Since starting my IT career almost 10 years ago, I’ve had the privilege of working at jobs that gave me the option to work from home. As long as I have a working internet connection, I am able to work. I haven’t used the option often, but telecommuting while traveling has also been a tremendous help in past family trips. My current full-time job thrives in the collaboration space with voice and video so the ability to work from home or a remote location helps in times of emergency or natural disasters such as snowstorms, hurricanes, and city shutdowns.
When people find out I work from home 2 1/2 to 3 days of the workweek, they think I’m living a good life. With no morning or evening commute and more free time to get things done around the house, working from home sounds PERFECT. Well, similarly to being an online graduate student, and creating a home and work-life balance, it takes discipline. If you’re adjusting to working from home due to emergency situations, thinking about switching to a career that gives the option to telecommute, or running a home-based business, here are some tips on working remotely that will help you stay productive.
Establish Working Hours
The first thing you can do when you decide (or it is mandated) to work from home is to establish working hours. Standard work hours are 9 AM-5 PM, Monday-Friday, but there are some remote workers that make adjustments to accommodate their lifestyle or fit the needs of the company. Make sure to discuss working hours and specific requirements for your deliverables with your supervisor. If you have a home-based business, establish working hours to avoid working too much and potential burnout. Create a work from home schedule that lets you work 30-min to 1-hour increments before each break.
Designate a Working Space
When working from home, it’s good to have a designated space to actually get work done. Avoid working in rooms with a television and don’t work from your bed. You may be tempted to watch some shows or fall back asleep. Create a home office in your basement, attic, bonus room, or specific area in your home. I used to work from a small corner on the dining room table. Now that I’m working from home more frequently, blog and go to school, I put a desk and office chair inside of my walk-in closet to create a home cloffice. Hotel rooms often provide desk areas with enough space to use your laptop, notepad, and work papers.
Working from home gives you more flexibility to do things around the house, but a lack of direct supervision should not be an excuse to do whatever you want. Eliminate distractions by not turning on the television and keeping your cell phone on silent or in a different room. Try your best to stay off or limit your time on social media. If schools are closed or there is a possibility of children being home with you, they can be a big distraction from getting work done. It may be hard but look for ways for them to continue learning outside the traditional classroom whether they be online or via worksheets. Let them know ahead of time that non-emergency conversations should be kept at a minimum. I’ve worked remotely while watching my nieces and nephews from toddler-aged to tweens for days and sometimes weeks. It can be tough, but it is not impossible.
Get Up & Get Dressed for the Day
I know working from home in your pajamas sounds great, but it isn’t ideal. Create a work from home routine that includes getting up at your normal time and preparing for the day like you are going to the office. This morning routine should include showering, brushing your teeth, eating if you normally have breakfast and getting dressed appropriately. My job normally has a business casual dress code so I don’t have to wear business clothes, but I make sure to wear something comfortable enough for the house and presentable for video conferences and chats.
Speaking of video conferences and chats, make sure to stay connected. Working from home can get lonely, especially if you live alone and/or are used to being social with coworkers. In the office, I normally speak with coworkers in our break room, during work meetings, or walking over to their cubicle for a quick chat. Working from home, video calls, conferences, and collaboration spaces via WebEx teams and slack are used to keep in contact. If your job has applications for messaging and video, use them. If you have a home-based business, you can FaceTime, use Whatsapp or phone a friend or family member during breaks.
Remember to Take Breaks
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I am #teamtakeabreak. If you’re working from home, you are still entitled to take a break. Please remember to give yourself a break. You can schedule breaks for lunch, coffee, or checking in with friends and family members. If it is a nice day out, take a walk around the block to get some fresh air. This also encourages you to get your steps in for the day. If you do take a break, make sure to come back at a reasonable time. Keep your team informed so they know you’re not abusing the privilege of working remotely.
Stop When the Day is Done
An end-of-day routine is just as important as a morning work from home routine. Once you’re in your creative or work groove, it can be easy to lose track of time. Make sure to have a hard stop when the workday is done. Working in end-user support, I normally don’t do WebEx meetings for non-critical support cases after 4 PM. I also make sure to update all pending work before leaving for the day. It is important to stop working at the end of the day to avoid burnout. If it is not critical, it can wait. While I understand it comes from a place of privilege, I hope this post sharing tips for working from home effectively are helpful for your work productivity. If you have any other tips for working from home to share, leave them in the comments below.