Working from home may seem like the perfect scenario, especially when compared to holing up in a cubicle, but it comes with a unique set of challenges. Here are proven techniques for working from home efficiently and happily.
Whether you are working from home currently or have fantasized about the possibility in the future, you have probably considered the complications that come along with it. Of course, distractions are everywhere. Children, roommates, Netflix, snacks, and even cozy blankets make working from home delightful and difficult.
We’ve rounded up some tips on staying productive at home without giving up the freedoms and flexibility that working remotely affords you.
1. Designate a space specifically for work
If you’re lucky enough to have an office at home, it will be easier to separate your home life from your work life. But if your one-bedroom apartment doesn’t allow for a designated “office,” set aside a corner for a desk or chair dedicated to working.
2. Invest in a comfortable and functional office space.
There are lots of practical techniques for keeping your workspace organized and functional. Spend some time and money revamping your own. Also, get a good office chair. Your tush and back will thank you.
3. Reduce the clutter in your workspace, including your computer.
Before starting work each day, clean up your space, including your desktop, Internet windows, and programs. Beginning each morning surrounded by the essentials will reduce distraction and help delineate your time on the clock from your time off. Shut down your work programs and windows to start fresh the following day.
4. Get dressed in the morning.
I know, I know. The best part of working from home is working in your pajamas. But trust me, you can’t wear pajamas to the office for a reason. Get up, wash your face, brush your teeth, and change before starting the day. You don’t have to put on your work clothes exactly, but make sure it’s a step above sweats or a bathrobe.
5. Start your morning right.
Don’t wake up and dive into your work day immediately (we know it’s tempting). Use the time you’re not commuting to read the paper or eat an excellent breakfast. Taking time to feel like someone before work will help productivity immensely.
6. Create a daily work schedule.
Without setting a concrete work-from-home schedule, work life can easily bleed over into home life. Set daily office hours for yourself and stick to them. Make sure you communicate those hours to your co-workers so they know when they can get in touch with you, but also let your roommates and/or family know so they know when to leave you for work.
7. Make a work plan for each day.
With no one looking over your shoulder during the day, sticking to a timeline can be difficult. Start each day with an ideal work plan, identifying what needs to be completed and when you’d like to finish it. Consider making three lists:
- Things that need to be done ASAP.
- Things that need to be done in the near future.
- Things that need to be done at some point.
8. Track your time spent.
Part of working from home is knowing how, when, and where you work best. Keep track of your productivity by noting progress every 15 minutes or so. When do you do your best writing? Do you work best at a desk or a coffee shop? The answers to these questions will help you make a work plan that suits you.
9. Distance yourself from social media.
Most remote positions will require extensive Internet use, and with Internet use comes Internet distractions. Social media is the worst offender. We recommend keeping social media tabs closed, removing distracting sites from your bookmark bar, or even blocking certain sites if it gets out of control.
10. Check in with the office several times a day.
Every few hours, send an email or chat to your boss or co-workers. This will help you stay connected to your office and confirm that you are, in fact, working. If you’re freelancing or self-employed and do not have an office to check in with, do a self-check-in. Evaluate your progress like a boss or an editor would. This will help maintain perspective on your big-picture goals.
11. Take regular, clear breaks.
You aren’t going to stay focused for a full 8 hours, but regulating your breaks every two hours or so will help keep you concentrated longer. Allow yourself fifteen minutes away from your computer. Walk to a coffee shop with your dog, play with your cat (or kids), or eat a healthy snack. Try to go outside at least once a day. Trust me; it’ll keep you sane.
12. Stay out of the kitchen…
Working from home can easily turn into an all-you-can-eat snackfest if you aren’t careful. Avoid the freelancer 15 by staying out of the kitchen between meals (unless you go for the fruits and veggies). Pour yourself a tall glass of water in the morning to minimize trips to the fridge during the day.
13. …Unless it’s lunchtime.
It’s very easy to skip lunch breaks when you can graze from the pantry periodically. Resist the temptation to snack by preparing yourself a nice lunch before work. Then, when the lunch hour rolls around, you’ll have a nice meal to enjoy on your midday break.
14. Maintain office relationships.
It can be difficult to stay connected to your co-workers when you’re not connected physically. If you’re close enough, get lunch with them to catch up. If not, consider video-chatting your meetings every once in a while or making a quick call instead of sending an email. These little efforts will make a big difference.
15. Network electronically.
Working from home often gets in the way of career progression, so if you’re looking to become a manager, consider staying in the office. But working remotely doesn’t mean shutting down your professional network entirely. Keep up with your LinkedIn profile and communities as much as possible. It’s important to stay connected to the industry, even when you’re away from the physical office.
16. Don’t quit work when it gets hard.
Like working in an office, there are some days at home that your brain simply refuses to function. But if you hit a mental block, try shifting gears. Pick up something more mindless, like organizing your files or desktop, answering some emails, or making a list. Alternatively, when your brain is firing on all cylinders, make sure you have a notepad nearby for bursts of inspiration.
17. Get out of the house
When the comfort of your bed gets a little too tempting, it’s time to get moving. Find a nearby coffee shop, library, or cafe to set up in. Sometimes, a little change of scenery—and the social pressure of witnesses—is all you need to recharge for the rest of the day. Plus, a little human interaction never hurt anyone.
18. Try working with others.
If you work best under the watchful eye of fellow employees, experiment with an “accountability buddy.” Meet up with a friend who has their own work to do and hold each other to it. The companionship will do you good, and a little peer pressure isn’t bad either.
19. Take advantage of your flexibility.
The best thing about working from home is that home can be anywhere (with WiFi). Check out a new local coffee shop. Set up in a hotel in Las Vegas. Work from a friend’s place. The world is your cubicle now, get out there and explore.