and CEO of Adeam
“The health and well-being of my team and their families is the most important, so we have been working from home this week. While working from home, it’s been helpful to set alarms to indicate office hours and also give myself breaks for 12 p.m. lunchtime and 3 p.m. coffee breaks. It helps me to have breaks once in 3 to 4 hours to keep my productivity. We’ve also been having a lot of phone conferences and Skype meetings, which have been very useful. Also, I’ve been working out at home using hand weights and yoga mats, and doing a short exercise in the morning has helped me get an energy boost.”
Sarah Larson Levey, Founder and CEO of Y7 Studio
“I have my most productive days when I get dressed. It’s obviously comfortable to be in sweats all day, but it does put me in a haze. I find by putting on clothes and sitting in more of a working environment versus a bed or couch allows me to get the most done.”
Priti Joshi, Vice President of Strategy for Bumble
“I’ve tried to dedicate a space in my home to work and a space to not work. I’m doing my best to honor this; when we are working and living in the same space, it’s too easy to let one or the other consume us (or feel torn in multiple directions). The number one thing for me: I never take my laptop into my bedroom!
“Take time for all the emotions. Physically distancing from others is hard, and it’s okay to let yourself acknowledge that. I’m making it a point to FaceTime my family, friends, and loved ones—even more than I normally would. While we can’t all be there for each other physically, we can virtually. That is what matters.
“I’m also remembering to motivate our team. Keep in mind that anyone who entered the workforce in the last 10 years has never experienced an economic climate like today’s. To help support the team, we’re creating a new weekly tradition: virtual happy hours on Thursday afternoons. Partners, pets, and children are welcome, and my hope is we can catch up on the latest Netflix binge or recipe we’re trying out to help all of us stay positive together in this challenging time!”
Jackie Aina, YouTube Star and Beauty Icon
“Now is a good time to start organizing things—your bathroom, vanity, space in your home—places that you get the most work done. For me, if I reinvent a space periodically, I get re-inspired to get more work done. Also, working from home in intervals helps: When working from home, divide your tasks by working for one hour, and then taking a 15-minute break, and then an hour on again, and then 15 minutes off again until you’ve completed a task. That way, you can prevent being easily distracted or starting things without finishing them.”
Sarah Lee and Christine Chang, Cofounders of Glow Recipe
SL: “When I’m working from home, it’s all about maximizing my work output while multitasking a bunch of things at once. Our schedules are always jam-packed that sometimes I will even take conference calls with a mask on while I’m taking a bath. For the times during the day that I’m glued to a seat, I keep a facial mist near me at all times to give myself a quick refresh and pick-me-up.”
CC: “When working at home, I love to multitask by masking or sheet-masking at my desk while I’m working. I also get inspired with fresh ideas when I’m on the move, so I like to take conference calls while walking around the block near home to get in some exercise and fresh air.”
Deepica Mutyala, Cofounder and CEO of Live Tinted
“I wake up and do 10 minutes of Headspace every morning, it really sets me up for the day. I’m also discovering new ways to do at-home workouts. My friend Louise Hazel has created a #slaychallenge on her app that makes working out from home super easy. As for communication, using Google Hangouts is helping us all stay connected and continue our meetings as regularly scheduled.”
Laure Hériard Dubreuil, CEO and founder of The Webster
“Schedule and structure are what keep me on track when working from home! Especially since I moved to L.A., I still start my day around 5:30-6 a.m. so that I am aligned with our operations on the East Coast. Keeping a schedule for children is also so important during this time when they are home so that their lives feel consistent and somewhat normal!
“I always change into clothes that I would normally wear to work; this helps me stay in the right focus mindset. I mainly work off my phone and always in the living room, never in the rooms like the kitchen or the bedroom because there has to be a form of separation. I am newly obsessed with the app Houseparty—it has brought a new feeling of joy being able to connect with my friends, family, and employees in such a light-hearted way.”
Rachna Shah, Partner, Managing Director PR and Digital at KCD
“Organization is key—organizing the day into small chunks to incorporate taking care of my kids, taking care of my team, and taking care of my clients. I am trying to not multitask but find moments of focus for each area. Plus, being grateful for my Peloton for some time to decompress!”
Bouchra Ezzahraoui and Sophie Kahn, Cofounders of AUrate
BE: “I always come up with a very clear and timed to-do list. For example, activities that need more focus will take the morning slots and my afternoons are usually calls or follow-ups on projects we already kicked off. The calls are kept short within 20 minutes with clear agendas sent ahead of time. A quick lunch, a 15-minute break with my twins, or a call to a loved one is part of the productivity boost midday.”
SK: “To be productive, first and foremost, the basic necessities need to be met. I make sure I sleep enough (despite all the stress now), eat well and healthy, get some fresh air (even if it’s a walk around the block), and have time to give attention to my toddler in the morning and end of day. Then, for the work, it’s all about effective communication when the team is WFH. We have morning check-ins and digital meetings with the relevant teams so everybody knows the current status and their priorities, and then we are off to the races. Every day EOD, we check off where we stand, what we did, and what next steps are. It’s super structured and organized, that’s the key to make it efficient when the team is dispersed.”
Sharon Chuter, Founder of Uoma Beauty
“I am a HUGE fan of lists. I can spend an hour creating a very comprehensive to-do list. Everything goes on it, including to do the laundry. I find it gives me a very systematic process to go through and also fuels a sense of achievement at the end of the day. There is always so much for me to do, and the days can run away very quickly, so it is important that I am able to prioritize, as well as at the end of the day, see how much I have done in context of how much I did not get to.
“I also am a huge thinker. So, I spend my alone time processing the things I need to do. For example, shower time is a great time for me to process my day and the things that I must get done. I prioritize in that moment the things I must achieve that day, that week, and how it leads to the big picture. I guess there really is an art of taking the biggest projects or goals, and breaking them into small parts with a clear idea of what step one really is. I find when I have a clear head and a clear idea of what I want to achieve in that time period, it keeps me focused and helps me remove all the noise when I get into my day, and it helps me execute with precision. It also helps me to manage things when they go off the rail, because I remember why I am doing what I am doing, and then prepare that the how may completely vary from what I originally intended.”
Lori Coulter and Reshma Chattaram Chamberlin, Cofounders of Summersalt
LC: “To keep teams and leadership on the same page when working remotely, it is important to over-communicate. Make sure you are having regular team huddles, that everyone knows what they are working on and the goal that you are all working toward together.”
RCC: “My number one tip for how to stay productive while working from home is to establish a routine. It is very tempting to stay in your pajamas all day when you work from home. However, research shows that getting ready and dressed really helps with your disposition and productivity. I always get ready for the day the same way I would if I was going into the office.”
Kerry Pieri, Fashion and Features Director of BAZAAR.com
“I think it’s important to continue to structure your day when you work from home. Wake up, have your coffee or matcha, do you morning routine, get dressed even if it’s into something comfortable, do some yoga stretching, then get started with your workload. Of course, working online, it’s easy for me to be remote and produce content from anywhere. But market appointments and events are off the table for now. I just want to continue to support brands and retailers during this time, and provide some uplifting fun features for people who might be home and feeling isolated.”
Joyann King, Executive Editor of BAZAAR.com
“Multitasking with a toddler just doesn’t work, and, trust me, I have tried. Instead, I am trying to practice presence with the task at hand. Whether making breakfast and cleaning the kitchen, answering emails, FaceTiming with an editor, or taking a short walk to play at the swing set, I am dedicating my focus to that one singular need, and it is helping my stress levels and productivity immensely. Also, a little time to foam roll or sit in total silence is the best medicine for keeping focused.”
Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more.
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