Tips for Working from Home
As the world becomes increasingly virtual, more and more people are beginning to work from home. I began working from a home office full time nearly two years ago and in that time frame I’ve met numerous people who share the same office description. It has almost become a conversation starter as I meet people through my work and personal travels. Many of these conversations lead to the exchange of strategies for best ways to deal with working from home, similar to the conversations of a support group. Now if you don’t work from home you may have read that sentence and find yourself confused. ‘Dealing with working from home?’ and you may be thinking what is there to deal with? For those who do work from a home office, I’ve not met a peer yet who doesn’t agree that it has its positive and negative impacts. Especially if you are an extroverted person, being away from co-workers can be a social struggle. If you currently work at home or if you are considering working from home, below I’ve compiled a few of the tips I’ve learned or that have been shared with me over the past two years (in no particular order):
1. Dedicate a room/area of your home to be your ‘home office.’ The transition to working from home came for me along with relocation. So as we were looking at houses, the goal was to find a home that had space that could be completely dedicated to an office. It can be an upstairs loft, room above the garage, in the basement, or maybe even a detached building on your property. The process of being separated from your kitchen, bedroom and living room can help with creating the ‘I’m going to work’ feeling. This also helps with sticking to the daily work schedule. I’ve met some people who work from home and can set their own hours, but my suggestion is sticking to the normal 8-5 routine.
2. If at all possible, make trips to your company’s corporate office or nearest office regularly. This can be once a month, once a quarter, or once a year. My job involves some travel and often that can be with co-workers which can also help, but it is refreshing to spend a week a year working surrounded by office mates and experiencing the energy an office environment can create. Before I began working from home full time, I worked from home 6 days a month, which was a great transition to developing a schedule and expectations for working from home.
3. Sometimes you just have to get away. About six months into working from home, I met a colleague who told me some days she just has to get out of her basement office. So she packs up her laptop and cell phone and goes to the local bakery/restaurant that has Wi-Fi. She’ll get lunch and spend the afternoon working from the corner booth. I live in a pretty rural area that doesn’t have that luxury, so I put my own spin on getting away. I now have a lunch buddy at my local primary school. Once every two weeks I go eat lunch with her and not only does it give me a reason to shower and wear something other than lounge clothes for the day, but it also allows me to stay connected to my community and do something nice.
4. Realize that it’s OK to take a break. I know this might not be the case for everyone, but when I first started working from home I thought I had to be glued to my phone and computer 8 hours a day. I had a fear of missing a call or email or message and co-workers or clients thinking I wasn’t working. I imagined people saying ‘oh she works from home so she’s probably watching TV’ when they couldn’t reach me. It took me a while, but I finally figured out that when I used to work in the traditional office I still took bathroom breaks, stopped by a co-workers desk for a little chat, and stepped away for lunch. Not that I wasn’t taking bathroom breaks, I just had this feeling of never letting the phone and computer out of my sight. Then a relative in the medical field told me that you needed at least 15 minutes of sunshine a day to get your Vitamin D, so I started going outside and playing with my dogs for 15 minutes in the afternoon. Not only did I get my Vitamin D, but it allowed me to feel more refreshed and productive when I went back to my work.
5. Make sure your family, friends, co-workers and YOU understand what working from home means. It means you still work, but your office is at your house. For me, working from home completely changed what home means because I am there all day. But that doesn’t mean the house is going to be clean all the time and the chores are always going to be done and dinner will always be ready at 6 pm. This goes back a little to the first tip of creating a separate work space, but it is important that your support group of people around you understand that just because you’re at home working doesn’t mean that you can do everything. You still work, but your commute is just a little shorter and you still have those dedicated hours every day that you are working on your profession.
The most important tip for working from home is developing a system or style that works best for you. I have enjoyed all the tips and advice I’ve received from colleagues who also work from home and while everything they do doesn’t fit my work style, I’ve been able to develop my own system for staying sane and getting my career goals accomplished.
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