Working from home full-time for many, is the “holy grail” of job opportunities. It’s the dream job.
From small business owners and consultants to CEOs, the advantages of working from home are becoming an increasingly popular choice for both employee and employer.
Without a doubt working from home is a luxury whether you’re working from home one day a week, or Monday through Friday. Having worked remotely for the last year full-time, there are some crucial habits and rules you need in order to work smart and maximize your time working from home. These work at home strategies may seem obvious and, therefore, a bit surprising – but the benefits from the structure they create are very real.
Set a Morning Routine
The way you start your day sets the tone for the rest of your day. More than just getting up when the alarm goes off and shuffle to your computer in your pajamas, creating a specific routine is one of the simplest work at home strategies that helps you get into the flow of work. Being intentional about what you do before you go to work is the foundation to the day’s success.
Shut the Door – Part One
A home office needs to be established. Sure, it could be a dream for some at the idea of working in bed or in the living room watching TV. Both options invite temptation.
You need to create a distraction-free space that is able to give you privacy, and a place to focus on work for the day. This is especially important to have that space if you have kids at home. Closing the door signals that you’re in the office and you’re ready to work for the day.
Working in your pajamas seems to be the classic “bonus” of working at home. But the truth is, there’s a tangible benefit to dressing up for your job at home.
Of course, you don’t have to go all out and wear a suit and tie, but psychologically, it helps to get dressed professionally. Part of the habit of getting dressed up for work, gets your mind into “work mode” since you’re not heading into the office. Plus, if you’re like me and you have Skype video chats or you’re part of a video conference call, nobody wants to see you still wearing your pajamas and that bed-head hairdo.
Set Your Hours
This is one of the most important work at home strategies. Like any job, you need to arrive on-time. It’s especially important when working remotely. Even if your job allows you the flexibility to work your own hours, having set hours to work gives you structure to maximize your day.
Specify Tasks for Each Day
You have to be structured and focused working at home. There’s no boss popping in the office and looking over your shoulder.
Sure, it’s a good idea to create a to-do task list in general, but when working from home, it becomes even more important. Using Outlook, I tend to block out my daily calendar with the tasks of the day by priority. Not only does it help plan out your days, but that structure gives focus knowing that you have x number of minutes or hours to get the task done.
Another level of having this type of structure is that it allows you at the end of the day, end of the week, end of the month know what you’ve been spending your time on, thus giving you the ability to be even more focused on tasks.
Be a Communicator
Whether it’s phone calls, video conferences, instant messages, emails, text messages, all forms of communication is important for telecommuting. Even though you’re working remotely, you can’t be a hermit. You have to be reachable during office hours. You have to know which method of communication is best and plan for it. I schedule blocks of time for emails, for phone calls, for conference calls and meetings.
Keep Out the Noise
Even though you may have established that the door is closed and you’re “at work”, life still happens. In my case, there are days when my 20-month-old daughter is yelling as she runs up and down the hall, or is crying in her room next to my office when she goes for a nap. It’s not the same as your co-worker coughing in the cubicle next to you or a group of people standing outside your office talking about the latest gossip, but distractions are distractions.
I like to listen to my favorite Hawaiian music channel, or open a tab for Simply Noise which is probably the best white noise generator on the Web. Other days, I’ll stream the sound of ocean waves crashing.
Take Your Breaks
Oh, this is another one of the very important work at home strategies. It’s easy to just work straight through the day. You need to take your breaks. Get up and be active. Get away from your desk as you would take breaks while working at the office.
This includes your lunch hour. Don’t eat at your desk. Get away from the computer. Go for a walk.
Shut the Door – Part Two
Working from home is tricky. If you’re not careful, your work hours can run long and have an impact on your personal life. When you’ve set the hour of when you’re done with your work day, leave it. Walk out of the office and close the door. Don’t go back to check email a couple hours later, or before you go to bed. When you’re done, you’re done.
Keeping habits like these in your work day will increase your productivity. You will also become disciplined in separating your home life from you work life without sacrificing either. Stay focused on building a system that works for you knowing that it takes some time to get into a routine.
Does you work from home, whether it’s for your job or your own business? I’d love to hear how you create work-life balance and any additional work at home strategies and tricks you may have.
Work at Home Photo via Shutterstock