Companies across the country are urging their employees to work from home. The New York Times calls this “the World’s Largest Work-from-Home Experiment.” If you are about to or now working from home, this post is for you!
Actually, Being a solopreneur, I do love working from home and have been doing it for almost 20 years. I admit in the beginning, it was challenging. I came from a robust work environment with employees, customers, and deadlines darting through my day. At first, when I decided to work from a home office, I was lonely. I had work scattered about the house and no set schedule, working off and on all the time with lots of interruptions and distractions throughout the day. It took me a good amount of time to learn the ropes. Today, as someone who has built a successful career remotely for the past 20 years, here are some tips and advice thrown in:
1. Get Dressed
When I first started working from home, I was excited that I got to work in my jammies, but that didn’t last long. Getting out of your pjs tells your brain that it’s time to work and keeps you from laying on the sofa half the morning. I felt that working in my bedtime attire was lowering my motivation and my drive to be productive. My advice is to continue your morning routine—workout, make your breakfast, shower, and get dressed (yoga pants accepted) before you open your computer for the day as it puts you in a more productive frame of mind.
2. Find a Dedicated Workspace
I know this one for a fact: If you don’t have a dedicated workspace, your entire house may become your whole desktop. You will be frustrated and not as productive as you would be with your own set work area. If two of you are working from home, my suggestion is to create two workspaces as far from each other as possible, so calls, zoom meetings, and webinars do not disturb each of you.
3. Set Your Work Hours
Have a schedule—and then be flexible. Set a time to open your computer and another to close it down for the day, transitioning into your personal life. That said, one of the benefits of remote work is flexibility, and sometimes you need to extend your day or start early to accommodate someone else’s time zone. When you do, be sure to wrap up earlier than usual or sleep in a bit the next morning to make up for it. Also, set expectations upfront with the people you live with who will be in your home or workspace. Be clear about your work hours and when it’s okay (and not okay) for them to interrupt you, make requests, ask you to run errands, etc. I know that kids make this situation tricky. If you have Kids at home, Here are some tips from an expert.
4. Work Smart
Be productive—make a list each morning of what you need to accomplish that day and outline the upcoming week every Friday afternoon, and review it Monday morning. I go through everything that needs my attention, schedule time to complete it, and even set reminders that keep me focused. Schedule at least one significant treadmill or walk break a day. When you have a meeting that doesn’t require you to be on your computer, take it while walking. Fight the urge to be sedentary!
5. Check your Internet
Low bandwidth might be an issue in your home. I know this firsthand because many of the participants on my Zoom calls sound wonky. I ask them to shut down other programs on their computer – sometimes, that’s all it takes. When it does not, they have to click off the video portion of the call. You may have to upgrade your wifi and, in some cases, get VPN.
6. Stay Connected
Engage in conversation and be careful about over-reliance on email/texting—go on and pick up the phone and call people when that’s more efficient and appropriate for the conversation. Also, use video when you can. It is just so much better to see people. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will become—trust me on this. I urge you to do it, even if you’re not comfortable and urge other team members to do it too (but warn them ahead of time so they are dressed).
7. Spend Time in Preparation
The goal is to reach for excellence when meeting planning, carrying through the execution, and using your best etiquette with team members. Even though we should always do this (of course), it’s even more important when we lose access to nonverbals and are interacting via the phone. Recognize that some people are more comfortable and productive with phone meetings than others and that a poorly planned meeting often leaves attendees free to multi-task, thereby just wasting a lot of valuable time. Spend time preparing for your meetings.
Constantly re-assess, perhaps with an accountability partner, and have a weekly or bi-weekly check-in to discuss what’s working as a teleworker and what behaviors you need to change. Recognize that it’s just a different way of working.
8. Feeling Lonely?
If you feel a sense of loss over the social connections you would otherwise enjoy at work (with your “work family”), be even more intentional about how you might socialize in the evening. Hopefully, you have more energy for your family or get together with a neighbor or call your mother (she’ll be so happy to hear from you )Somehow, make up for what you’re losing by spending all or most of the day alone when you transition into your private life.
Oh, one last word—STAY AWAY FROM THE REFRIGERATOR. Seriously, it’s tempting. Put some boundaries and guardrails in place. Trust me on this one!