Working from home can sound like a dream, but it isn’t always easy. In an office setting, you likely have a supervisor nearby and routine face-to-face meetings with your team. Having everyone so close forces accountability upon everyone, even if you have autonomy and flexibility on the regular. But when you’re solo, you need self-discipline to stay focused and meet your deadlines.
As more and more companies are allowing their employees to work remotely (especially during this unprecedented time) — there was a 159% increase in remote work between 2005 and 2017 according to this report — it's important to consider the type of work environment that's best for you, and be sure you can replicate that at home.
Here are 5 tips for working effectively from home:
1. Clear Communication
It is no secret that email is the number one method of communication when you are working from home. Here are some tips to keep your emails clear and concise:
Write a meaningful subject line.
Keep the message focused.
Identify yourself clearly.
Be kind. Don't flame.
Don't assume privacy.
Distinguish between formal and informal situations.
Avoid over-analyzing social cues that may not exist.
2. Morning Routine
Creating a morning routine when you don’t have any intention of leaving the house can be tricky, but the key is to make a plan and stick to it. Just like your to-do list at the office. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Wake up at the same time. When you work from home, it can be tempting to hit the snooze button and stay in bed until the very last second possible. While it is ok to treat yourself on occasion, I would advise you to be more disciplined to help create a routine and get your body on the same page.
Avoid getting online right when you wake up. You need to set boundaries between your life and your work. Unless it’s urgent, your inbox and Slack messages can wait until you’re ready to start working.
Shower and get dressed. Showering and getting dressed before you start working is key. You’ll feel more confident and focused. It’s tempting to roll out of bed and sit at your desk, but before you know it, it’ll be 2pm and you’ll have to dash off to get ready for your video call. Don’t do this, save yourself the stress!
Have breakfast. Have your coffee, tea, or whatever but make sure you hydrate yourself both at breakfast and during the rest of your day. Your mind and body will thank you.
Limit the amount of decisions you have to make in the morning. Prepare as much as you can the night before (i.e. set out your clothes, plan breakfast, etc.). The less time you spend on making decisions, the more time you will have to spend on things that make you happy before kicking off your work day. And this will help you avoid decision making fatigue.
3. Work Specific Space
With video chat technology, the rise of the gig economy, and increasingly flexible company policies, the world is your office (and not just because of quarantine!). But few of us have actually sat down and thought about what type of space we need to work optimally. It might seem like a dream to work on your couch or even in bed, but not having a designated workspace can be harmful to both your physical and mental health. By setting up a home office or a workspace that’s away from the common areas of your house that you use frequently outside of work (or that others occupy), you’ll set yourself up to properly divide your home and work life. It is also important to make sure you have good support and posture, so invest in an office chair that will give you the physical support you need. It’s important that your work specific space has all the accessories you’d expect in a professional office. Of course, what each person deems necessary varies by taste and profession.
It’s easy to be connected to work all the time when you work from home. Without set start and stop times, you can end up working in the early mornings, evenings, the weekends, etc. You get the point! It’s unhealthy to always be connected through your phone or even going to your home office to answer calls or emails outside of regular business hours. Unless it’s a job requirement to be on call, unplugging at the end of a regular work day can help reduce stress and improve your overall health. Your mind needs breaks, and free time to spend with your family or taking some much-needed me time will make a noticeable difference in your life.
5. Remove Distractions
It’s about focus, mindfulness, and an ability to be present and engage. Pinpoint your major distractions and try to knock them out before you settle down to work. Household chores are the most common distraction, and while everyone would love to live in a reality where they have time to ensure the entire house is clean, laundry and dishes done, etc., that isn’t the case for most. Sure, there are items you can build into your morning routine such as making sure dishes are done and your bed is made, but any list longer than that isn’t realistic. Having a dedicated work specific space with a door can be the easiest way to remove distractions so they are out of sight (and hopefully out of mind!).
Working from home can seem overwhelming, especially if it’s not something you’re used to doing. The best thing to do is keep lines of collaboration and communication open with your team. Overcommunicate if necessary, check out newly created tools for remote work, and make sure your home office (whatever that looks like for you!) is equipped with everything you need.