In the sixteen years I have been working professionally, I have been fortunate to spend 9 of them working from home. My very first job out of college, at 21, was a work-from-home job. I had never had a “real” full-time grown up job before, and it was very exciting. However, I had no clue how to manage my time. (Why isn’t time management a college business course?) Still living at home, I set up a home office in my bedroom, with a little desk that sat me in front of a window that opened onto the street, and I would either spend 15 hours each day working at that desk, or I would end up spending more hours inches away in my bed.
Many of us work more productively working from home, as opposed to working in an office environment. On Twitter, I see many people complaining about working from home, or writing blog posts about “How To Keep Your Sanity” when you work from home, but personally, I don’t agree with those. I find that my gratitude for never having to battle traffic, having no stress that perhaps I’m not home and my dog needs to go out or there are dishes waiting for me in the sink outweigh any negatives. That does not mean it is without its challenges. As I mentioned before, time management is the number one. It takes a lot of self-discipline to successfully work from home, and it is an ongoing process to continually find the best ways to be the most successful. What works for me may not work for you.
1. Give Yourself a “Commute” to the Office
I have a spare bedroom in the current house that I use as my office. On the weekends, I do not enter this room at all. I only go into my office when I am working. Are there some weekends I DO have to work? Absolutely, and I will go into the office to work, and then go into any other room to give myself a weekend. Your office set up is also very important – it should have the “right” light and desk set up for you to be most productive. The main idea is to keep your work space and home space separate. I would highly advise against taking your laptop into bed with you. It’s important to leave work behind and clear your head, and it can become a bit depressing to feel like work is always there.
2. Keep Regular Office Hours
This has taken me years to abide by, but I find it helps immensely. I start work every day at the same time, I try to end work close to the same time every day. The biggest issue with time management was I began to feel burned out when I worked too many hours, since I live and work in the same house.
3. Have a Routine
Similar to keeping regular office hours, I find that it helps to have a routine. If you worked in an office you would have certain things you did before leaving for work – perhaps that is hitting the gym or packing a lunch. You can do the same routine when you work from home. When you first begin working from home it is easy to take an extra-long lunch break or still try to catch the same shows you watched prior to working, but sticking to a routine will help safeguard against using this as an excuse to slack off.
4. Take Breaks
If you were in an office, there would be times you would take a break to visit a colleague, or walk around the office, go for coffee – you need those same breaks when you work from home. There are easy stretching exercises you can find to do sitting down or away from your desk, if you have any home fitness equipment you might want to take a 15 minute exercise break at the same time each day or you might even get to the gym at a certain time daily. I take breaks to walk the dog every four hours, or visit my “water cooler” (more info on that next).
5. Find Your Water Cooler
Not working in an office can at times, be a bit isolating. I believe it is important to guard against this. You might find your own water cooler by phoning or texting a colleague and sharing a bit of info with them. For me, my water cooler has been found in Twitter Chats. I have a calendar of chats I try to make on a regular basis where I have gotten to know a few key people in each one and have allowed them to get to know me. It’s a nice break in the day and it gives me an outlet for communication outside of work.
6. Have the Right Tools For Your Job
If you work remotely for a company you will be given an employee laptop and other such essentials, but if you freelance or own your company it will be imperative that you have a laptop and printer that works best for you. I’d also suggest finding a conferencing solution such as Zoom or Go To Meeting for all team meetings and screen sharing. I also believe everyone should have a VPN. Your scheduling and document management will also be critical to maintaining a productive workspace. Personally, I am old-school when it comes to my calendar. I use a paper planner where I can view the whole “Month-At-A-Glance” and use a color coding system to differentiate between work appointments and notes, and personal dates.
7. Work When You Are at Your Most Productive
I am a morning person. So I begin my days earlier than some other people. This can at times be a challenge when needing email responses or calls scheduled for West Coast workers, but I believe it’s most important to schedule the bulk of your workday around the time you are going to have the most energy and do the best work.
8. Eat Well
I don’t mean prepare six course lunches and spend hours slaving over the stove simply because you have the time to. I have found that it is all too easy to have a bag of chips next to me at my desk and munch throughout the day while I’m sitting in front of my laptop. Take time before work and after work to do simple meal prep, so you always have healthy fast options available to you when hunger strikes. Set times to eat just as you would if you were at an office. Your mind and body will thank you.
It might take you some time to adjust to working from home, but it really does pay off in the long run. What are some of the tips YOU have to share, on what helps your work from home experience work for you?