Every job comes with its own set of problems. Whether you work at the kitchen table, in a cardboard cubicle, on a building site, or in a gorgeous, glass office, none of them are worry free; the grass always seems greener, when really it is just a different variety of grass (with its own set of weeds). But, working from home is still seen by many as the holy grail – the luxury of being able to type in your underwear, and the giddy thought of quietly trying to eat potato chips during an important teleconference.
When I began to work from home, the concept of saying I was “working” sounded kind of crazy (even to me). My daughter would see me, in my fun, little office, writing lists and updating my business Facebook page, and I know it didn’t make a whole lot of sense. It barely made sense to me, so we had to slowly convince ourselves that just because I wasn’t commuting, wearing a suit and waving around stock market tips scribbled on bits of paper (or whatever they do) it was still something that contributed to me earning a living.
It took me a while (a long while) but eventually I managed to train myself to work fairly effectively from home. It will never be a perfect system, but I have still managed to find several ways that make my work at home, office appropriate…
- Have a designated office space where you just work. I know it goes without saying, but often, a laptop can mysteriously travel to the comfiest place, and you will find yourself curled up on the sofa. Before you know it, you find yourself simultaneously googling the latest Fall fashions and watching the Weather channel as if your life depended on it (which is ironic, considering you don’t have to step outside unless you really want to).
- Don’t wear pajamas, work-out clothes or gardening clothes (me). This tells you (and everyone around you) that you are ready to do something else at a moments notice (take a nap, go to the gym, eat chocolate, or mow the lawn… ) and, you are not taking it that seriously.
- Adjust your time to suit you. I admit, this is one of the perks of working from home. I am much more focused in the morning, so I can begin at 7:30am and do the most important things then. Late afternoon is kept for tasks that require less brain power, and the evening for nothing more than Pinterest and Facebook.
- Surround yourself with items that support what you do for a living. Not what reminds you of home; what you see should motivate you to work, not distract you. If you work for a financial corporation, then you probably want to keep it simple and business orientated – framed certificates, the latest projection statistics, and a piece of classic art, is probably all you need. Likewise, if your job is more creative, vision boards, success stories and color may inspire you.
- Indulge yourself by being organized and comfortable. Filing cabinets, shelves, noticeboards, a comfortable chair, and a desk or table, all contribute to a more productive work environment. If the space doesn’t work for you, you’re not going to use it.
- Have a routine. Commit to yourself that at a certain time you will always go to work. Ignore the laundry, walking the dog, or whatever else that you think should be done, because there is always going to be something to do around the house, and it is so easy to get distracted for an hour or two (or three).
- Tell everyone that you are working from home. And mean it. Write dates and times on your calendar, so that you and your friends and family know it is important.
- Take lunch and coffee breaks. Walk away from your office, have something to eat, and take a walk outside. Again, it might be a luxury that not everyone has, but when you are home alone it is also easier to park your bottom at the computer for four or five hours at a time without moving more than your fingers and eyeballs.
- Schedule time off and mental health days. Stop work at a certain time, take a day or afternoon off now and again, and be aware when it is leaching into your family life. We don’t get Sick days, Personal Leave, Weekends Off, or Public Holidays, so it is okay to turn off the computer, ignore the emails, and give yourself a break when you need it.
- Be grateful, enjoy your time at home, and (note to self) stop apologizing.