The number of remote jobs increased by 115% in the last decade, with some 43% of Americans remotely working at least some of the time according to a 2017 New York Times report.
Whether you’re out of the office a few times a month or you’re a full-time freelancer or self-employed worker, working from home has an impressive range of benefits and more than a few challenges.
The benefits are easy to appreciate:
- No commute
- No business attire
- No boss breathing down your neck
But the flip side of working from home is the challenge of being a professional so you can deliver the same excellent results as you would in a traditional work environment. The idea some people subscribe to of the freelancer on the beach, in a hammock, or in their pajamas on the couch while also producing high quality copywriting, coding, or graphic design has no real basis in reality.
To succeed in working from home takes self-discipline and creative touches to give yourself the best chance of producing great work while keeping a firm grip on the precious work-life balance.
Here’s a checklist of ways to convert part of your home into a home office and ways to keep up your productivity outside the hustle and bustle of the traditional office space.
- Designate where your home office begins and ends. Whether it’s the kitchen table, a desk with a chair in your bedroom, or a well-appointed study, you need to scout, lay claim, and communicate to family members where your home office is. The space you pick should afford you:
- As quiet an environment as your home allows
- A straight-back, comfortable chair
- A solid surface for your computer or other work implements
So, do not use a space that includes a couch, a recliner, and definitely not a television. You might think about staying away from the refrigerator as well, but that will be addressed later.
If at all possible, make your home office a room that has a non-glass door. It’s much easier for family members to appreciate that you’re working when there’s a physical impediment between you and them.
- Dress the part. Yes, it’s possible to work in your pajamas but think about the message you’re sending to yourself. Pajamas and other casual clothing are for relaxing and resting. Work does not include either of those activities. Dress in clothes that you wouldn’t be horrified for your client or coworker to see you in. And remember that a lot of jobs include video conferences and meetings these days. It’s a lot easier to put on a collared shirt first thing in the morning then to scramble for something decent or adjust your webcam, so it only shows you from the neck up.
- Filter out distractions. Watching television while you work is the death knell of production. The same goes for swiping through your Twitter or Facebook feed, playing video games on your phone, texting with friends, or blaring music so loud the neighbors call the cops. Yes, this is your home, but it’s also an office. Whether you’ve been granted permission to work remotely by a superior or you’re a freelancer/contractor, you should always be as close to 100% focused on the task at hand as possible. If you find yourself routinely distracted, try out a white noise or coffeehouse noise generator like Noisli to give your brain some background distraction. There are also apps that will help you block non-productive social media websites, like Facebook or Twitter.
- Take scheduled breaks and scheduled meals. Breaks are necessary, even if you don’t feel like taking one. Over time, your body will tense up, and your mind will start to crave something else to on which to focus. If you don’t listen to body and mind, you will get distracted, your body will develop cramps and aches, and your work will suffer. A 15-minute break entirely away from the computer every couple of hours will do wonders for your demeanor, mainly if you spend it doing something enjoyable like reading, going outside, or playing with a pet. Even housework is a great idea because you are exercising your body instead of working your mind. When you’re focused on something like laundry or doing the dishes, you’ll be amazed how the menial tasks let your brain work out problems that were previously limiting you in front of the computer.
- Establish rules of engagement with family members:
This practice can be challenging for both you and your spouse or kids to adhere to, but it’s the best way to keep work and home life separate and give the effort necessary to allow you to keep working at home. When your family is at home, but you’re working, give them general ideas of how long this session will last, whether it’s 30 minutes or 4 hours. Define a list of instances where it’s OK to interrupt you and cases in which it’s not. And most importantly, be tolerant of them, especially children, when you start working from a home office. It might be easy for you to switch on the persona of “working from home executive,” but your kids have a tough time seeing you as anyone besides Mom or Dad. When your work persona is turned off, invest fully in being present for your family.
- Get enough sleep. A good night’s rest is the great equalizer. Just because you don’t have to shower, shave and spend 90 minutes in a rush-hour commute tomorrow morning does not mean you have free reign to stay up until 2 a.m. binge-watching TV. The same advice goes for working long hours. It’s OK every once in a while to stay up late to finish up a project or to do a rush job for an employer paying you overtime, but it’s a terrible habit to form. Your family life will suffer, and your work as well, with creativity, dedication, and communication all start to dry up.