15 Must-Follow Rules to Get More Done When Working from Home
Working from home can seem like a dream come true. You get great perks like no commute and no dress code. It’s important, however, to set boundaries between work and home life and to establish firm routines to keep you motivated.
The pros and cons of working from home
Writers, designers, and other web professionals know that one of life's little pleasures is the ability to work from home. This means no hectic commute, bad office coffee, or an uncomfortable desk chair from the strict hours of 9-to-5. Instead, a work-from-home schedule means working at a more relaxed pace and under your own conditions—which, for some, is pajamas. It also, however, means many added distractions—and lots of them. Despite being committed to the work, people often hit roadblocks throughout the day when confined within the four walls of their own home.
Clare Evans, a time management and productivity coach, admits that it's not just the surrounding environment that causes distractions. Other difficulties include finding the discipline to sit down and work, dealing with the idea of not being able to "get away from the office," and a lack of human interaction. On top of this, it's the chores ("that pile of laundry isn't going to fold itself"), the kitchen ("I can use another cup of tea"), and the television ("Just one more episode...") that are major culprits of distraction. Ahead, Evans offers simple solutions for the very difficult task of how to work from home.
Have a designated work space
Whether you have a dedicated office or a small table for your work, make sure that this zone is for work only. It will make it much easier to leave work at the end of the day and not let it trickle into your home life. Pick a spot that’s away from most of the commotion in the house or consider making space in a part of your garage or quiet corner of the basement just for your office. Sorry, but your sofa or bed don't count. One of Evans' best working from home tips is having a space specifically for work. She suggests using a spare room just for your home office or investing in a comfortable desk and work chair to get the job done. Either way, stay out of the bedroom and off the couch!
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Work regular hours
Just because you're home doesn't mean you can't be on a minute-by-minute schedule. "Schedule your working day in the same way you would if you were in an office," Evans suggests. This may be more difficult for those with kids, but consider sharing child-care with another working parent; that way you can both have some much-need uninterrupted time to yourselves. Make sure that you maintain your normal business hours, whatever they may be. Think of yourself as “on the clock” during those hours. Plan to arrive at work and leave work during your same, regular hours. This will allow you to set boundaries between work and home.
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Check in with work—frequently
You won’t see your boss or co-workers as often, so it’s important to check in frequently. Send an extra email to confirm receipt of materials, call up a co-worker to check in on a project, and make it clear that you’re accessible and available throughout the day.
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Take a lunch break
Or any break! Take a few minutes out of your day and relax. Go out to lunch, order in, or heat up leftovers from last night. Give yourself time to recharge before you head back to work—the rest of your day will go much smoother. This is a tricky, but necessary tip. To keep your mind clear and your thinking sharp, small, relaxing breaks are helpful. It's important, however, to keep them short. Evans suggests setting a distinct time limit for each intermittent break.
Resist the temptation to straighten up or take on large projects around the house while you’re working from home. Keep your normal cleaning schedule. Since you shouldn't be cleaning during the week, to keep you focused on work, clean your whole house in one day over the weekend.
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Keep errands to a minimum
It’s tempting to run errands during office hours to avoid the weekend rush, but don’t go overboard. Working from home means that you may get an unexpected email or call about a situation that you have to attend to immediately. Try to keep errands to your appointed lunch hour or simply alert your team that you’ll be out this afternoon and working later in the evening to compensate for lost time.
Keep a routine
Resist the temptation to stop your morning dressing and breakfast routine or evening wind-down and dinnertime. Keep things consistent, just like they were when you were commuting to the office, and you’ll keep your sanity in check.
Aim to leave the house at least once per day
With the ease of online shopping, grocery delivery, food delivery, and even services to stop by and walk your dog, it can become pretty easy to stay home all day. Take a short walk around the block, go out for a cup of coffee, or go for a drive.
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Don’t volunteer too much
Although you’re home throughout the day, avoid volunteering to watch kids or pets for friends and family. This nice gesture can soon prove to be too much as you really need to focus on work during your set work hours. Take advantage of the minutes or hours that you’re not commuting and offer to help out during that time.
Just because your home office doesn’t have a dress code doesn’t mean that you can wear your pajamas or nothing at all to business meetings. If you’re clean and dressed, you’ll conduct calls much more professionally and have better results. Avoid the temptation to be relaxed with your communications just because you’re in your fuzzy bunny slippers.
Take advantage of technology
Technology should be your friend, not your enemy, especially when working from home, says Evans. A few things you'll need to work more productively: a reliable computer, a headset for hands-free note-taking, a variety of apps to manage your schedule and clients, an at-home printer, and a fast and reliable internet hookup. Without these simple technologies, you're setting your work day up for failure.
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Plan ahead of time
Going into a workday blindly may not be the best approach. "Be clear about what you want to achieve, both in the long-term and on a daily basis," Evans says. Try making a to-do list, prioritized by urgency.
Set clear boundaries
This applies to both your physical and mental work-from-home space. Keep everything separate—keep your work hours for work only, and your work space for work only. That way, you can "close the office door" at the end of your working day, Evans says.
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You'll never get through a long work day without treating yourself. One of the perks of working from home is you can reward yourself with the things you like without getting the side eye from a nosy co-worker—try a mid-afternoon stroll around the block after finishing a PowerPoint or a fresh-baked cookie after getting off a conference call.
Look for support
Learning how to work from home is a task for your family and friends, too. "Let them know what your work hours are, when you can be disturbed, and when you're not available," Evans says. And when they're really not getting the hint, there's always a "Do Not Disturb" sign (a door with a lock helps, too.)
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