5 Steps to Master Working from Home (WFH)

John A. Vardalas, CAE
Founder/CEO The American Boomer Group

The Covid-19 Pandemic has forced many changes on American businesses and the workforce. Due to shutdowns and social distancing, millions of employees have been laid-off or forced to work from home. For many employees remote working is now becoming a trend and the new normal.

When you are used to driving to work every day (especially with a hectic commute), sitting through long meetings, being in crowded spaces, and the constant interaction with staff and sometimes temperamental technology, working from home can sound like a great alternative.

It’s a great option to have but working from home can be stressful, as it takes a special kind of discipline and flexibility to make it work right. This is especially true if your spouse or companion is also working from home or if you have children that are out of school.

If you are a “newbie” to home-office life, I offer these “5-step” suggestions to help you transition, manage, and “cope during Covid” to make “WFH” go smoothly.

1. Designate a Work-only Space

You might be tempted to set up shop on your kitchen counter, in your bedroom, or in front of your TV but chances are, you won’t get too much work done. Do what you can to find a private dedicated space to make your own, away from traffic and commotion so you can focus. It will make you more productive and will allow you to separate your work from your personal life.

2. Make a Schedule

Set a time to work and stick to it. Try doing shift work; an AM and PM schedule. Be flexible with yourself to maintain a work-life balance. Sometimes you will need to extend your day by working early morning or late night, depending on your business. Make sure to get a proper amount of sleep to be in line with your extended work schedule, if needed. Once you set your schedule, keep everyone at home and at work in the loop. Set boundaries and maintain a regular routine of work hours, if possible.

3. Prioritize Your Work

The key to bring productive while working from home is to prioritize your work load. Set aside time at the beginning or end of each day to list out the key things you will need to do. Focus on your list as much as possible and avoid distractions. If you have time left over tackle the other to-dos. Likewise, make sure your daily goals are realistic given your overall mood, schedule, and responsibilities. Try to keep the list shorter rather than longer to motivate yourself each day of having all items “checked” off and set small rewards once a certain goal is achieved.

4. Build in Some Exercise

Working from home will disrupt you regular routine. Make exercise part of your new schedule. You’re not moving around as much as you did at work, going to meetings, moving from one part of the building to the other, or stopping off at your local health club. Schedule some sort of physical activity on your to do list/calendar or set a reminder on your smart phone. There are numerous ways to work out at home, especially since many health and fitness gyms and experts have put their workout routines online for free.

A simple activity is engaging the outdoors. Going for a walk or bike ride (depending where you live and stay-at-home regulations), stretching your legs, and simply getting some fresh air and direct sunlight can do wonders to help de-stress.

5. Be Social/Eat & Drink The Right Stuff

Unless you are self-employed, working from home can feel isolating and perhaps lonely, especially if you get your energy from your co-workers and other people. Schedule social time with others and use chat and video platforms if you need real-time interactions.

Its important to maintain the right nutrition while working at home. Avoid “quick-grab” junk food and stay hydrated during the work day. Stay away from too many distracting trips to the kitchen for snacks. Stick to regular meal times and healthy foods. Don’t over eat or drink alcohol. A recent survey indicated that one-third of all US employees who are working from home drink during the work day. Similar work space rules should apply to stay coherent, aware, and productive.

My final suggestion: Get your work done—then have fun. Cheers!

Boomers Must Plan for “Work-Tirement”

John A. Vardalas, CAE
Founder/CEO, The American Boomer Group

Greetings Fellow Boomers…….This month I wanted to share with you some thoughts about the future and the way we may be living in our Golden Years.

Since the proposed changes to Social Security have become a national debate, many Americans are starting to think seriously about revising their retirement plans. People are now healthier and expected to live longer and with the recent unprecedented downturn in the economy and stock market losses many of us Boomers will have to delay full time retirement and extend their work life. It is no longer unusual to spend as much time in retirement as in working full-time. Many retirees are depending on relatives, government assistance and part-time work to survive. The 70-year-old at the grocery check-out is likely to be partnered with another retiree bagging groceries.

Special Challenge for Boomers
Baby Boomers will make up the largest population of retired workers in history with the longest life expectancy. Boomers will be the most diverse group of retirees. They may be funding their children’s education, supporting adult children, and caring for elderly parents. It is for these reasons Boomers will be engaging in “WorkTirement” to keep up with their financial needs.

While some Boomers have done an adequate job of saving for retirement, many wait until it is too late. People have a difficult time estimating their retirement expenses because they fail to keep track of their own spending habits.

Estimate Your Spending Habits-Give Yourself A Financial Check Up
It’s a fallacy to assume that your spending habits will dramatically decline during retirement. Many retirees travel and pursue other activities that keep themselves occupied. The first step in retirement planning is to get an estimate of your expenses—your annual cost of living. There are several ways to do this.

  • Keep a journal of everything you spend for a few months.
  • Compile your years expenses via cancelled checks, bills, and cash withdrawals.
  • Determine your take-home pay over a period of time. Calculate what you’ve saved—what’s left will give you an idea of what you are spending.

Retirement Income
After you’ve estimated your expenses, you’ll need to determine if your retirement income will cover your living expenses. Only one-third of Boomers save enough of what they need to retire at their income level, according to USA Today. The “three-legged stool” of retirement income consists of personal savings, Social Security and pensions has now been expanded to “five” to include maintaining good health and job skills/competencies.

It’s a good idea to get an estimate of your Social Security benefits. The Social Security administration began mailing out benefit statements to those 25 years and older in 1999. If you haven’t received yours, visit the Social Security Web site at http://www.ssa.gov
or call 800-772-1213.

If you have a pension or 401K, calculate your benefits. If a previous employer went out of business, you may still be able to claim benefits. The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation guarantees pensions and lists names of people that have unclaimed money due them. You can find the list at http://www.pbgc.gov.

Add up all of your personal savings and determine how much you can withdraw each year. Make sure to determine any other expenses you’ll likely have during your retirement. A recent survey indicated that two out of every three boomers think that they will be the primary caregiver for an elderly parent or family member. A nursing home can cost from $50,000 to $75,000 a year.

All of these dynamics will re define retirement and may call for us Boomers to stay engaged in work beyond our golden years. More resources on this issue can be accessed in current and past issues of Today’s Boomer magazine here.

Reinventing Yourself in the New Economy: Career Survival Strategies

John A. Vardalas, CAE Founder/CEO, The American Boomer Group

Reinventing yourself is no longer a career strategy reserved for Hollywood entertainers or politicians. In today’s economy it’s necessary for survival. About one half of all Americans 45 to 54 years old reports being dissatisfied with their jobs, according to a recent survey by the Conference Board, a research organization based in New York.

Even though the economy is picking up speed, economists are forecasting a jobless expansion in some industries for the next few years. During the last economic down-turn, organizations paid the price for maintaining large staffs; they are reluctant to “staff up” again. The result is that lay-offs and downsizing will continue to be commonplace, and for Boomers, “Work-Tirement” will be part of our new golden years. Part-time workers will be in demand.

If you are unhappy with your job and your intuition tells you a job layoff is imminent, it’s a good idea to have a strategy to maintain your professional and personal edge. And if you’re considering a career change, there are actions to take to make this hap-pen. Don’t be bitter, make yourself better. In a nutshell, you’ll want to be prepared to reinvent yourself.

Conduct a Professional & Personal Development Inventory

Make an honest assessment of your market-able skills and determine which can be transferred to another career. Networking is critical to professional development and potential career change. Most people find a new job through personal contacts. Ask your friends and colleagues about opportunities in the areas you are interested in pursuing. Think of your network as your personal database that needs to be continually refined and updated.

Identify Your Professional Goals

What do you really want to be doing with the next five, ten years of your life? The days of lifelong employment are a thing of the past—most of us will have several careers in our work life.

If you are considering a new career, re-search what additional skills and training do you need to bring to the employment table?

Additional training doesn’t necessarily mean going back to school, but it could mean courses at night, weekends or online. After conducting your inventory, it may include technical and online courses, training in a new technology, or advanced college coursework. Volunteer work is a great way to obtain both skills and experience. It’s an inexpensive method of trying out a new career without a large professional or emotional investment. It’s also a way to make new connections.

Develop the Ability to Respond to Change

Change is hard for everybody—it is one constant that pervades our professional and personal lives. Change is the business world. The work environment will continue to change rapidly and you need to adapt or be left behind. “Mobility/remote readiness” is trait of successful professionals; it is the ability and willingness to make a geographical move rather than staying in the same place of your birth, family or first job. Successful professionals sometimes need to sacrifice comfort or location to follow career opportunities. Technology also has made location less of a factor.

Develop flexibility to be able to adapt and adjust to changing situations and different work patterns so you are not tied to a particular job or type of organization. Starting a new career can mean a smaller paycheck and less prestige. It’s a good idea to have savings for at least six months of living expenses for a safety net.

Become a survivor—one with resiliency who is not thrown by crisis, defeats, or failures. You want to bounce back, learn from failure, and realize things could be worse—keep a positive attitude and Never Let Go of Your Dreams! (And if all else fails, you can always hire yourself and create your own future!)

Note: Opportunities Will Be There….as the Baby Boomer generation approaches retirement age, the pool of replacement workers will not be large enough to meet employer’s demands.

Strategies to Improve Your Economic Prospects

  • Keep Up Your Skills
  • Do Not Limit Yourself to One Employment Sector
  • Market Yourself
  • Build Networks & Keep Up with Technology
  • Learn to Live Beneath Your Means
  • Learn to Think Outside the Organizational Box
  • Reward Yourself Periodically by Celebrating Your Accomplishments
  • Make Yourself a Valued Employee by Stepping Up & Doing More