3 Tips on Working from Home
Ahhh, the elusive “work from home” position. No matter how much you love your job, there are likely at least a few days where you’ve dreamed about the ability to roll out of bed at your leisure and return emails from the couch while in sweats. The truth is, although working from home comes with a ton of benefits, like a flexible schedule, it can also have severe drawbacks if you aren’t careful.
Anyone can work from home, but working efficiently from home is a true art. Being someone that works efficiently in a non-traditional environment requires a great deal of discipline, boundary setting, and organization.
After spending four years after college in a small office setting, I became an independent contractor in 2012. For the nearly four years, I’ve been working from my home office with a variety of clients, and have learned a lot about the pros and cons of being home during the day. Besides the fact that my bulldog literally makes me question my life choices multiple times an hour as she squeaks her blue Christmas ornament toy against my shoe while I am trying to conduct a conference call, I enjoy working from home – but I enjoy it only because I stick to these three basic principles.
- BE ROUTINE & DISCIPLINED – SET AN ALARM AND GET DRESSED EVERY MORNING. I was 24 when I first started working from home, which is peak age for thinking working from home should equal waking up whenever and hanging out in sweats all day. Who cares!!! Nobody can SEEE MEEEEE! This mindset, although tempting, sets the wrong tone for your day. By setting an alarm and waking up at the same time every day, you create a routine for yourself that reminds you that although you’re not leaving the house, you’ve got work to tackle and projects to conquer. By the same token, will I lie to you and say I’ve never stayed in Lululemon spandex all day while working? No, I will not lie. I have. But more days than not, I get dressed in jeans and a top to sit down at my desk. Having “real” clothes on is another key to setting that “workplace” tone in your house. You will feel more professional, more prepared and more organized by waking up consistently and having the self-respect required to put on an outfit. If you don’t take yourself seriously, it will wind up being reflected in your work – consciously or sub-consciously.
- STAY ORGANIZED – HAVE A DEDICATED WORK AREA. I mean I could do a whole separate post on office supplies because I have sort of a secret affinity for them, but I will try to keep it simple here. Another pitfall in working from home is the people that think it’s then OK to “email from bed for a few hours” (aka all day), or slump on the couch all afternoon with Real Housewives of BH on in the background (Erika Jane you naughty kitten!!! Oh right, this email..). Your house or apartment may not have the space to have an entire home office, which is totally fine. If you don’t have the room to even stick a desk in the corner of a dining room or spare bedroom, here’s what I would recommend: create a small bundle of “your office.” This would include your laptop & charger, to-do list pad, calendar/organizer, and notebook. Keep it stacked on a shelf somewhere in your house, and every morning bring it out to the dining room table and set up shop. At 5 or 6PM every day, stack it back up and put it out of sight. This simple organization tip is SO much better than leaving folders and stacks of paper all over your dining room table, and then just shoving them to the side while you eat your PF Changs take out later that night. That’s just depressing.
- SET BOUNDARIES – SHUT IT DOWN THE SAME TIME EVERY DAY. A major drawback that I immediately noticed when I began working from home is that there is no “end of the day.” It’s easy to keep getting sucked back in to never ending emails and to-do lists, and suddenly realizing that it’s 7PM – something you probably wouldn’t do if you were sitting in an office building. I personally solved this issue by setting my workout time for 5PM every day. It helped me to put my things away at 4:45PM (I start my workday a little earlier for any judgy-wudgys that are going to be mad at me for saying 4:45), shut my laptop, and head to the gym. When I return from the gym, I try not to open my laptop back up (although the inevitable iPhone emailing does occur). Find some sort of “end of day” signal that allows you to create structure to your day where there is none.
By creating a routine, staying organized and setting boundaries, you can set yourself up to work efficiently and successfully from your home office. And go ahead, sneak to your refrigerator for an ice cream break at 10:30AM or take your dog for a power walk around the block after lunch. After all, you have to enjoy the advantages somehow.