I have been working remotely from a home office for about 4 years now. Recently I was talking with a friend who just started working from home. I was reminded of the concerns and obstacles that one faces during the transition from a traditional office setting to a remote office setting. Here are 5 easy strategies that make working from home a productive, fulfilling work environment.
Develop a routine and stick to it.
Whether you realize it or not, your life is already running on a routine. You wake, get ready, run out the door, commute to the office, work all day, rush home, fix dinner, etc.
As you transition to working from home you might think this routine will not change too much from your office job routine. However, I have found there to be more time and opportunity to balance your life in a remote position. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by.
Be intentional about creating and sticking to a new routine.
Researchers suggest it can take upwards of 66 days to develop a new habit. Entire routines of behavior can take much longer, however, building a skeleton of a routine and sticking to it for at least 3 months will put you on the way to a successful remote working life.
Here is a typical day for me:
Here is a typical day for me:
|6:30||Get up, shower, read paper, drink coffee.||7:30||Start working.||10:00||Take a break, eat a snack, walk around the house, fold a load of clothes, or just move for 15 minutes to clear my head.||10:15||Back to work.||Noon||Go for a brief walk, eat lunch, unload and reload the dishwasher. Maybe throw some dinner in the crockpot.||1:00||Back to work.||3:30||Stop working. Chores, dinner prep, and catching up with family members as they arrive home.||5:30-10:00||Dinner and family time.|
A few minutes of manual labor, like unloading and reloading the dishwasher, really helps to clear my head when I’m spinning on a problem.
When I worked in an office I would get up and try to walk around a bit, but it isn’t the same as putting your body to work completing a task. Give it a try you might solve that tough problem and have folded towels, win-win!
Create a dedicated space.
Creating dedicated spaces for activities sets you up for success. We naturally put ourselves in the right frame of mind to perform the task required in a given location. For example, when you walk into your bedroom you feel a sense of relaxation and peace. Your bedroom space triggers your mind to wind down and sleep. Your kitchen might be a noisy, family gathering place where people come together. When you enter it your mind is prepared to interact.
Your office should be a comfortable place where you can concentrate and feel productive.
When you walk into your office you should feel ready to attack the tasks of the day. The key is to create a space that is separate from your other living spaces. Make sure there is great lighting, a comfortable chair, and enough desk space for you to be productive. Add a chore to your weekly chore list to dust, vacuum and tidy this new space. Unfortunately there is no office cleaning service in your remote office.
A common complaint made by my work at home friends is the unreasonable expectations family members have for them. It is easy for them to expect the person who is home to handle all the home activities. From laundry and meal prep, to managing repairmen, running errands and appointment scheduling.
It is critical to set boundaries with family members at the very beginning.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to share your daily routine. You’ll notice that in my daily routine I have dedicated time in the afternoon to work on chores. During this time, I can run errands, do laundry, make appointments, or whatever. But whatever doesn’t get done during my dedicated chore time needs to be picked up by other family members or will just have to wait for the next day. After a little practice you will find your productivity around the house will increase and family members will respect your routine.
Practice open communication.
As a remote worker, you are not working in an office where your coworkers and managers can keep an eye on when you come and go. Most companies aren’t interested in tracking your every second, but seeing a person sitting at their desk gives people a sense that the person continues to work on what they are supposed to. We all know this is not true. Joe could be there physically, but spends his days planning a summer vacation, reading the latest tech news, or chatting with coworkers.
When you are working remotely you can give people a sense of your dedication by keeping teammates informed of your schedule and your progress on assigned tasks. This does not need to be a long status report each day or week.
Simple, quick communication is the key.
If you’ll be leaving your home office for a doctor’s appointment at 9 or you think you’ll need a longer lunch to run the car in for repairs, let your team know at the daily standup. Ping your teammates during the day and ask questions or just ask how things are going for them. Share your achievements as well as things that have been difficult. This quick, open communication builds a sense of community and keeps everyone up to date on what’s going on. The multiple communication touches really make a difference in building trust and productivity among remote team members.
Make socializing a priority.
A common misconception people have about working from home is that it’s lonely and well, remote. I agree that effort is required to stay connected to people on a face to face level but have found remote working to be more socially rewarding.
Spend a little time making a list of people you enjoy spending time with. Include family, friends, collogues, etc. Then start planning time with people. Meet a different friend for coffee or lunch each week. Email some college buddies and set a time for drinks on a Tuesday night. Set up a standing lunch date to visit your grandmother. You will be amazed how much more fulfilled you will become.
As a remote worker, you can choose to spend your interaction time with people of your choosing.
Take advantage of this amazing perk of working from home by doing a little planning and being intentional.
As with any new adventure, approaching the remote working environment with a positive attitude and some intentional planning will get you off to a great start. I hope you find these tips helpful.
Experienced remote workers, comment below with your tips and suggestions! New remote workers, welcome! What obstacles are you facing?