For the last two years, I have been a remote employee working from home. Each morning I make the long walk down the hallway to my home office and get to work. As you can imagine, some benefits and challenges come with working from home. Some days I can’t imagine going back to working in an office while other days I dread thinking that the only face-to-face interaction I’m going to get during the day is with my dog. Woof. But I’ve made it work (and quite well, if I do so say myself). Here are my top ten tips for staying productive and kicking ass while working from home.
10 Tips for Working From Home
1. Have a dedicated workspace.
This is number one for a reason. The best tip that I can give for working from home is to find a place that you are comfortable working (but not too comfortable) and set up there every single time you’re sitting down to work. While working from home comes with the luxury of flexible workspaces (hello, bed), I am at my most productive when I am at the place that I have dedicated to working – my desk. This is important for me for a couple of reasons. First, whenever I sit down at my desk, I know that it’s time to get to work. I don’t do anything else at my desk (including blogging), so I’m not tempted to do something else. Second, having a dedicated desk in our home office keeps me from taking my work home, so to speak. I tend to get a lot of work-related anxiety, so keeping everything in one space helps me to not associate my living spaces (e.g., dining room, living room, or bedroom) with work stresses. As a result, I only go into our home office during work hours. My job stays in our home office, end of story.
2. Set your hours and stick to them.
This is probably the second most important tip in my opinion, and I recommend it for those working from home as a remote work (such as myself) or as a contractor / your own boss. One of the nice things about working from home is that, in most cases, you can set your own hours. This is both a blessing and a curse. Setting your own hours is wonderful for when you need flexibility but can hurt your productivity or work-life balance if you’re constantly pushing work back (read: lazy). I can sometimes procrastinate when I get stressed out, so it’s very important for me to keep regular work schedule. Every morning I’m sitting at my desk at 7:30 am and then clock out at 4 pm.
3. Eliminate distractions and set boundaries.
This goes with finding a dedicated workspace (are you noticing a theme yet?) – your workspace is for work and nothing else. Don’t tempt yourself by bringing distractions into your workspace and don’t allow yourself to try to multitask. Leave the dishes until the end of the day and don’t try to do laundry when you should be concentrating. If you’re having trouble, leave your phone in a different room or try a chrome extension like Stay Focused.
4. Get dressed(ish).
A lot of people recommend getting completely done up to get your mind in work mode. Personally, that doesn’t do it for me. I look professional from the waist up (since I have video calls every day) but tend to wear sweatpants because they are far more comfortable than real pants (can I get an amen).
5. Set the mood.
If you’re spending 40+ hours in the same place every week, make it nice. Add some photos, get a cute notepad, add some flowers, burn your favorite candle, and play your favorite playlist or podcasts.Trust me, it helps.
6. Discover your workflow.
Once you’ve settled on a place to work, set your hours and the mood, and eliminated distractions, find your workflow. For me, it means that I start each day my transferring that day’s appointments from my office google calendar into my daily planner, respond to any emails that came in during office hours, and prioritize my tasks for the day. After I set my priorities for the day, I use the Pomodoro technique to start crossing things off my list.
7. Find a way to stay connected.
This is one that I had to learn the hard way. While I LOVE working from home, it can get (very) lonely. I’m a people person and didn’t realize how much I truly need face-to-face interaction with other people during the day. My company relies heavily on video chat, which is a great way for me to stay connected to my coworkers. Although I interact with my coworkers daily online, it isn’t a substitute for face-to-face interactions. I’ve found that it’s so important for me to schedule people time with my friends to help keep me sane.
8. Stock healthy snacks.
One of the perks of working from home is that you’re less likely to eat out for lunch since you have your whole kitchen right at your fingertips. One of the worst parts of working from home is that you have your whole kitchen (and all your unhealthy junk food) right at your fingertips. While it would be easy for me to grab some ice cream as a midday snack (don’t pretend like you wouldn’t do the same), I try to make sure that my fridge is packed with quick, healthy foods that I can snack on during the day.
9. Don’t forget to take a break.
One thing that is surprisingly difficult for me when working from home is remembering to take breaks. I give myself a 30-minute lunch break (instead of an hour so that I can clock out earlier at the end of the day) but often find myself eating at my desk and working through the break. I’ve found, however, that I am most productive when I get up and eat lunch away from my desk. The simple act of getting up and moving to a different room in the house restarts my brain so that I’m ready to start the afternoon. I’ve also found that having a dog in the house also helps to remind me to take breaks since she needs to go out a couple of times a day.
10. Have a set end of your day.
There is always more work to be done, and it can be easy to get caught up when you’re busy. And it’s really easy to do so if you don’t have an office to leave but instead are just closing a laptop. But make sure that you define the end of your work day. For me, it’s 4 pm (because my brain fries once the clock hits 4). Sure there are days that I work past 4 pm, but knowing that I have a set end of the day helps me stay productive throughout the day so that I can finish my tasks before I pack it up at a reasonable time.
While I love working from home, I realize that it isn’t for everyone. But, if you ever find yourself working at home, I hope that you find these tips helpful!