While working from home may sound perfect, there are certains aspects that may be more challenging than you think.
And no, we aren’t talking about which pajamas to choose for the day or where to go to lunch. We’re talking about scheduling, communication, productivity and defining the line between home & office.
Which can get blurred a whole lot faster than you may think.
Take it from me; I’ve been working from home for over 10 years, and while I would never go back to a traditional work environment, there are days where I get sucked into rabbit holes and get absolutely nothing done.
Which is why over the years, I have learned some helpful tips to make working remotely not only successful but more healthy, productive and enjoyable.
1. SET A SCHEDULE
Hands down the best part about working remotely is that your butt does not have to be in a seat at a certain time, for a specific amount of time for a strict number of days per week (or at least most of the time it does not).
If you are a morning person and want to get a jump start on the day by starting work at 6am - go for it! If you are more productive after dinner or late in the evening then shift your day to accommodate that.
The key to the success of this?
Having a schedule, and communicating that schedule with your team as well as your superiors.
Whether that’s a set schedule or one that changes week to week - that’s completely up to you and what works best for you to successfully execute it. Just as long as you stick to it - and remember to take breaks!
For me, it’s starting work at 6am two days a week and around 9:30 every other morning. I also regularly take a few hours off in the afternoon or evening before hitting work again late at night (usually after 8) and put in some hours over the weekend to ensure that on Monday I hit the ground running.
Do I work more than 40 hours a week? Most definitely. But is my quality of life greater? Absolutely!
2. GROUP MEETINGS TOGETHER
By grouping your meetings together with short breaks in between you will ensure that you have longer stretches of uninterrupted time to actually get your work done rather than random blocks of 15-30 minutes of time.
Think about it this way - if you take a 60 break between meetings, you likely will not have a solid hour to do work. Responding to emails, instant messages and grabbing a snack or coffee can easily take up a ½ hour leaving you with half a working hour left.
However, if you put meetings back-to-back you lessen the between-meeting tasks and create more uninterrupted time to actually complete your work in peace.
3. REMEMBER TO CHANGE YOUR SCENERY
Working from home doesn’t mean you have to only work from home (well except during this Coronavirus outbreak that is). Instead think of working from home as an ability to work from anywhere and where you feel you will be the most productive.
Some days it could be from your home office, but other days you may need a change of scenery so make sure to identify a few local coffee shops or a co-working space in your city that you could use. Don’t feel like leaving home? Try sitting outside on your patio or porch, or even a different room at your house. You’d be amazed at what a different location can do for your energy and concentration levels.
4. CREATE A DEDICATED WORK SPACE WITH THE RIGHT TECH
When people first start working from home they often do so from their kitchen or dining room table because, well...it’s easy. What that does though is that it makes your table not only difficult to use for it’s real purpose (like eating) but also to see as something other than your “office” making it hard to relax at.
No matter how small your home or apartment is it’s extremely beneficial to set up a dedicated desk or work area that isn’t used for anything else. This will allow for you to “arrive” to and “leave” from work each day and truly separate yourself from work and home.
In addition to a space you’ll also need the right technology. Make sure that you have reliable and fast WiFi, meaning that you can hold a video conference call with screenshare and not have a choppy voice connection and constantly freezing screen.
You’ll also want a comfortable chair, keyboard, wireless mouse and possibly a second screen for maximum efficiency and a laptop for flexibility.
5. PUT SOME CLOTHES ON
Trust me...there are days I am in my PJs all day, but I have learned that getting up in the morning, making the bed and getting dressed for the day as you would if you were commuting into an office will boost your productivity.
Plus it enables you to be ready for that last minute video call, surprise visit or delivery, or a forgotten lunch meeting.
6. PENCIL SOCIAL INTERACTION INTO YOUR SCHEDULE
Lets face it, when you don’t leave the house it’s very easy to get stuck in your ways and fall down that slippery slope of becoming a hermit. And while this may seem productive at first it’s a surefire way to burn out just as fast.
So set lunch or coffee dates with a client or friend. Make sure to break up your day or evenings with outings, a mid-day fitness class, afternoon walks or leaving early for a happy hour with friends.
7. LEARN TO LOVE VIDEO CALLS
I hate to break it to you, but if you work with a remote team, chances are that you’ll be doing video calls either with them, with your clients or with both. And as uncomfortable as it may be to begin with they truly do help calls to be more productive and clear for social cues.
Pro tip: get a pair of headphones that you like and a spot with good lighting or a nice background wall to take calls from.
Trust me it makes a difference when you are staring at your own face talking for an hour.
8. CREATE BACKGROUND NOISE
Working in a silent space is not only isolating but can also decrease creativity and stimulation for your brain.
Whether it’s music, the news on in the background, a podcast or even nature sounds... having something in the background will help you to stay focused and engaged.
For me, I’ve created multiple Spotify playlists for different moods and I’ve also found that having the news on is something that can easily fade into the background but keep me connected.
9. OVER COMMUNICATE
One of the biggest keys to being successful in any work environment is to have proper communication - and in a remote work situation it’s even more important than likely ever before.
Not only will you need to communicate during meetings, but also to advocate for yourself on what you need as well as to clearly state the progress you are making on projects.
Since you’re no longer a few desks down from your coworkers or your manager it can become difficult for your team to keep your work top-of-mind. So don’t be afraid to bring important accomplishments, or issues, up on your own to set yourself up for success.
10. KNOW WHEN TO “LOG OFF”
This by far can be the most challenging aspect of working at home, especially for newbies.
When you are in an office it’s much easier to leave the notifications, pings and emails for the day. But when you work at home those notifications can come in at any hour (especially if you work with people in different time zones) and if you’re not logged off you will find it difficult to not respond.
The last thing you want to do is work around the clock, or start to feel stressed out each time you hear a ping. So do yourself a favor, and at the end of the day not only walk away from your workstation - but actually fully log off.
11. COMMUNICATE EXPECTATIONS WITH OTHERS IN YOUR HOME
Especially in the current landscape of many multiple work from home households - it is imperative to set expectations with anyone in the house with you for your work at home schedule.
Just because you're working from home doesn't mean you're home - and whether you have guests, a roommate or a spouse unless you set expectations they will not know what you need to be productive at your job.
Set boundaries, communicate your schedule and respect others time and schedules in return.
Biggest takeaway - change takes time to get used to.
If working remotely is completely new to you remember be kind and patient with yourself as you settle into this new reality. If you are a seasoned remote worker use the above as a reminder to help you take the best possible care of yourself.
No matter where you are in your remote work life the above tips are sure to help you achieve the best work life balance and the most successful remote work environment.