We live in a time when you can literally work from anywhere. Internet access and online servers have made it possible to work from your office, your home, or even sitting on a beach. This may or may not be a good thing. However, if you find yourself working from home, there are several ways to maximize your workspace and the time you spend there.
DEFINE YOUR WORKSPACE
Like your desk, cubicle, or office at work, you have a set space where you go to do your work. Home should be no different. Whether it’s the kitchen table, a desk, or somewhere else, make sure you have a set space where you go to do your work each day. This trains your brain to be productive when it’s in that one location. The rest of the house can be designated for the other tasks that you actually do at home. But, no matter what, DON’T WORK ON YOUR BED! This sets an entirely different psychological example that can make it harder to fall asleep, stay asleep, and get a good night’s rest. Where possible, only use your bed for actual sleeping.
Along with this, it’s likely that you’re not home alone either. Make sure to define expectations with all others who will be home with you. Define your workspace with them, set boundaries for the times that you can’t be disturbed, and respect the boundaries of those who are also home. All that together time with family or roommates can also cause some friction, so everyone setting and maintaining those boundaries will help work from home time be much more productive for everyone.
GET READY FOR THE DAY
Similar to defining your workspace, you should mentally prep for the day by getting up and getting ready for it as if you were going into the office. It sets that mental standard that when you’re up and ready for the day, it’s time to work. While staying in pajamas or loungewear sounds very tempting, it can actually hurt your work quality. Reserve time in your favorite pair of sweats for when you “clock out” for the day and have time to take your mind off of work.
FEWER EMAILS/CHAT, MORE ACTUAL FACE TIME
One of the perks of working from home is that you can avoid a lot of distractions. However, this can also be isolating and detrimental to your mental health if there’s no interaction during the day with coworkers or friends. Email and chat programs like Slack have frequently used features in today’s business environments. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with those. But where possible, jump on the phone or do a video meeting with your coworkers. This can do wonders for productivity and actually help your mental health because it provides those connections. Phone or video conferencing can actually help improve communication within the company as well.
Beyond immediate needs, set time aside for virtual water coolers or opportunities to just chat with your coworkers. When working from home, you miss the opportunity to just walk over to someone’s desk and catch up. 15 minutes a few times a week can do wonders for actually catching up with your coworkers and can help you all stay connected when working apart.
MATCH SCHEDULES WITH THOSE YOU NEED MOST AND STICK TO THAT SCHEDULE
Most of the workforce still does an 8-5 schedule. So go earlier, some go later, or some combination of all of that. But no matter what schedule you use, try and align it as closely as possible with those you interact with regularly. In the long run, it’s a convenient thing that makes sure you can get what you need from your colleagues and they can get what they need from you. Of course, working across different time zones and even different countries, aligning schedules can be difficult. But for immediate needs with those within your direct team and department, aligning those schedules will save a lot of hassles.
Working from home can, of course, have a lot of demands on your time. But you can use household chores as a way to monitor that time and up your productivity level at the same time. For example, use the laundry as a work timer. It takes, for example, about 50 minutes for my machine to do a load on regular. That’s 50 minutes that I have to spend dedicated to a task. If you break your day up into manageable tasks and scheduled distractions, you’ll be amazed at how much you can get done throughout your workday.
But remember, when the day is over, LOG OFF, and stay logged off. It’s all apart of setting those boundaries that I recommended earlier. When work is done, make sure you’re not logging back in or just replying to one more email once it’s time to start doing something else.
BE PROACTIVE WITH YOUR NEEDS
It can be hard to read the room if you’re not in the room. That’s one of the biggest disadvantages of working remotely. In an office, you can gauge stress levels and response times, which is near impossible to do remotely. But, that doesn’t mean you still don’t need certain resources and feedback. And it can be hard to feel like you’re not bothering someone by asking for a meeting. But if you need something, ask for it! Be proactive in reaching out! If someone can’t get to it immediately, they’ll let you know. This is a high-level of accountability that all employees need to be held to, regardless of where they work.
Send updates to your boss
One of the best ways to hold yourself accountable, be proactive, and show progress is to send once a week emails to your boss letting them know what you’ve accomplished. This doesn’t have to be extremely detailed, but it gives an overall idea of your tasks for the week and your progress on them. This helps your boss know the big picture of what you’re working on and can allocate future tasks accordingly. This goes a long way to helping with these communications channels.
BLOCK OUT DISTRACTIONS
I call distractions “squirrel moments”. You know, when a dog is doing something, sees a squirrel, all focus goes there, and then he’s back to what he was saying? Tell me you’ve never been hiking and seen a squirrel and automatically stop and watch it. Yeah, those kinds of moments. We all have thousands of “squirrel moments” every single day, whether we’re in an office or at home. But, as hard as it can be, it’s important to block out as many of those distractions as possible.
Online, there are apps like SelfControl and Anti-Social that can block out social media or other computer distractions so you stay focused on the task at hand. Or if you find yourself dragging, being at home does have it’s privileged. Go for a walk, or meal prep for a few minutes. Getting out of “the office” for a few minutes can help you recharge and narrow your focus for the rest of the day.
MAKE SURE YOU’RE GETTING WHAT YOU NEED
All employees have different needs. Some work better in groups. Some work better alone. Some work better when they’re on deadline. But if you’re working from home, you’re first and foremost accountable to yourself. Make sure you’re doing things in a way that will help you succeed. Working from home can be a lonely experience because you don’t have that daily interaction with coworkers. If you find yourself feeling down, it’s important to speak up if you’re struggling. Your boss or your company can provide additional resources to help you succeed.