9 Essential Tips for Working From Home
Two months ago, I started working from home for the first time. It’s been an interesting transition, but I finally feel as if I’m getting my stride. There are definite pros to working from home: I can work from anywhere, I can take an exercise class at any time of the day, and I don’t have to deal with a commute. But there are also cons: I don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of, and it’s hard to find the right work-life balance. I’m learning that in order to be successful at working from home, you’ve got to be disciplined. What else have I realized along the way? Here are nine essential tips for making the most of working from home.
If you have a separate room that is a home office, congrats! You’re incredibly lucky. Make this space as office-y as possible. Get a nice desk, ergonomic chair, and lots of desk accessories like notepads, pens, and Post-Its. When you’re in this room, do work and only work. Don’t go in the office when you’re having leisure time.
If you don’t have an extra room that you can tun into an office, establish a workspace in a part of your house. Turn a small corner of the room into a work nook, or set up shop at your kitchen table like I do. The key is to turn it into an area of work for your working hours then revert it back to its normal function when you’re not working. So every morning, when I "get to work," I remove the vase of flowers that are normally at the center of my kitchen table and place my laptop there instead. I pull out my calendar, clipboard, and any papers relevant to what I am working on, and place them on the table next to the computer. Then I start working. When I’m done working, I put the computer, calendar, clipboard, and papers away in a drawer.
In order to ensure that you are productive and perform to maximum efficiency, set up a routine like you would if you worked in an office. Get up at the same time everyday, take a shower, and get dressed. If you used to go on a walk during your lunch break when you worked in an office, leave your house and do the same each day at 12:30.
My biggest challenge has been with stopping work. For the first couple of weeks, when I was home, I was working all the time, be it day or night. However, this is not healthy, and I quickly realized I needed to give myself a time limit for working. If I worked nine hours when I went to an office, I should work nine hours when I’m at home, right?
You have to discipline yourself to do this, or else you’ll end up working all the time, and this will make you crazy! When you start to work, take a look at the clock. If it’s 9:30 a.m., tell yourself you’re going to pack up shop and stop working at 6:30 p.m. When 6:30 rolls around, stop working—whether or not you’re done with all the work. Remember, work is never really done (that’s why it’s work), so it’s okay to stop and take a break for the night.
Set up meetings outside of your house. Find a café that you like that has Internet and use this as your go-to spot for meetings. Make dates to see friends after work. Go to happy hour. Do all of the things you would normally do if you worked in an office.
You’re alone in your house, so you can make as many phone calls as you want! Set up a weekly call with a manger to discuss your job. Instead of sending an email to ask a quick question, call your boss and simply ask them. If an old friend who you haven’t talked to calls, pick up and take a 10-minute break and chat with them. Move out of your work station to talk.
However, if you find yourself distracted by texts or phone calls, turn your smartphone on airplane mode and place it in a different area of your home. When you worked at an office, you probably weren’t constantly checking your texts or Instagram, so don’t do it when you’re working from home.
Do you have a friend who works from home? If so, ask them if you can create a system where you check in once a week and see how things are going. Set up a regular coffee date then get together for 30 minutes and chat about anything that’s been on your mind. This friend will become your new “co-worker.” Just be sure to also have friend time with them outside of your weekly work meetings. You don’t want your relationship to be all about work. Go to a new wine bar or get a mani/pedi together.
If you become distracted or unfocused but still need to get work done, grab your purse and get out of the house for a short amount of time. Run an errand to the bank or stop by your local grocery store to pick up something for dinner. Take a quick 15- or 20-minute break to clear your mind; then head home and face your to-do list.
It’s tempting to work in your pajamas all day, but don’t do it. Sure, you can do it once in a while, but you’ll be more productive if you follow your routine and get dressed. Plus, what if that guy you’re crushing on happens to text and ask you to meet him for a drink? If it’s 6 p.m. and you’re still in your pajamas with your hair in a messy bun and toothpaste on your mouth, you won’t be able to meet him!
Don’t coop yourself up in your house all day, every day. Make plans to get out and do something each day. Working out is a great reason to get out of the house! Be sure to get out and connect with people, even if it’s just the bartender at your local watering hole.
If you’ve had a really productive week, treat yourself to dinner out at your favorite restaurant on Friday. Throw a “company” holiday party and invite all of your friends. When you achieve goals and accomplish tasks, reward yourself for the job well done.
Shop some of my favorite desk accessories below.
Do you work from home? What are your essential tips?