With the many changes society has experienced in the past year, a lot of us are now working from home. At first glance, it appears to be great: no more rush hour traffic, being able to wake up whenever you want, no need to put on dress clothes or makeup… what could be better?
Working from home is not always peaches and cream however. Below are some of the tips I’ve found from years of working from home that can increase your productivity and enjoyment.
- Good Technology
A fast internet connection is vital when you’re working from home. Whether it’s transferring large files, accessing work-based applications, or attending a video meeting, a slow connection can ruin your productivity. If you’re consistently experiencing slow downloads or poor quality videoconferencing, consider upgrading your internet connection or router.
A good noise-canceling headphone can be found on Amazon or Best Buy for less than $100 and can make it much easier to hear others on noisy meetings. If your system supports it, a 2nd (or 3rd) monitor can really boost your output. Once you’re able to write your report on one screen while pulling the information from a spreadsheet on another, you’ll wonder how you ever worked with just one screen.
- Create your Ideal Work Environment
Curled up on the couch or laying across your bed may be comfortable while browsing social media, but a good home work environment should include ample work surface, a comfortable chair, and put you in a peaceful and workable mindset.
It’s also important that you set the proper boundaries and expectations with others in your household. If you’re able, set aside a specific room (or even corner of a room) to work everyday. You can stick a sign on the door to let other household members know you’re busy and staying focused. In essence, they should consider you as being ‘at the office’, even when you’re sitting in a corner of your spare bedroom. If possible, you can repaint your room to a more pleasing tone.
- Plan your Day
Plan your work and work your plan. At the beginning of the day, review what your priorities are, what meetings you need to attend, and what deliverables are coming due. For me, this is as simple as jotting down a few notes on a Post-it at the end of the day, then reviewing it the following morning. Also, give yourself a small break in the morning and another in the afternoon. This will help you stay at a high energy level throughout the workday.
- Eat Healthy
It’s tempting to grab a cupcake or cookie to munch on while you’re attending a meeting, but try to resist. Having only healthy snacks available will keep you from feeling bloated. I like to have some trail mix, dried fruit or pretzels handy. Don’t skip lunch either; you’ll get a much-needed break and be ready to start the afternoon refreshed and recharged. And take your lunch somewhere other than in your home office area. Also keep healthy; a few minutes on a treadmill can refresh and recharge you.
- Hide your Phone
I get it… Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram can be addicting… perhaps too addicting. Scrolling mindlessly through your Twitter or Facebook feed is probably the biggest time-waster there is and could be drastically hurting your productivity. Set your phone on a shelf, or leave it in the kitchen to avoid interrupting your workflow.
Driving into the office, we had a semblance of uniformity to our day. We’d leave the house at approximately the same time each day, often seeing the same cars on the road or riding the same public transportation. We’d use the same parking facilities, see the same people on the elevators, and so on. You can still have that same regularity when working from home. Get up at the same time everyday, take a shower/brush your teeth, eat a good breakfast, and treat the start of your at-home workday the same as your at-office workday.
- Background Noise
While it’s important to have a good quality noise canceling headset, consider turning on some background music if it helps you concentrate. After a friend of mine started working from home, she found she actually missed the background ‘buzz’ of a busy office. Her solution? She got a white noise generator to provide the ‘buzz’ she was missing from her office. Tricks like this can also help if you have a neighbor that likes to mow their lawn at the most inconvenient time. Whatever you listen to, make sure it doesn’t distract you from your tasks.
- Dress consistent
While it’s nice to be able to ‘go to work’ in sweatpants and a t-shirt, wearing the wrong attire just doesn’t ‘feel’ like you’re working. While you don’t need to wear a suit/tie or a dress, consider at least wearing ‘casual Friday’ type clothes. Wearing something different than your usual Saturday morning clothes helps you feel like you’re really ‘at work’. And when your boss requests a quick video call out of the blue, you’ll be glad you’re not scrambling around to try to look presentable.
- Work-Life Balance
I get it… we all have ‘those weeks’ when we need to put in extra time in order to get our tasks done. But working 10-12 hours a day, day in and day out, will increase your stress and ensure you burn out quickly. Set limits on when you’re available to clients, co-workers, or supervisors. It also helps to get outside when possible, even for a 5 minute walk around the block; especially when winter doldrums start to set in.
Working from home can have advantages and disadvantages, but with the proper planning and thought, you can be productive and have a rewarding experience.
Let us know in the comments what other tips you may have come across.