Francesco Junior Volpe, multilingual account executive at Stone Junction, believes cooking and productivity are linked. Using his native Italian blood, he explains, why effective working from home tip for productivity| PR productivity | international PR isn’t that different from making the perfect, authentic, lasagne.

Does working from home make you feel unproductive? Less creative? Disorganised? Lacking concentration? Or has lockdown transformed you into Gordon Ramsey? Only in terms of cooking ability, not profanity obviously.

Creativity is a vital part of effective home working, but you also need to ensure that you can complete all your tasks, while keeping concentration during the global pandemic. Just like you, I’ve read countless online tutorials that explain how to be productive working from home, but none of them have resonated with me.

COVID-19 has changed our lives in many ways and, during lockdown, many of us have rediscovered our biggest passions. If you check your Instagram, Facebook or even LinkedIn feed, you’ll find that everyone is suddenly a musician, an avid reader, a Tik-Tok star or a chef. But how are these people maintaining effective working from home while also keeping up their new hobbies? Could it be that their passions are actually making them more productive?

The answers to all my questions came while I was cooking. I realised that smart working can be more made more effective by applying the same rules I use when making a vegetarian lasagne. So, let’s see what ingredients are needed to make an epic lasagne and maintain WFH productivity.


Start with a plan

Everything is a question of cost, time, resources and, if all else fails, a backup plan. If you have never made a lasagne before, it can be overwhelming, chopping carrots, buying fresh vegetables, measuring quantities, guessing how much salt you need and so on. And the same can be said of working from home.

However, by following a written plan, i.e. a recipe or WFH schedule, and writing down all the steps you need, everything gets a little bit easier. Keep yourself up to date with either spreadsheets, or lasagne sheets, project management tools or even an old-fashioned Filofax or diary.

At Stone Junction, we use a shared bespoke database to manage all our projects, produce all our reports and keep track of to-do lists and daily, weekly and monthly plans. And soon our clients will be able to logon to the same database and check on the status of a project whenever they like.

We believe that it’s essential to have only one method of organising your tasks. The minute you start using more than one technique, you create a second to-do list, which is the same as having no to-do list at all. If you can’t trust your plan, because you know there is another plan somewhere, waiting to bite you, it’s very difficult to focus. 

Most people have more than one organisational tool without realising it. Most have a do list in their notebook or diary, Outlook for meetings, an email inbox full of flagged items and whatever tools their company uses for project management – plus a host of free apps. That’s before we start talking Teams, WhatsApp, text messages and calls…

As Dave Allen, the author of Getting Things Done said, “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them”. If everything is in a single place, a single organisational tool, then you are free to be creative without worry.

After all, you wouldn’t try to cook a lasagne by following more than one recipe at once, would you?

This breaks down your tasks into manageable, bite-sized chunks and makes it far easier to accomplish your goals without feeling overwhelmed. It also stops you repeating unnecessary steps or jobs; you don’t want to add extra salt if you have already added enough, right?


Fresh is best

Vegetarian lasagne needs fresh courgettes, aubergines and peppers. However, in the last couple of weeks, most of the supermarket shelves have been empty. My tip is to check the frozen section, but only as a backup plan. If an ingredient is fresh, the result will taste better.

Now, if your creative minds are empty shelves, you need to find a way to fill them. With fresh minds, you can achieve better results than using frozen ideas. Do some sport, drink water, take a shower, paint, play music and do everything you can to take care of your mental health. Your unconscious mind will reward you with the creative connections it provides to help you stay inventive.


The sauce

Mixing the perfect lasagne sauce might feel more like magic than science, but the secret is simple; mix the ingredients on a low heat. Just as vegetables cook well at a particular temperature, humans work well if they keep their emotional temperature just right.

The trick is to not let yourself burn out. Take regular breaks and try and recuperate from the day away from your workspace. Otherwise, just like your lasagne sauce at a high temperature, your brain will turn to mush.


The final result

Once your sauce is ready, you can create your layers, mix everything together and put your creation in the oven. But if you are stuck, or things don’t seem to be going right, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Check on the internet or call some friends with more experience — even if it is just for a chat. It’s not always easy working from home during a pandemic — or making lasagne for the first time.

Generally, if we learn to manage and combine our time, budgets, resources and backup plans together, we can achieve outstanding results – in PR and Italian cooking.


If you need me to translate my lasagne management recipe into Italian, German, French or Spanish, or you have other smart-working suggestions, check my Stone Junction profile or drop me an email at I can also help with international PR as well, naturally.

About the author

Richard Stone
Richard Stone - CHART.PR, MCIPR

Stone Junction is managed by Richard Stone, a chartered member of the CIPR whose previous experience includes campaigns for Arup, AIT Plc, CIENA, Parker Hannifin, Schneider Electric, SIG, SKF, Roche and WorldCom.

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