A little over three months ago I started a new job which also includes working from home. I do have a local office about thirty minutes away from me, so if I do need to be present for something it’s not an inconvenience. I have to preface all of this by saying that I came from a previous work environment where it was often frowned upon to work from home. I will say that it was getting better (allowed one day per week to work remote – to enhance that work-life-balance stuff that everyone talks about, but no one really has), so I had a taste of what it can be like to work from home.
So, when the opportunity was given to me to expand my career, make more money, and work from home I was all too willing to explore it. I mentioned in a previous blog post that I did not make that decision lightly, and I stand by that, but the things that ultimately factored into making the decision I listed above. One of those big factors was a huge adjustment for me: working from home.
When I tell people I work from home their eyes light up and I usually get, “that’s so awesome,” “you’re so lucky!” but I also get the occasional, “isn’t it hard working from home?” “how do you stay focused?” Bottom line is this…it was an adjustment, and my boss at the time was worried that I would get lonely. She had previously worked at the same place I had been working and knew what the culture was like there, but I strangely found myself really happy – at first. I can be very social, but I can also be very, very introverted. It comes and goes. I have found though that working from home can contribute in both a negative and positive way when it comes to my state of mind and how I’m feeling.
The first couple of weeks on the new job I had to go into the office – I wasn’t quite set up for working in the system (IT stuff), so it was good to get to know some people so that when I am in the office I have someone to say hi to and chat with. But after that I was 100% working from home. Now that I’ve been doing it for a little over three months I thought I would put together some tips on how to stay productive while working from home, these are also tips on how I keep a positive state of mind while working from home:
- Act like you’re still getting up to go to work – I still set my alarm for 6:30 am. Also, it helps to get a jump start on the day because most of the folks I work with are on the east coast, and in some cases in Germany. Do I get fully showered and dressed at 6:30 am? No, but I do get my cup of coffee, launch the computer and start looking at what my day is going to be.
- Separate your work space from your living space – I learned this the hard way. My mom was painting my desk for me (she’s super crafty like that) so there was a delay in getting that space totally set up, which was fine because I was really just trying to get myself acclimated to the new world I had just embarked upon. However, I realized that working from the couch is a terrible idea. Imagine sitting on the couch and working for eight plus hours, then continuing to sit on the couch to watch TV in the evening? It was fine at first, but I realized quickly that having a separate working space from your living space is essential.
- Create a schedule/routine for YOU that works for YOU – Do you normally go to the gym like I do? I realized I now had the flexibility to squeeze the gym into the middle of my day. Not only does that break up my day, but it also gets something I dread leaving till the end of the day out of the way. It also gets me up and out of my desk chair. Which leads me to number 4…
- Take breaks – this may seem like a no-brainer, but here’s the thing…when you’re working at home you just crank things out. I’ve had days where I didn’t leave my chair for hours, which is not good! So, breaks for me consist of walking the dog, going to the gym, making my lunch and eating it not at my desk, folding my laundry and putting it away, even cleaning the bathroom! Seems ridiculous I know, but it gets you away from your desk to take a break, and in some cases mark a chore off of your list!
- Don’t stay in your pajamas all day – While some days this sounds like the BEST, believe me it’s not. Always get yourself out of your pajamas. I mentioned above that I start my morning in my PJ’s, but I don’t stay like that all day. I will often take my morning calls and then get ready for the day – even if that means putting on gym clothes for later – the bottom line is that you get yourself out of your pajamas! Sometimes I will get fully ready – makeup and hair without the intention of going anywhere, just to feel like I’m put together and not a total bum.
- Try to work no more than an eight hour day – I know I wrote “try,” and I did this because it’s not always that easy. For example, I took a couple of days off a week or two ago, I paid for it when I returned as I had two ten hour days that week. But it happens…and if it isn’t necessary then DON’T DO IT. Don’t put in the extra two hours every day just because. Would you do the same if you were commuting to an office every day? Probably not. Would you do it if you had deadlines etc.? Probably. Don’t change how much you would or wouldn’t work simply because you’re working from home and it is always accessible and right there at your finger tips.
- Keep your desk and general work area clean and organized – I try to clean up a bit every day when I’ve wrapped things up. It can be difficult at times, but if I don’t get to it, but the weekend I will definitely clean things up and get things organized for a good start to the following week.
- Make time for people – I have found myself cancelling plans because I get into this weird anti-social funk, which I believe is a result of working from home. Make yourself go and be social. Some weeks I’m dying to visit with friends, and others I’m introverting big time. Either way, try to make time for those people, it will give you a boost of energy and feeling of purpose outside of the house and your work space.
- Set daily goals – I did this even when I wasn’t working from home. I have this huge planner that I write my lists in (YES, I write my lists – I don’t keep them typed somewhere). I take great satisfaction in marking something off of my list. But, in all seriousness, if you kept lists or sticky notes everywhere in your work cubicle, do the same at home, it will help you feel comfortable and organized.
- Be grateful you get to work from home – don’t forget that working from home is a privilege – it really is! I commuted via train for ten years before getting the opportunity to work from home, and sat in a cubicle for the same amount of time. Don’t forget to be grateful for it, even if it feels like a challenge at times.
There you have it! These are just my tips with a mere three months in, but I think they are helpful. I’m sure they will change and I’m sure in another three to six months I’ll have more to add to this list, but these ten things I have found helpful in the early stages of working from home. Does anyone else work from home and have tips and or tricks to add that I didn’t list here? I would love to hear them!