Tips for working from home
I’ve been working from home now off and on for a few months. It started with 1-2 days at home, then 3 and within a few weeks I’ll be working from home full-time. Personally I love it, but it’s different in more ways than I anticipated. Working from home also isn’t for everyone. I’ve found it to be highly productive for me, but it does require a great deal of discipline. Here are just a few tips I have for those that are either already working from home or might be considering it:
Depending on your situation, dedicated space could mean just a desk over in the corner where you go when you work. Having 6-kids, this wouldn’t be an option for me. I have a dedicated office downstairs away from my family. It’s quiet and distraction free.
The important thing for most professionals is being able to work at home and not having the person on he other end of the phone know. I’ve been on way to many calls where I hear dogs barking in the background, children crying, and spouses talking. I have one person I work with that must watch TV as he works. Every time I call him I always hear a TV blaring in the background. While all of these things are a normal part of being home, they aren’t a normal part of the work environment for most. You have to separate yourself from these things.
The other advantage of a dedicated space is that when you go there, you go into work mode. If it’s your kitchen table, it’s hard to make the mental distinction that you’re at work rather than sitting down to eat breakfast or dinner. When I walk into my office downstairs and shut the door it feels like I am walking into the doors at my companies operations center. I go into “I’m at work mode”.
When you work from home, you spend far more time on the phone than normal. Therefore it’s critical to invest in a good quality phone line, phone, and headset. Prior to moving I had used Vonage with a fair amount of success, but now that I’ll be going full-time at home I moved to a land line for clear and reliable phone service.
Get familiar with Instant Messaging technologies, they are a life saver. The phone is a wonderful tool for lengthy or complex conversations, but instant messaging tools are a life saver for short and quick questions/conversations. It’s far less distracting and intrusive as a phone ringing. It also allows you to be on a phone call, but continue to communicate with people. Just be sure you pay attention to the phone call!
I tried to avoid it, but I’m going to have to purchase a fax machine or use an online fax service (any suggestions??). As much as I try to work paperless, paper is still somewhat of a reality especially when dealing with other companies or people that aren’t as paperless.
Having good communication tools allows you to be available and being available is a critical requirement for making a work from home situation successful. Regardless of the reality, if you aren’t available than people will perceive you as not working. Do everything you can to make yourself available.
This is by far the biggest complaint I hear about people working from home: staying focused. Here are just a few suggestions to help:
- Establish a schedule – Most likely when you worked at the office you had a schedule. Do the same when working from home. Be at work at a certain time and leave at a certain time. Not only will your co-workers appreciate it, it will help you mentally feel like you’re going to work, even if the commute is only a few feet!
- Get up and get dressed – Sure one of the advantages of working at home is working in your PJs. This doesn’t work for me. I have a morning routine that I’ve been going through for years and in order for me to get into work mode I have to go through that routine. I get up, fix coffee, eat breakfast, write for my blogs, shower, get dressed, then head to my office downstairs. Granted, I wear sweats, jeans, shorts, etc. rather than business casual, but it still helps to put me in “work mode”.
- Take breaks – Ironically enough, this one has been tough. I tend to just keep working through the whole day, even eating at my desk. Not a good idea. Take breaks. Take a walk outside, come upstairs to eat lunch for a 1/2 hour or so. This will keep you fresh and avoid overworking.
- Plan – Each day before I turn off the lights and close the office door, I make a list of everything I need to accomplish the next day. Before I leave the next day I make sure everything on that list is done, then I make the next list. When you begin working from home you’re no longer evaluated on whether you are at work but by how much you get done. Make sure you are getting things done.
A few final thoughts
Just a few final thoughts from some experiences I’ve had with others working from home…yes believe it
- Don’t carry the phone or cell phone with you to the bathroom. Awkward.
- Don’t drink alcohol while you’re working. Resist the temptation to open that beer at 3:00pm. You wouldn’t do it at work, don’t do it at home.
- Wear clothes. If you aren’t, don’t proudly tell everyone that you aren’t. Even if you don’t tell them, they’ll know. I’m not sure how, but we just do.
- Don’t eat while you’re on the phone. Nothing worse than talking to someone while they crunch chips in your ear.
- Get a phone with a mute button that is easy and quick to find. When working at home, the unexpected will happen. A mute button just might save you uncomfortable explaining like when your dog stands outside your window and barks at you, or your kids come busting into your office to have you settle a dispute.
What tips do you have? Are you thinking about working from home but have concerns? Add a comment or question!
Photo by: Yogi