How many times have you sat in rage-inducing, morning rush hour traffic, cursing your boss for making you come in early to finish that report, when clearly you would have already had the report finished if you’d only been allowed to write it from home instead of sitting in this car!?
How many times, distracted by your coworker, whose high-pitched laugh while regaling her BFF on the phone about a ‘hysterical’ new Facebook post, have you cringed thinking to yourself, if only I were working from home I wouldn’t have these distractions!
How many times in a week do you find yourself thinking, if only I could work from home I would be so much more productive!
Well, according to last months’ Time Magazine – The Future of Work issue, more and more employees and employers are opting for new and innovative ways to redefine the workplace, the most common of which, is changing it – more specifically from your office to your home. And while I hear upon writing this, a chorus of working stiffs belting out Hallelujah!, before you jump into your new way of life (conference call in your pajamas, anyone?!) – a life free of stress, bureaucracy, and office politics – I caution you to remember the old adage: Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.
While without question, if done correctly, working from home will yield more productivity, less wasted time, and generally improve your quality of life, if done incorrectly you will see the exact opposite happen to the point where your job itself, may be threatened. And with the exuberance of being ‘free’ there is the risk that you will throw yourself into your new situation, without proper preparation. Simple upfront planning will ensure your success and increase your satisfaction factor.
1. Discipline: This is the single hardest part of working from home. Looks easy from your crowded cubicle, but simply not true. First you must honestly ask yourself what kind of person you are: Are you the type of person that works better in a structured environment? Or do you thrive with this type responsibility? Remember once you’re working at home there’s no rush hour and no pesky coworker to blame: your performance will be judged solely on you. If you are going to work from home, understand you’ll have to be ruling yourself with a stiffer fist. The general rule of thumb that I’ve found works is: If you wouldn’t do it at your old office (i.e. take 5 calls from Francine about her blind date last night) don’t do at your new office. I have found that the transition from office to home office is made significantly easier if you start working from home on a part time basis, and then gradually make the transition to full time from home.
2. Scheduling: One of the most important and overlooked aspects of working from home is creating a schedule. Just because you’re not required to be somewhere at 9 and can’t leave until 5, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a firm schedule. It is absolutely necessary to write out a weekly schedule for yourself – and stick to it. Working from home can come with many distractions – i.e. all of a sudden that bookshelf you’ve avoided for weeks needs to be dusted right now – and if you aren’t strict about your working hours they will quickly escape you. One of the other pratfalls is that when working from home there is no limit to how much you can be doing – theoretically you could be working 24 hours a day. So it is important to make clear guidelines about where your time will be spent everyday.
3. Create the appropriate space: When working from home, one of the big challenges is keeping your ‘home’ life from your ‘work’ life, otherwise with time both worlds will blur into one, leaving you feeling like you’re always working and never living. If your space allows it, designate one room to be used specifically and ONLY for your office – while it would be more comfortable to sit on your couch writing that report (like I am right now…horrible, horrible, horrible!) it is important to have a concrete spatial divide. If you don’t have the space available, craft out a corner which again is reserved for ‘work’ time only.
4. Separating work from home: Building on creating different spaces, your entire work practice should be separated from your living practice. Though at first it might seem sooo productive to be doing your laundry while taking a conference call, it’s actually not, and most probably both tasks will suffer as a result. Use the time you have allotted to work, to work, conversely use the time you’ve allotted for personal chores, for personal chores. It is also a good idea to get out of your house on designated breaks, i.e. lunch, afternoon break. Go for a walk around the block or eat your lunch outside. Being trapped in your house day and night has many negative long term effects, both personally and professionally.
5. Staying Connected: Just because you’ve said Hasta La Vista to your office, doesn’t mean you should say the same to your colleagues. One of the bigger risks of working from home is becoming isolated and out of the loop. Make the effort to reach out to colleagues you have a good rapport with – suggest a group happy hour drink/coffee once a month. Most jobs and careers still benefit from making connections and having in person relationships. Meeting up once a month will keep you abreast of relevant insider information that will invariably help you in the long run.
Got any working-from-home advice or stories that can help? Please feel free to comment below! (Only if you’re on a break!!)