So you’ve found yourself in a situation where you get to work from home. For some, this is exciting. For others, this is quite a challenge, as its unchartered territory. Traditionally, our home is the place where we can escape work and enjoy family, hobbies and not being around co-workers. For those that have tried working from home once or twice, most of the time it results in one or more of the following:
- Sleeping later than usual
- Wearing pajamas most of the day
- Checking email while catching up on shows
- Some extra trips to the fridge or pantry, because, why not?
- Cleaning random things that we didn’t know needed to be cleaned until we had to work from home.
- Ending the day feeling like we got nothing accomplished
If you can relate to any of the above, then keep reading. I’ve got some tried and true ways from local sources to help you actually get work done, while working at home.
1. Dedicate a Space
Spaces should each have their own purpose. The kitchen is where I cook my meals. The dining room is where I eat my meals. The living room is where I relax, etc. Spaces that have understood purposes are more likely to be used for those things. Mixing spaces is usually a bad idea. If you need to work from home, create a space that’s dedicated to working and nothing else. This usually means, do not work from the couch or bed. If your couch turns into a work space, it gets messy- the boundaries become unclear. Are you sitting on the couch to relax and watch tv or are you working? You’ll probably end up watching more Seinfeld in the middle of the day than you wanted to.
Beau Harbin, an IT Professional who works from home on a regular basis says having a dedicated space to work also helps with setting boundaries. When he’s in his spare room/office at home, he tells the family that “if the door is closed, I’m working and please don’t disturb unless an emergency.”
Lauren Mossotti-Kline, President of LMK Voce, LLC commented, “Even if it’s at the end of your dining room table only while you are working, that’s fine. It’s great when it’s a space you can call your own for a specific period of time. I prefer a spot by a window with natural light. In the spring it’s great to be able to open the window and hear the birds chatter.”
So, clear out a corner or a spare room or even a spot in a closet! Create your work space and keep work to that space- give it a purpose and stick to it!
2. Limit Distractions
This can be the hardest part about working from home. Our house may have a lot of things that distract us from our work. The piles of laundry to do, dirty dishes, pets that need attention, bills that need to be paid, etc. The list is endless and it’s different for everyone. It’s important to identify what the major distractions are for you, and deal with them before the work day starts.
Amanda Norton, an 8 o’clock class regular at Seven Valley CrossFit and Quality Improvement Consultant, who works full time from home offers her advice, “Get the house clean enough that you don’t want to clean rather than work. For me, I need to have the dishes done and counters cleaned. If I didn’t have this done before I began working I found it hard to stay focused, and inevitably I would stop working to go do the dishes. Know what your mental distractions at home are going to be and deal with them the night before.”
Designating specific times of the day to check email is also helpful. Not everything that we get notifications about needs to be responded to immediately. “Email can be distracting so I give myself permission to NOT answer an email the second it’s received. I might even close my email window altogether and open it mid-day when I’ve completed a task,” explained Lauren.
Even if it means your work day doesn’t start until 9 or 10am, take the time to deal with your distractions early, you’ll save time later and create some efficiency into your work day.
3. Keep to a Routine
If you had a set routine when you went into the office- try to stick to it, even while at home. If you woke up at 7am, worked out, ate breakfast, showered and was at work by 9am, now’s not the time to change it. If your lunch break was 12-1pm, keep it! And if your day ended at 5pm, make sure it still ends at 5pm. Keeping to a routine or schedule will help you stay away from working all day and all night. Often, when our work is at home, it’s easy to tell ourselves, “oh I’ll just go check emails really quickly after dinner.” Or, “before bed, I’ll just finish up this one last thing.” This will drive your family crazy if it becomes a habit.
Beau suggests having a set schedule that you can even share with your family so that they know what to expect. Set your snack times and lunch time in your schedule and stick to it. You can still meet your wife for lunch, even if it’s in your own kitchen.
Amanda Norton said that in the early days of working from home, it was easy to just work all night, “… I found myself putting in a ton of hours because there was no physical barrier, my office was just the next room over, of course I could do a quick phone call or respond to some emails. This was exhausting.” She says to commit to stop working at a reasonable time.
Lauren had similar thoughts on the routine, “I have a strict rule that when the first child gets off the bus, that’s the end of my work day.”
4. Take Breaks
When you’re in your own house, things can get comfy, almost too comfortable. If you have your full pot of coffee on the warmer and you’ve limited your distractions and are wearing your most professional athleisure outfit, it can be easy to get sucked into hours straight of staring at a computer screen or notebook or on one project. However, those that work from home best say that taking breaks is an important part of the work day.
Both Mike Manning and Amanda Norton agree that , “we take frequent breaks in the office so don’t feel bad taking them at home.” In an office setting, coffee refills, trips to the bathroom and conversations with coworkers all typically mean we’re getting our eyes off of our work for a short time. It can feel refreshing to take a break and then get back to it when you’re ready.
In conclusion, create your own work space, limit those distractions, keep a routine and take breaks! You’ll be so efficient and productive that maybe your bosses will want you to work from home more often when this all blows over!