Now is probably a good time to talk about working from home! Most of us have worked from home to some degree. But working from home day after day is a different situation than doing some emails in the evenings.
I have been working from home for 5 years, and I love it. Here is what I have learned over the years:
Compartmentalize your time and attention: When you are working from home, you don’t have the same separation of space as you do when you work outside your home. It’s easy to be in work mode when you are physically at your place of work. But at home it’s really hard to replicate this. Even if you have a home office, it’s still inside your home and the distractions of home life apply.
I rely on my planner heavily to compartmentalize my time and attention. I time block my days so when it’s work time I focus on work, and when it’s time for home chores or family time or meal prep time, I do that. Inevitably some mixing will occur. I never have all day to work with no other responsibilities. To be honest I like breaking up my work: I’ll do work while I eat breakfast, then take the dog for a walk. Later I’ll work for a longer chunk of time. During times when I’m likely to be interrupted I can do lower-attention work.
I make sure to list all my work tasks (separately from my non-work-related tasks) so when I am in work mode I can crank through my list and keep up my work flow. I list steps for each project, so if I get interrupted I can come back to my work and see right where I need to pick back up again.
Make sure you have the tools you need: Whether it’s physical equipment like your computer, or apps, or reference materials, make sure you have access to tools that work well and that you know how to use. Especially if you are using your own computer or other equipment (like photography equipment), it’s worth investing in something that works well with minimal maintenance. When you don’t have an IT team to rely on when your equipment isn’t working right, it’s worth it to have something you can figure out yourself (or get help from your smart friends, which is what I do!).
Make sure you have access to any databases, networks, or shared platforms you need to use while you are working offsite. Gather all the login information you need. Bring home anything you need for work.
Stay connected to your team: You are not alone in this! Working from home can feel isolating sometimes, but remind yourself you are part of a team with common goals. Connect with your team members on a regular basis, whether by email, phone, or video chat (in increasing order of preference). Having some face time with someone, or even just hearing their voice, goes a long way to help you feel connected.
Communicate your work time: This is important for the people you are working with remotely, and the people around you at home. Let your coworkers and clients know what times they can reach you. This empowers them to contact you during times they are most likely to reach you, and that are more convenient for you.
If you have roommates, a partner, kids, or other people around you while you are working from home, find a way to communicate with them when you are working and when you are available. If you work in a room where you can shut the door, that’s great, but not everyone will have that. Let them know what times you will be working, especially when you will need quiet (for calls or presentations for example).
Pay attention to ergonomics: If you sit hunched over your laptop all day, you’re going to get repetitive stress injuries. Sit at a desk or table, use an external keyboard and mouse, and set your laptop up on a stand or even just a stack of books to put the screen up to a comfortable eye level so you don’t have to bend your neck down to see it. Sit in a comfortable chair that allows you to sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor. Make sure to get up and move around periodically.
Designate meal times: A common complaint from people who work from home is it’s way too easy to snack all day, especially if you are working at the kitchen table. Again, without the separation of space, you have to create separation with time. Have set meal times, and limit your snack breaks. This will help you get into a routine, and eating your meals at the same times every day will help regulate your body clock too.
Here are some other posts I have written about working from home:
Working From Home Part 1 talks about the basic issues.
Working From Home Part 2 dives into the specifics of time management and how to be productive.
This post focuses on how to create structure and avoid procrastinating when working from home.
What are some of your tips for working from home?