By Brecken Branstrator
brecken.branstrator@nationaljeweler.com
New York—Shelter-in-place orders have nonessential employees across the globe adjusting to a new normal way of working—from home.

For many who aren’t used to making their home their office too, it’s a time of trial and error as they try different routines to figure out what works for them.

To help, National Jeweler has assembled a list of tips from members of the jewelry trade who have experience working from home.

1. Stick to a schedule.

This is one of the most suggested and repeated tips from experts and work-from-home veterans alike, who vouch that the best way to adapt to the new work environment is to keep a routine.

Brilliant Earth Senior Vice President of Human Resources Jaime Yas recommends practicing the normal morning routine, including showering, taking time to make coffee, meditating, getting dressed—including putting on jewelry—and getting to the home “office” at the same time as the traditional office.

Lydia McConnell, founder and creative director of costume jewelry brand Le Chic Miami, said she works best when she makes time management a focus.

She starts the day by going over the to-do list she made the previous day. From there, she assigns times to do each task during the day, giving herself 10 to 20 minutes more than she thinks she’ll need for each.


“This way I am able to finish all my important tasks first and leave the less important ones for later in the day or for the next day,” she told National Jeweler.

The routine also includes making sure the day’s start and stop times are defined as much as possible.

Becky Stone of Diamonds in the Library said this: “If you don't differentiate your work and non-work hours, your work and play will merge together into a guilt-ridden miasma of obligation that prevents you from ever truly relaxing. You need to be on the clock so that you can be off the clock.”

She added the right way to do this is “highly individual and takes practice.”

Stone said sometimes she does it by task—setting a certain number of goals for the day and when those tasks are finished, she stops working—and other days, when work is “too nebulous for clear tasks,” she gives herself a time-based end of the day.

“It’ll take a little while to figure out the right way for you to define your workday, but it’s extremely important to your overall well-being,” Stone said.

2. Have a designated workspace that’s comfortable.

Pick a desk, seat or table space to be your designated “office,” and use it only while you’re working.

“Setting physical boundaries between your personal space and workspace is even more important at home; you don’t want to be tempted to keep working all the time, or getting easily distracted by home tasks,” Yas said.

Be sure the space also is prepped with everything needed for productivity so when you sit, you’re ready to work and only need to get up when planned.

Keep it clean; organize and tidy the space at the end of each day.

“It's hard to stay focused if your work area is a mess,” said Tracy Matthews, chief visionary officer and creative director at the Flourish & Thrive Academy, which teaches jewelry designers about the business side of the trade.

And, while you’re at it, make the space ergonomic, Stone recommended.
“If you don't differentiate your work and non-work hours, your work and play will merge together into a guilt-ridden miasma of obligation that prevents you from ever truly relaxing.”—Becky Stone, Diamonds in the Library
While a silver lining of the work-from-home situation might seem to be the chance to work and lounge at the same time, working in your bed or on the couch isn’t the best idea for long-term situations.

“After a few days, when you start to feel a twinge in your lower back, a crick in your deck, a creeping numbness in your wrist, do yourself a favor and Google how to set up an ergonomic workspace,” Stone said.

“It’s easier than it sounds. Don’t be afraid to MacGyver a footstool out of Amazon boxes for the sake of your posture. It will make a difference, trust me.”

3. Organize your day and plan for the next.

Matthews recommends mapping out a to-do list and prioritizing through a filter.

Ask yourself: What’s going to get me closer to my goals once this crisis is over, and what will provide fuel for my business?

“Typically, I’d suggest focusing on revenue-generating activities first, those things that keep you connected to bringing revenue in or help you stay connected to your customers,” Matthews said.

She also recommended blocking out time on the calendar to work with no distractions.

“Create themed days or certain days for certain tasks,” Matthews said. “Block out one day a week for creative and strategic work; creativity takes space and can't be blocked in between appointments. Time-block your days for certain tasks or types of activities.”

Additionally, use your most productive hours for the most productive tasks. Ask yourself when you tend to get more done. Are you better in the morning or in the afternoon?

No matter what the answer is, use those time slots for your most important tasks, Matthews recommended.

4. Schedule breaks.

Many of those National Jeweler spoke with emphasized the importance of not only taking breaks during the day but planning them in the schedule.

Yas said workers don’t often realize how many breaks they take during the workday because they’re often unplanned, like chatting with coworkers who stop by their desks or stepping out to get coffee or food.

“Just as you would take a few minutes to clear your mind in the office, schedule breaks at home so that you don’t get too bogged down,” she said. “Regular breaks also ensure you’re able to tackle your tasks with a clear mind.”

Some recommend the Pomodoro Technique, a method for time management that sets short, specific blocks of time to work on very specific tasks and then rewards with a break.

For example, you’d pick a task, set a timer for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break after. Repeat for 25 minutes with another task and another 5-minute break.

After four “pomodoros,” you take a long break, anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes.

“This has vastly helped me to improve my productivity,” McConnell said of the technique.

Also important in the “breaks” category is ensuring you give yourself weekends, where you have whole days when you’re not working at all.

“It doesn’t matter if your weekend now happens exclusively in your living room, it still needs to happen,” Stone said.

“Watch Netflix without checking email. Read a book. Take a bath. Bake muffins.”

5. Take care of yourself.

“You can’t do your best, most creative work if your own glass is half full,” said Trisha Okubo, the founder of direct-to-consumer jewelry brand Maison Miru.

She said this can include finding small ways to bring joy, like taking the time to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee, or rewarding yourself with a piece of chocolate between meetings or tasks.
“Just as you would take a few minutes to clear your mind in the office, schedule breaks at home so that you don’t get too bogged down. Regular breaks also ensure you’re able to tackle your tasks with a clear mind.”—Jaime Yas, Brilliant Earth
For many, taking care of themselves includes maintaining relationships and getting social by reaching out to the important people in their lives—check in on loved ones, message friends or take advantage of the many apps that allow people to connect remotely, like Zoom or House Party.

Jewelry designer Julie Lamb said she finds a sense of structure and comfort by taking her favorite workout classes online.

Taking care of yourself also includes watching your caffeine intake, Stone said.

“I know the coffee maker is right there and you can finally make a whole pot of your favorite blend, but it’s going to make your heart explode. Please drink some water.”

6. Stay in touch with existing customers.

Screen time is at an all-time high right now, and Matthews said many in her Flourish & Thrive Academy community are indicating consumers are still currently buying via email.

It’s a critical time to maintain communication with them, whether that be through an email marketing platform and social media or tools like Instagram Live, Facebook Live, YouTube, Zoom and Google Hangouts.

Ideas on how to stay in touch, according to Matthews, are sharing new designs currently in the works, selling gift certificates, pre-selling collections to be delivered later, and reaching out authentically to ask how they’re doing during this time.

Retailers also can still have interactions with customers by moving the conversation online and to social media, offering help and advice through those channels, writing blogs with useful content for jewelry shopping or offering jewelry guidance through videos.

Matthews offered another creative idea to stay in touch—virtual trunk shows, in which customers are invited to a “sip and see” wine event, sample sale or trunk show.

Using live video allows them to engage and shop from the safety of their homes.

7. See the opportunity to be creative in new ways.

Now could be the perfect time to either work on the projects that have been on the backburner for a while or brainstorm new ones.

For designer Lamb, it’s an opportune time to create content—write blogs and take pictures to stash away for later use, “so when we step into ‘the new normal,’ you’ll have a big back pocket full of posts and ads all ready to go.”

Another important thing that can be done right now is honing the online sales strategy.

Matthews made several recommendations in this area: optimizing SEO results locally, building an email list if you don’t have one already and marketing to those people, building social media followers, booking virtual appointments with clients and launching an offline-to-online direct mail campaign.

It’s also a good time to take a virtual class to hone your skills, whether it is jewelry-industry focused or just a general business class.

“There is no better time than now to work on your business instead of just in your business,” Matthews said.

“Focus on strategy, long-term goals, improving systems and workflows. Learn how to market your business better and optimize your results; online courses and programs are a great way to do that.”


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