I’ve Run My Wine Biz From Home For 30 Years—Here Are the Rules

I began running my wine communications consultancy out of a home office in 1994 when I left a wine PR firm that I began my career with and went out on my own. There was a brief moment of a year and a half when I was lured away to work for a company in an office every day. However, for nearly 30 years, I’ve worked out of my home, physically alone. And there are rules to make it work.

This is what I’ve learned about how to work from home successfully:

1. Have a Dedicated Workspace Away From Distractions
A door is more important than you think. Not only does it keep out distractions (and there are far more of those at home than at an office), but it provides a dedicated space to work, where you should do nothing else if you can avoid it.

2. Close Your Door And Walk Away
It is crucial to walk away and stop working. It’s imperative that you close that door and walk away from your work and workspace at a defined time and leave it all behind. This is hard to do with phones and tablets in our midst. But you must try. The unhealthy vortex you can get sucked into by blurring the line between work and home is dark and deep, hard to climb out of and will result in poor product and resentment.

3. Stay Connected to Human Beings
Phone someone who you don’t need to. Text colleagues to say hello. Reach out to peers, workmates, friends and others to run ideas by them. There is so much we do not see without being pointed in the right direction. Working in an office with others around sees spontaneous conversations arise that lead to ideas or changes in plans. This kind of idea and process evolution and problem-solving doesn’t happen so easily when you are in a room, by yourself and there is no one walking by or knocking on your door or walking the halls when you do. Reach out regularly if only to shoot the shit.

4. Care For Your Technology
Particularly your computer and phone. You have no built-in IT Department or on-call tech person when you work from home. Take care of your equipment. Nothing derails a day (or week) when stuff stops working.

5. Take a Lunch Break Away From Your Office
The mind is nourished by nourishment and a new view of the world. Leave your workspace. Eat lunch elsewhere. Look at something other than a screen as you chew. Read something while you chew that isn’t a work memo or article on your industry. It’s about giving yourself a real break, not a fake break.

6. No Drinking or Getting Stoned on the Job
When I first started working from home, I would occasionally pour myself a drink in the afternoon and plow through the last bit of work for the day. Resist this temptation. Resist the temptation to drink or ingest cannabis until working is over. Concentrating when the distractions of home (so different than work distractions) stare you in the face is hard enough without getting at all tipsy or stoned. Leave it for when you close the door on your workspace for the day.

7. Invest in the Chair
If you are temporarily working from home you generally don’t want to do much investment in the various accouterments of an office. If your company will pay for you to create a home workspace, then fine. But if you have to do the spending to create that workspace, spend real money on the chair to get one that is ergonomic and won’t have you jumping out of it every 15 minutes. !! A crappy chair that you pulled out of the dining room to use in your office is going to put you on your back very quickly. Invest in the chair!

8. Make the Deal
It may turn out that the biggest detriment to operating in a home office isn’t you or your will power. It may turn out it’s your family. That means you need to make the deal. The deal is simple: “From 9pm to 5pm I’m working and not to be disturbed except in emergencies. After that, I’m all yours.” This is a crucial talk to have, particularly if you have kids at home who can function on their own. And remember, the most important part of “The Deal” is the second half. If you don’t give yourself to them when you are done, they won’t leave you alone beforehand.


3 Responses

  1. Bill McIver - March 24, 2020

    Great advice and rules. I break them all, except for the chair. I’ve been working/writing for years on that danged wine industry politics book. It’s my job. If I followed your advice I would probably have it finished and on to another one.

  2. Helene - March 24, 2020

    All valid, but not always simple, if you have a ‘portfolio career’, a.k.a. multiple unrelated strands. My best rule-of-thumb is that I only pick up emails at 10:00am and 4:00pm. Those which require an immediate response, receive it; otherwise it can wait-at least a bit. Covers the bases of those that come in late in the day (or very early) and anything that comes in during the middle segment of a day. And, most importantly, this system doesn’t interrupt my work (rereading 5 pages of a report or trying to find where on a drawing one was is time-wasting!)

    Ah, if someone is desperate, he or she will pick up the telephone; those I do answer when the telephone rings.

  3. Mike Dunne - March 24, 2020

    Sound advice. You also might consider a stand-up desk, which I’ve come to prefer while working at home over the past 12 years. Supposed to help with circulation, balance, strength and the like, but it hasn’t done a thing to help with my golf game. I also like the idea mentioned above of checking email just twice a day. I too often let myself get interrupted by those chiming alerts; same for Facebook.

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