Given today’s fast-paced, high-stress business world, working from home might just be the new American dream.
But it’s not always as easy as it might seem – distractions abound, miscommunications crop up, and feelings of isolation can leave workers feeling distant and disconnected from their work.
The key is a delicate “work-life” balance – creating an environment that’s conducive to working while you’re home, and simultaneously establishing a time to shut down for the day. Striking this balance will help make working from home seamless and productive.
Pretend You’re Going Into the Office
The best way to start out your work day from home is to pretend as though you’re actually going into the office. Give yourself enough time to wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, etc. Resist the urge to roll out of bed three minutes before your morning meeting when you’re still in sleep mode. Taking the time to wake up and put yourself together will help you feel focused and ready to take on the day.
Structure Your Day
Next, you’ll want to establish a clear structure for your day. Prioritize your tasks, make a to-do list, give your day a general shape. That way, when interruptions and distractions inevitably arise, it’ll be much easier to get back on task.
Planning out your day in advance will also make it easier for you to optimize your working environment; if you know you’re going to be on the computer for a good portion of the day and you work best with some white noise, you may want to head to your local coffee shop if that helps you work. But if you’re expecting a phone-heavy afternoon with clients, you’ll want to plan to be in an environment more conducive to quiet. Whatever you decide, develop a plan of action before diving into your workload.
Maintain some level of human interaction during the day. Whether it’s checking in with co-workers, connecting with clients, or striking up a conversation with the neighbor when you get the morning paper, interacting with others will keep you from feeling isolated from the outside world.
It’s also good idea to touch base with your co-workers and your supervisor via phone at some point throughout the day to make sure projects are staying on track. While email communication has its merits, it’s only good up to a point; nothing beats the back and forth exchange of ideas that you can get from a phone call and/or screen sharing session.
Unless you’re stricken with pneumonia, make a point of stepping outside at some point during the day to clear your head and give yourself a mental break.
Do what you would normally do at work - take a drive to pick up lunch, go for a walk around the neighborhood, or just step outside and get some fresh air. Even if you think you’ll get more done by locking yourself inside and plowing through your work non-stop for eight hours, being cooped up inside all day can actually be counterproductive when cabin fever starts setting in.
Don’t Mix Business with Personal
One of the biggest mistakes people make when working from home is letting their work life spill over into their personal affairs and vice versa. Prevent this by establishing a designated start and end time to your work day. Of course, sometimes you may need to go a few minutes over schedule if, say, you’re finishing up a call with a client. But generally speaking, having a set end time will mean you’re not still staring at the computer screen at 8:00 pm without having stopped for dinner.
On the flip side, you’ll also want to make sure that your designated working hours are actually working hours and not a time to do laundry, clean up around the house, or catch up on the mid-afternoon soaps. Draw a clear distinction between working hours and personal time so that you’re actually accomplishing what you’ve set out to do.
That way, when you’ve finished the work portion of your day, you can shut down with confidence and focus on personal matters. And the best part? A zero-minute commute.
Now that’s the American dream!