I started working a corporate job from home almost 2 years ago and there are things I learned that have made it successful for both the company and me. The first 6 months to a year were rough. When people hear you work from home they imagine you sitting in front of the TV, feet up, in pjs working. Unfortunately, that is so far from the truth. I struggled for a long time with my identity and trying to find the best work/life balance. There was no reason to get dressed nice, do my hair, put makeup on because no one ever saw me. I have learned that I need to take care of both me and work and I wanted to share some tips that have helped me over the past few years.
Work your set hours
If you work 8-4:30 Monday through Friday, those are your hours. Don’t logon at 7am and work until 8pm because your laptop is there and you feel obligated. Would you be working those hours if you were in the office? If the work demands those hours, so be it. It happens. There have been many nights where I have worked until 9pm. I also have 2am checkouts. I get it. But you need set hours so you aren’t a slave to your work.
Designate your work space
When I first started teleworking, I didn’t have a home office that I liked working in. My office was in the basement (where it was cold), I had a small table I worked at and sat on a folding chair. It was definitely not ideal. When we moved to our new house last summer, we were very deliberate about giving me a “home office.” Get yourself a reasonable size desk to work at, ergonomic chair, headset, wireless mouse, monitor, etc to give you that “office” feel. This was the best thing I could have done. I hung both personal and professional accomplishments on the wall. It truly is a place for me to work.
Have a routine
Similar to setting hours get yourself into a routine. This includes taking a shower, getting dressed and making breakfast. When you look professional, you will feel more professional. This helps feel more connected and that you’re at “work” rather than at home. Take breaks. Ensure you eat lunch during the day. It is really easy to get caught up in a busy work schedule and forget to take those stretch or snack breaks. (Let’s be honest, I rarely forget to eat!!).
Find a destination. Take a walk outside. Go for lunch. Go workout. Do something outside of your home/office. Every Wednesday I go out for lunch. This is my thing. I typically go to the same place, but this gets me away from work to have outside conversation and helps me disconnect. It’s also been a great way for me to meet people and network. Occasionally I have a friend meet me which is also wonderful! I’ve really enjoyed having the opportunity to get out and leave for lunch. Recently, I went and had lunch at the local elementary school with a family friend. It was so refreshing that my work allows me that balance to work from home so I can go do those things.
It’s very easy while working from home to entirely disconnect from the outside world. I instant message, I text, I email, but I RARELY found myself talking on the phone. That is one big thing I changed. I find that I try to talk to people (on the telephone) at least a few times a day. This helps me feel engaged to not only the work but to people as well. This has really helped me build better relationships with my work peers.
Send your kids to daycare/school/grandma’s house
This is a question I get asked often or the first assumption (outside of wearing my pjs all day) people make. No, I do not keep my sweet boy home with me while I work. If anyone has ever attempted to work with a toddler, there is a lot less work going on than getting milk/playing legos/entertaining. The only time I have ever been able to work while George was home is while he was napping or sick and snuggled on the couch. That’s it.
I have found that as long as I consider my office “work” and the rest of my house my home, it has been a perfect working relationship at home. I am like anyone else, my dishes pile up and I have laundry that needs to be done as well. However, when I am at work, that is my focus. I have found as long as I maintain the above, I have been successful.
What suggestions or ideas would you offer to someone who is new to working from home? What has been the hardest thing to overcome??