As someone who has been working from home for over 5 years, I have some veteran advice for anyone who may be entering this precarious work/life balance for the first time. It may sound like a dream come true for most people, but make no mistake, it is still work. More disciplined and deliberate than a traditional office setting, but with great responsibility come great perks…if done right. Here are my tips for how to work from home successfully:
- Set up a Home Office/Work Area
I’m not naturally an organized person but I can honestly tell you that having a separate clean, functional workspace makes a huge difference in both your quality of work and overall mindset. When I first started working from home, I tried to do it from my kitchen table. I had no real desk and thought, “Hey, I’ve got a laptop and a flat surface. I’m all set.” I was so very, very wrong. Distractions (and snacks) ran rampant.
Eventually I wised up and invested in a good desk. I looked for a desk for a while, I wanted one that was the right height and provided a lot of surface space. The extra surface space was because I quickly realized that working on a single laptop screen was not ideal for the kind of work I was doing. So, I also made the decision to invest in another monitor. Making these two changes to my working-from-home life exponentially increased both my productivity and over-all happiness. My point is, do whatever it takes to make yourself successful. Invest in yourself and your career. Whether it’s a quiet corner carved out in another room or a separate room entirely, having a dedicated space that is yours to focus in is critical to working from home.
- Set Office Hours
It is essential to have specific times that you’re available each day, both to your co-workers and boss and to yourself, so that you mentally commit yourself to working those hours each day. Depending on your work situation, these hours can be flexible based on the needs of that day, but having set times that you work will help you prioritize your time and reassure your team that you are a dedicated and trustworthy employee. Be sure to communicate with your co-workers what your hours are for the week, making yourself easily accessible to them makes you a collaborator rather than simply a colleague.
- Take Breaks
When you work in the same place you live, it can often be hard to ever truly step away from the “office.” This can lead to burn out, which can lead to distraction, which can lead to inefficiency, which can lead to…well, you get my point. Stepping away for even a few minutes during the day can provide a much-needed reset, whether it’s taking a walk or simply eating lunch away from your desk.
- Take Communication Seriously
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in what you’re doing on a daily basis that you forget to check in, but this is a huge mistake. While you clearly know how hard you’re working, it’s unfair to assume others do. I’m a big fan of over-communicating. Seriously, my boss and I talk daily to check in. Sure, these talks may digress into discussing how awesome our dogs are occasionally, but the point is that we check in. Trust me, after a few months of working from home, you’ll be grateful for the opportunity to practice talking to other adults.
There you have it, my secrets to successfully working from home. Many of my co-workers shared the same advice when asked for their tips, so take them for universal truths if you will. If you can do it effectively, get ready to enjoy all the perks, like throwing in a load of laundry in between meetings, having no one else to blame all the dirty dishes in the sink on, and getting really great at self-validation…just kidding…sort of.