Working well from home is all about setting boundaries – keeping a healthy separation between work and everything else. This is fairly easy to do when you work in an office, but when you bring work into the space that is usually reserved for relaxing, things can get complicated. In this article, you will find some tips on how to make working from home work for you.
1. Set up a workstation
Setting up a dedicated place to work is the first and most important step towards working well from home. Some people are lucky enough to have an office or dedicated workspace in their homes already. If you aren’t one of these people, set up a space at some other table. Try to avoid the sofa; if you are used to sitting there to chill out, read, or watch TV, you won’t be able to concentrate on your work as well. You want to be comfortable, but not too comfortable.
2. Keep it routine
When working from home, the only substantial change is the location, plus the lack of a commute. While it might be tempting to use the time you save traveling to your workplace to catch up on sleep, this will not set you up well for the day. Instead, try to wake up at the same time you normally would, keep your morning routine intact, and use the extra time to do some exercise, meditation, or go for a quick walk.
Even if you don’t venture outside before sitting down to start your working (from home) day, you should always shower and put on some “real” clothes. You wouldn’t show up at the office in your pajamas, so don’t wear them when working from home. It’s not about appearances – it’s all about getting into the right mindset for being productive.
3. Communication is everything
Communication at work is always important, but when you are physically separated from your colleagues and bosses, it becomes vital. Once you have settled on a schedule (when you will be starting and finishing work, and when you will be taking a lunch break), share this with your colleagues so that they know when they can reach you. Keep in touch throughout the day using instant messaging platforms like Slack or RocketChat to enable your team to work well together and your leaders to know what you are working on.
When you have a work conference call with customers or, in general, people external to your organization, don’t mention you are working from home. You can keep it open and say “at work”. It will keep people from contacting you at crazy hours.
If you’re in touch with friends and family during the day, don’t let on that you’re not in the office. For some people, this is an invitation to distract you with messages, calls, and offers to hang out. Instead, say that you’re working and will get in touch with them later, saving the socializing for after work.
4. Take regular breaks
At the office, getting a cup of tea from the kitchen usually means bumping into a coworker and having a quick chat. You won’t get that at home. Depending on what kind of person you are, this could be an unexpected bonus or something that you really miss. To keep from burning out, do something with your break that makes the most of not being in the office, without taking you too much out of work-mode. Drink some coffee or cold water, wash your face: do anything that makes you feel refreshed in just a few moments. Also as a non-smoker, you could step outside briefly to get some fresh air and give your eyes a break from the glare of the computer screen.
5. Staying focussed
Working without your coworkers and superiors around you is a lot less consuming than being at the office with them. Though there is something to be said for working at your own pace, it can be hard to stay focused with no one to keep you on-task, and all the distractions of your home around you.
The good news is that there are a multitude of simple methods that can help with this. My personal favorite is the Pomodoro Technique. This time-management method makes it easy to set distractions aside and hyper-focus on important tasks, getting things done in short bursts. The central idea is that we cannot focus all the time: instead of beating yourself up for getting sidetracked every now and again, give the process of focus and relaxation a structure.
To start using this method, simply choose the task that you want to work on and set a timer for 25 minutes. After this time is up, you can take a break for a few minutes. This is one “Pomodoro”. After four Pomodoros, you can take a longer break (the recommended time is 15-30 minutes). Do whatever you need to do to recharge, then start the process again. In this way, tasks are tackled sequentially rather than jumbled together and you come to each new task refreshed after a short break. You never have to focus for more than 25 minutes before getting a short breather. This will make you more productive overall.
6. The lunch break
Your desk is only for working at so try to eat your lunch somewhere else. If space is limited and you’ve been working at your dining table, switch seats to eat. It might feel silly but it will help you relax while you’re eating and concentrate when you get back to work.
If you haven’t been outside yet, go for a walk now. You might not feel like you need to – in fact, staying in the house all day might seem like a dream-come-true – but you will feel better for it. Cabin fever is real: a claustrophobic reaction to being trapped inside that makes you irritable and restless. These subtle changes might not be noticeable to you before you go out, but once you’ve been outside you’ll feel much better.
7. Finishing work for the day
Once your working day is done, let your colleagues know you’re signing off and log out of everything. If possible, disconnect your work email from your phone to make sure that you don’t get sucked back in to work by an incoming message. After spending the day working without seeing anyone, make an effort to socialize in other ways. If you’re unable to meet people after work – especially if you live alone – arrange phone- or video calls with friends and family.
Always stay mindful about keeping the separation: work is work, and when it’s done, the rest of the day belongs to you.