In these unprecedented times more and more people are being asked to work from home, when people think about working from home, many imagine sleeping in late, lounging around in their pajamas and long leisurely lunches. “But what people need to realize is that even though working from home offers a great amount of flexibility, it is still a professional job and it needs to be treated as such.
"You need to learn best work at home practices, like setting office hours, having a dedicated office space, avoiding home-bound distractions, and actually dressing as if you were going to an office.
I myself am working from home today and it’s no easy feat. I woke up, got dressed, powered on my laptop, and got to work—but it’s sometimes difficult to stay focused with so many distractions and temptations around me. I only work from home under special circumstances—maybe five or six times a year—but some do it more frequently, and others work out of their homes permanently. It’s not for everyone, though, and some do it more successfully than others.
Here are some tips I have put together from the experts on how to successfully work from home:
Get organised. Maintaining balance is one of the most difficult aspects of working at home, because the work is always right there staring you in the face, “To keep you on track (and not working too much or too little), organisation will be key. Get organised by creating filing systems, schedules and to-do lists.”
Have a set work space. Designate a specific place for a home office--and store all work-related files, reference materials and supplies there. Try not to make it near a bed or a TV, Spence adds. You should ensure that your office space emulates that of a true work environment.
Plan your day. This will help you minimize your distractions and maximize your true productive times, “For example, many people eat a small breakfast on their way to the office, but when at home, you may be tempted to have a bigger breakfast which may slow you down for your early morning meeting. Or you may normally get off at 5 pm, but the kids come home at 4 pm, so you may need a shorter lunch so you can get all of your work done.”
Be computer savvy. Since the majority of your work will be done on your computer, you will need to be computer savvy. You should know everything from learning how to use different software, to updating programs and keeping your computer running smoothly, Hanna says. “A broken down computer or Internet connection equals no work getting done, so you will be need to be able to navigate your way around tech issues and concerns.”
Pets, TV and family members are just a few other distractions you’ll encounter when you start working at home, Hanna says. Planning ahead will be key. “Having readily available snacks for consumption, planning children’s activities or child care in advance, and having a separate office space can all help minimize distractions, but ultimately it is up to you to stay focused.”
Limit the number of times you check e-mail. You might find yourself constantly checking e-mail because you’re worried about being out of the loop—but while it’s important to stay connected, spending too much time on e-mail might distract you from more important tasks, Kanarek says.
Brush up on your communication skills. Because you’ll be doing your work remotely, you’ll need to have excellent communication skills. Often times you won’t have the visual and verbal cues that normally help guide a conversation, Hanna says. “Although cell phones, instant message, and software like Skype make it easy for people to stay in touch, the majority of your communication will be done via e-mail.” You will need to make sure that you are able to covey what you mean clearly and concisely.
Set office hours. Make sure to create a time slot for each of the day’s activities. This helps with communicating to others when your work-time and play-time is, Hanna says. “If you have small children you may need to schedule your work around their naps or another caregiver’s schedule, so that you can have a good chunk of time to work uninterrupted.”
Take breaks. When making your schedule, you might want to consider working in smaller spurts, and allowing yourself time to get up from the computer to stretch. “This will really help you both physically and mentally,” Spence says. “Without a water cooler and co-workers around, you may forget to take time away from your desk. When you take breaks, you'll be more productive,” Kanarek adds.
Get out of the house. If you're telecommuting for much of the week, be sure to get out of the house often enough, Taylor says. “Set up outside meetings versus phone conversations where it makes sense, and if necessary take your work to your local coffee house where there is Wi-Fi. That way you can create a sense of business community.”
Good luck and stay safe.