Working from home is a modern phenomenon that is becoming more and more common. If your job doesn’t ever let you work from home, then I’m sure you know someone who can, and I’m also sure that you are jealous of that person. Like any time something new and exciting enters the culture – think the telephone, the automobile, or Tinder – we must all work together to figure out how to navigate it effectively. Both the telephone and the automobile have manuals to teach us how to use them, and we have clinics to deal with the effects of Tinder on our society, but there is yet to be a comprehensive manual to maintaining productivity while working from home. UNTIL NOW (dun, dun, dunnnn).
- It IS Still a Work Day: Working from home and answering an email or two on your day off are two completely different things. Wake up when you normally would, shower, shave and have your breakfast and coffee as usual. This part is important: Put on clothes! It might feel strange at first to dress up like you are headed to the office only to sit right down at your desk, but trust me, you will be much more productive if you’re wearing your work uniform. You’ll be tempted to go through the day in sweatpants or something very casual, but dressing casual puts your brain on casual mode – and this isn’t casual, it’s work.
- Keep your hours: Working from home gives you more freedom about what hours you work, when you take your breaks, and the parts of your day you dedicate to different projects. Be aware of when you are most productive and make a note of when that is. Some of us are sluggish in the morning, others sprint their way to 2 pm and need a nap. Leave bigger, more complicated projects for the hours in the day when you know you are at your best, and get through more menial, easy tasks the rest of the day. And just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean the work day never ends – once you figure out your schedule, stick to it.
- Fly Solo: Don’t bring your laptop out in the living room where your kids, spouse, or roommates may be hanging out. You don’t need the distraction, and you shouldn’t give off the impression that you are more accessible than you are. You’ve got the same daily responsibilities you do at the office, don’t forget.
- Respect the Workspace: You’ll be much more productive in a clean and organized environment. Take some time the night before you work from home to get the space you’ll be using organized and clean. Make sure you’ll have easy access to everything you might need, and in the morning you’ll be ready to hit the ground running.
- To Do List: Right after you organize that workspace – make a to do list for the next day and leave it on the center of your desk (or put it on the keyboard of your laptop before you close it for the night) so that it’ll be the first thing you see in the morning. Your brain operates differently at home than it does at work, as it should, but that makes it important to make it as easy as possible to rev yourself up into work mode every morning that you work from home. The to do list will go a long way towards getting you productive and effective as quickly as possible.
- Location Rotation: If you’re fortunate enough to live in a city with lots of cafes and bookstores where you’re allowed to hang out on your computer and be left alone for long periods of time, be sure to utilize them. Get into a rotation of different places you go and work, it can be a great way to explore your neighborhood or town, and no matter where you go it will be more pleasant than the office. An added bonus of the location rotation is that you’re sure to meet other work-from-homers, or telecommuters, so you’ll get the best of both world’s: the convenience of working from home and the camaraderie of an office space.
- Don’t Forget You’re Human: Working from home – without your work friend Bob coming by the desk to ask if you saw the football game, or the weekly rumor that spreads around the office that someone brought in cake – can be all-consuming. Those little distractions at work can be annoying at times, but they are also healthy. Don’t let working from home make you forget your humanity. Get up and out of your home workspace every few hours and give somebody a call, or take a walk to the corner and back and say hello to a few neighbors. Keep it short, but make sure to insert some human interaction into days that you work from home.
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