As we all know, working from home is a rising phenomenon. More and more employers are embracing it— when it makes sense. It’s not a fit for all types of work and it’s not for everyone. Working from home requires a specific type of focus and the ability to separate one’s living space from one’s working space. It is not without its challenges and distractions.
So, how can you set yourself up for success when you work from home (WFH)? As someone who has worked remotely for the past six years, here are a few things I’ve learned…
Create a dedicated work station/home office. Preferably in its own space, with its own four walls. An environment that is only for work, quiet and free of distractions. When your workday is done, close the door, shut it down, and return to your personal life. When I moved a few years ago, I tried working at a desk in a large, open concept living room. After inexplicably struggling for a few weeks, I converted a guest room into my dedicated office. It immediately improved my focus and productivity.
Make sure your family, friends and neighbors know you WFH during the day. And while that does afford some flexibility, numerous interruptions are not a part of the deal. Establish boundaries early on. Make it clear that you’re available before work, during a lunch break or after hours. I often mute/silence my personal line during business hours. If you have pets or children, daycare or activities should be arranged to keep yourself free from distractions. Having two active golden retrievers, I’ve trained them to know that when I’m at my office desk it is not play time, and I frequently close the door to send a signal they are on their own.
I am a planner – and working from home I have learned how crucial it is to plan ahead. Knowing what’s on tap for my day/week and then diligently scheduling my interviews, meetings, etc. in advance. Interestingly, when you WFH, you can be guilty of starting the workday way too early and then working without a break. I actively make myself take a break at lunchtime and step away from my home office, trying not to eat at my desk. Taking a break keeps me fresh and gives me the ability to refocus.
It is very easy for your personal and work worlds to blend and become an overwhelming place to be. Keep yourself accountable by getting showered, dressed and ready to go at a certain time. Keep your work environment pleasant. You are spending 8+ hours in that space so make sure it is not in a corner of your basement.
Before you (and your company) determine you can WFH, acknowledge what type of person you are. If you’re more productive/accountable when others are around, it may not be the move for you. Or, if you’re incredibly extroverted and get your energy from social interactions, WFH might be the wrong fit. WFH can be solitary, even if you’re on the phone as much as I am. For some, solitude provides focus, energy, and a space where they feel right at home. For others, it can be downright depressing. Especially if you love nothing more than an office kitchen full of bagels on a Friday.