When people hear that I work from home, I am often met with a lot of the same reactions, “how lucky, you must love sleeping in,” or “I bet you watch a lot of TV,” or my personal favorite, “must be great not having to answer to anyone!”
Well, I don’t sleep in. And I don’t watch TV all day. Not only do I answer to my team and managers, but most notably, I answer to myself (yes, with bedhead some days until noon), but I am accountable, nonetheless. I am productive. I am proficient in completing tasks at hand. I am an engaged team member within my department. I am a contributor to the successes of my company. I am part of genuine relationships with my coworkers, and most importantly, I am a confident employee who is fully capable of productively working from my home.
After working in defined office environments for over 20 years, in late 2018 I was faced with the transition of becoming a home-based employee. Personally, I thrive in an office. I enjoy seeing the hustle and bustle of a busy business day, and I appreciate all that comes from physically going into the office, whether that be talking face-to-face with a coworker about a project or sharing a giggle about something in his or her personal life. This was a big change for me. I quickly gained a new perspective working from home, including hearing the neighbor’s dog yap all day and figuring out how to become the involved, efficient, and successful home-based employee that I wanted to be.
What I have learned is that how you approach your time working from home can ultimately define your success. So, here I offer you some insight and a few simple tips to keep your workdays at home running smoothly.
Tip 1: Get started early. Simply getting a project started first thing in the morning can be the key to making progress on it gradually throughout the day. Otherwise, you might prolong breakfast and let the morning sluggishness wear away your motivation. On that note, make sure you do eat a regularly scheduled breakfast to prevent daydreaming all morning over whatever’s calling your name from your refrigerator. I can confirm that I have never opened my refrigerator door as much as I have while working from home.
Tip 2: Pretend you’re going into the office. It’s amazing what mental association can do. It helps set the mindset for deadlines and structure. Plan your to-do list for the day and stick to it. Keep the clock in mind as you do in the office in order to get your tasks done. Additionally, don’t forget those breaks during the workday that allow us to decompress and stretch our legs – this still holds true in the home environment. Make sure your routine also includes getting dressed. You get ready to go to work, and you should get ready to go to work in your home. Although, a day in pajamas never hurt anyone.
Tip 3: Choose a dedicated workspace. Work is not a leisure activity so it shouldn’t necessarily be done on your comfortable, sleep-inducing couch. Find a space that is conducive to keeping you focused and alert. If you don’t have a dedicated office space, a kitchen table can often accommodate as a more defined and comfortable space that keeps you at the very least, upright.
Tip 4: Work when most productive. Most of us can be flexible with our lunch time when working at an office location, and that should continue in the home office environment. If you naturally hit a wall as lunchtime approaches in the office setting, it’s likely that wall might hit around the same time at home. As you would allow yourself that lunchbreak at the office, allow it at home. If you know you tend to slump at a certain point of the day, keep that in mind as you make a schedule and avoid working during that period. That’s a great time to get out for a walk in the fresh air or to say hi to a neighbor!
Tip 5: Use technology to stay connected. 21% of remote workers say that the biggest struggle is loneliness, but technology can help us combat that. There’s no need to feel cut off or disconnected. Instant messaging and videoconferencing can make it easy to check in with coworkers and remind you how your work is contributing to the big picture. Be prepared though, videoconferencing could mean combing your hair, but it’s worth the face-to-face time with coworkers and clients.
Bonus tip: Set that quitting time. Working from home allows us flexibility. This is a wonderful benefit in an employer, but try to keep to routine hours when possible and when your workload allows. Stay true to your quitting time. Working from home doesn’t need to equate to working longer hours. Having your keyboard at your fingertips at any time of the day can be counter-productive to the flexibility working from home offers us in the first place. Your personal life is important and an established end-time will allow you to focus on it.
Some of us have the confidence to work strongly from home at the start, while others might need some reassurance. For those who feel stressed about working from home, work towards creating a routine, defining boundaries, taking breaks, creating a new work environment or working on other ways to socialize during the work week. The flexibility that comes from working at home provides that same flexibility in figuring out what works best for you!