Work-at-home jobs are becoming more and more common, but switching from a structured office environment to the comfort of your own home can be challenging. Learning how to work from home is important if you want to be efficient and effective at your job. Read on to get some working from home tips to help you.
At home there are many distractions, less accountability, and less communication than when you’re working in the office. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t still be productive. There are lots of ways to keep yourself working productively from any location.
Whether you work from home every day, a couple of times per week, or even if you’re just working from home while you recover from an illness, these tips can help you to get the most out of your remote work hours. You won’t believe how much you can get done in a day!
1. Keep Regular Work Hours
When learning how to work from home, one of the most important and basic things you can do is to create a regular schedule for yourself. It’s tempting to give yourself total flexibility as to when you get started, take breaks, and call it a day.
However, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t keep your schedule consistent. Setting yourself regular hours keeps you accountable to yourself and to your boss. It makes you more likely to get all your work done, and it makes it easier for people to get in touch with you.
Here are the important factors to consider when you’re setting an at-home work schedule:
- When your boss needs you to be available
- Communication with your coworkers and customers
- Time of day when you are most productive
This doesn’t mean that you need to work 9-5 every day. You should work when you’re most productive. However, it’s a good idea to find out when your boss really needs you to be at work. For example, it will be important to know when any conference calls are planned so you can fit that into your day.
For example, many employees work on checking emails each morning, or need to be available by phone in the afternoons. Other than that, choose times when you’re likely to get the most work done. Communicate those hours of availability to anyone that might need to get in touch with you, and you’ll be on your way to productive, consistent work days.
2. Separate Work Time and Personal Time
Just as it’s important to work when you say you will, it’s important to give yourself time for home life when you need it. Don’t extend the work day too far beyond what you planned, at the risk of burning yourself out.
One of the most important working from home tips is to keep your work life and personal life compartmentalized as it helps you stay productive while you’re at work, and reduces stress when you aren’t. In the same way that you set your work hours, schedule, communicate, and plan when you will not be available to work.
For example, if you like to take evenings to spend time with family, make sure you communicate that you aren’t available for work during that time. And then hold yourself to that commitment!
3. Plan Your Workflow
When you want to learn how to work from home efficiently, one surefire way to keep productivity up is to get smart about planning your work day . Before you even start working, make sure you know what your priorities are for the day, how long you think it will take you to get everything done, and what you will work on if you have extra time.
You might find it helpful to take a few minutes before you go to bed to plan for the next day. You may find that you sleep better without the stress of planning in the back of your mind.
In your planning, consider the following:
- Do the highest priority tasks first
- Plan your day around your own natural cycles—do the hardest work when you have the most energy throughout the day
- Plan rewards and breaks throughout the day
4. Break up the Day
If you followed the last step, then you’ll have already planned breaks for yourself throughout the day. Make sure you get up from your desk during those breaks—get some fresh air, grab a healthy snack, and talk with another human being if at all possible. All of these activities will help you reset, get your blood flowing, and make sure you’re ready to tackle the next chunk of tasks.
One 2011 study found that workers who took two short breaks stayed consistently productive when given a particular task to complete, but when it came to the group who took no breaks, “performance declined significantly over the course of the task”.
This has everything to do with the way our brain registers what it should pay attention to and underscores the importance of taking breaks.
If you have trouble sticking to a time limit for your breaks, set an alarm to remind you to get back to work. The Pomodoro method is great for this as it sets regular work hours and breaks.
5. Dress Like You’re at Work
Even if you won’t be interacting with another person all day, it’s important to dress for success. This includes showering and brushing your teeth! This will tell your brain that it’s work time, not relaxation time, and that will give you a lot more energy. Sweatpants and a T-shirt might be more comfortable, but you may also feel sluggish, sleepy, or unmotivated.
It’s also a good opportunity to give a new outfit a test drive—risk free!
If you have a hard time motivating yourself to get ready in the morning, try laying out your outfit the night before, or planning an outing during the day so that you have to get dressed.
6. Create an At-Home Office
When you’re starting to learn how to work from home, it might be tempting to work from your couch, easy-chair, or even from your bed, but this could take a huge toll on your productivity. One of the best working from home tips I can give you is to try to always work from a consistent room, desk, or chair to tell your brain that it’s time for work, not relaxation.
When you do this, your brain will associate your bed with sleep, your couch with relaxation, and your desk with work, helping shift your energy levels accordingly.
You are likely to feel more alert, more confident, and more organized if you work from a home office. Set yourself up with a comfy, supportive chair, a spacious desk, and consistent workplace tools.
7. Don’t Allow Roomies
Being efficient while working from home is all about boundaries, as we have previously discussed. This also means setting boundaries for kids, pets, family members, or roommates. Try to encourage them to leave you alone while you are working so you can stay focused.
Try to keep the boundaries friendly and playful, but make sure you stick to them. One fun idea is to make a sign for the door of your office that indicates whether you’re working or not. You can even have your children help you make the sign so they feel they’re not being left out.
8. Be Your Own Janitor
Unlike in the office, you don’t have a janitor to clean up after you, which means you have to do it yourself. Keeping your home office clean helps you stay focused, get organized, and be productive. Even if you’re someone who isn’t bothered by a messy desk, keeping some semblance of order helps ensure that nothing important falls through the cracks (or gets lost in a stack of paper).
However, this goes beyond just keeping your home office clean. Having a messy home could inspire you to procrastinate on work tasks in favor of cleaning, which is bad news for your productivity.
Setting yourself a weekly cleaning schedule can help you keep on top of cleaning your home, so you won’t be tempted to clean during work hours. Make sure to schedule regular tidying of your home office!
9. Tune in to Inspiration
A great advantage of working from home is that you can’t distract your coworkers. Go ahead and play those pumped-up jams loud and proud if that’s what gets you moving. Or try a more soothing soundtrack with nature sounds, instrumental music, or even by leaving the windows open to let the sounds from outside come in.
If you’re doing repetitive tasks, an audiobook or podcast may even be what you need to keep moving. However, some people work better in silence. If you’re one of those people, resist the urge to put on music or have the TV on in the background. Try a few things to find what works best for you.
10. Stay in the Loop
One of the best things about working in an office is the potential for collaboration and socialization. You don’t have to lose this just because you are working from home. When you are learning how to work from home, try to check in with your coworkers at least a couple of times per week, whether by email, phone, Skype, or even in person.
Make sure you keep up on a personal level, as well as a professional level. You can do this without taking a lot of time—just share the things that are most important, and encourage your coworkers to do the same.
If you can master these 10 tips, you will be a work-from-home wizard before you know it. You might even find that the days you work from home are your most productive days!
Shifting your work environment to your home is challenging, but with a few simple changes to your routine and space, you’ll find you can still have a productive work day. Find what works for you and your family by trying out some of the working from home tips above.
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