Maybe your dog isn’t feeling well. Or the plumber is coming to fix the leak in your shower. Or maybe you’re a freelancer who works from home EVERY DAY. Whatever the case may be, it can be a double edged sword to have the privilege and curse of working from home. On the one hand, you don’t have to wear pants. On the other, there are SO. MANY. DISTRACTIONS (such as blog entries like this one, for example). Fortunately, I’ve put together a handy, dandy guide to working at home while still maintaining ninja status at work. Hopefully amongst the tips you’ve heard a million times, there are a few that are also surprising, fresh and useful.
1. Get dressed.
I know, I know. Above, I dangled the tantalizing allure of pantslessness when working from home. But I’m revoking it. You will feel much more like a “real person” if you get dressed as you normally do and act like you’re going to work instead of taking a vacation day.
2. Make a plan.
Write out an exact schedule. 9-9:15am – eat breakfast, etc. You probably won’t follow it exactly, but when you’re an island, it helps to have a compass. At some point during the day, you might look around and think, “What in the name of Thor am I supposed to be working on right now?” And then you will have your trusty schedule to give you some context. I use the stickies function on my Macbook to write a new outline every night, for the next day.
3. Know when to quit.
If you don’t have physical separation between you and your work, it’s easy to work ALL the time. Burnout never did anyone’s careers any favors, so don’t be the hero. Establish an (estimated) stopping point for yourself when you knock it off for the day and cook dinner, drink wine, go for a walk or crash on the couch with your friends, the Real Housewives of NYC (only a random, generalized example. DEFINITELY not something that I do personally!)
4. Drink a ton of water.
Though I love a good iced latte, nothing keeps you alert and energized more than water. It’s sad and boring, but true. Also, if you are constantly getting up to refill your water bottle plus go to the bathroom … you’re taking mini-breaks, which are great for productivity, and a little harder to come by in the work-at-home environment, since you don’t have co-workers dropping by your desk to chat.
5. Create an office.
Do NOT set up camp on the couch, at the kitchen/dining table, on your bed, on the floor of the hallway closet, etc. I’m not sure I really need to explain why, but just in case: you need to create an environment that conditions you to be in work-mode, Pavlovian-style. Capiche?
6. Do yoga, watch a cooking show or pet the dog.
If you are lucky enough to work from home, please don’t spend your lunch hour at your desk. Your co-workers are HOPEFULLY getting out for at least a few minutes, so please find something you enjoy doing and remember to spend at least 85% of that time thinking about how grateful you are to be able to work from home so you can do that thing.
7. Choose your employer carefully.
Working from home can be amazing, OR a great big ball of stress. If you work for a company that doesn’t trust its employees or is always micro-managing you … home will become a miserable place to work. Not all work-from-home situations are created equal.
8. Know yourself.
Take inventory and do some soul searching. Are you really someone who can handle working from home? Some people can’t take the temptation and: turn the television on, do five loads of laundry, catch up on bill paying or sleep all day. If this is you, go to a coffee shop or bookstore (do those still exist?) and use the WiFi there. You’re much less likely to take an unscheduled nap.
9. A general note about social media.
I feel like it is ridiculous to expect that you will go the entire work day without checking your favorite social medium(s). I find that it works best for me to actually set time to do it. On the schedule that I told you to write in step #2. If you just do it willy nilly all day long, you may end up in the rabbit hole and that’s not good for anyone.
10. Watch yourself.
At the end of the day, you might be able to “get away” with more from your employer if you work from home. But think about the kind of brand you want to build for yourself. Do you want people to think, “Man, I can never get a hold of that person because they work from home?” OR do you want them to think, “Even though she works at home, she is KILLING it on the daily?” Hopefully it’s the second thing I said and hopefully you can remind yourself of that at least eight million times a day. This isn’t fifth grade. It’s real life, and if you don’t kill it at your job, you’re going to get left behind.
Best working at home wishes,