For a lot of people, the idea of working from home conjures up ideas of sitting on a couch in your jammies daydrinking and eating chips & salsa while watching re-runs of Charmed. And yes, it can be just that wondrous just not always or nothing would get done.
There's truly an art to being able to work effectively from home.
Now that the whole world is at home hiding from COVID-19, a lot of people have to bust out some serious "art" seriously fast. If you've never worked from home, it can take ages to figure out how to do it productively.
This article is here to be your personal Bob Ross and remind you that anyone can be an artist.
One Reddit user asked:
You've got to keep in mind that not everyone's work style is going to be the same, so not every tip may apply to you. Your situation may be entirely different from someone else's. Maybe background music works for you. Maybe you're one of those people who can't have any on because it turns into workeoke and you don't have enough people in the house to provide solid backing vocals for when you do Bohemian Rhapsody. We don't judge. We appreciate your commitment to the high harmony.
In any case, there are a few things here that most of you will probably find useful. Doesn't mean you're going to listen to the experts, though. We get it. Chillin on the couch with a bag of hot cheetos DOES sound like a good time.
Best Use Of Time
Pick a room, close the door, and use noise cancelling headphones. Everything is a distraction when working from home. Suddenly, checking the mail and doing the dishes seems like the best use of your time.
Time To Stop
If there's one thing especially to be disciplined about it the TIME TO STOP WORKING! It's very easy to convince yourself it's ok to keep reading a report because you might just finish it today or to finish making all of the entries because tomorrow will be that much easier or you'll finally be done with a project.
Work at home starts to bleed over into your home non-work time/life very quietly and quickly. Pretty soon it will be a habit. I've worked at home for the last 15 years and got so much more work done but I had to fight hard to win this battle.
Do your usual morning routine and get dressed! Be sitting at your desk by your usual start time and stick to your usual break times. It's tempting to stay in your pyjamas and work from bed but you'll feel much better if you put yourself together each day.
A 20 Year Veteran
I have been working from home for 20 years, since before my first kid was born. It has been great. My biggest habits:
- Have a dedicated space and keep regular hours.
- Make sure your family knows they can't interrupt your work unless the house is on fire.
- Keep a journal so nobody can question your productivity.
- Use your saved commute hours to read the paper in the morning and/or exercise.
- Eat lunch out of your fridge.
- Keep good coffee in the house.
You can actually be more productive at home and live a better life this way, if you stay disciplined.
Instead of standing by the coffee machine or wasting time gabbing in someone's office I take that time and take my dog for a 10 minute walk or play some fetch in the yard, I do some stretches, work on a craft for a few minutes. Staying productive in your "down time" while working from home directly correlates to staying productive during your work time. If you take a 30 minute break to lounge on the couch and eat hot cheetos, you'll be a lot less inclined to get back into the groove of working than if you had taken that time to do something active or productively fun.
Tasks Not Time
Set tasks not time. Don't tell yourself "oh I've been working for X hours [translation: browsing reddit] , I deserve a break". Make a list of what you need to get done and don't give yourself an out till you've gotten it done.
If you can talk to your coworkers on Hangouts / Slack / whatever. Hold each other accountable to your lists.
Set a routine.
I wake up every morning, check my emails, respond to anything urgent, open up all the files I'll be working with for the day.
Then I make coffee.
Then I attend morning meetings, eat breakfast and drink coffee.
Then I take a 20 minute break.
Then it's about an hour of work. Then lunch. I'll usually pop on an episode of the simpsons while I'm making lunch (or big mouth, or disenchanted, or some anime, or whatever)
Then another couple hours of work.
Then afternoon snack.
Another hour of work, then it's time to pick up the kid from school. Bring her home, sit her in front of a movie, and bang out another hour of work.
Then it's quitting time. I shut my laptop and resolve myself to not touch it again until morning.
Yes, it's broken up a lot, but I don't have people hanging over my cube just wanting to "chat".
Not The Couch
I've been working remote for ~8 years now.
You have to have a dedicated work space. Your job happens at your workstation. Not everyone has a spare room or a desk but make it as official as possible. Do not, under any circumstances, work from the couch.
Take an hour to wake up and get moving, have some coffee, do some stretching, read the news, listen to 15-20 minutes of a podcast. Then officially start your work day. You'll really start to appreciate the time you don't have to scramble to get ready.
I don't have an opinion on showering and "dressing up". I shower most mornings but always just wear a t-shirt and joggers.
Take a break and go the fck outside to walk around, try to get at least a mile.
Drink lots of coffee because it's awesome.
Take a 30-45 minute lunch and actually cook a really good lunch. I make a salmon, potato, egg hash every day. I'll pickle some peppers, chop some garlic and really focus on cooking for a few minutes.
Don't feel guilty about taking a few 10-15 minute break. My normal work flow even when I was in the office was 45-50 minutes of actual work and 10 minutes of di*king around.
4:00 work beer
Before you go on your walk and before you start lunch throw in a load of laundry.
Without office and co-worker distractions try to get 6 solid, honest hours of work between when you start and when you finish.
You'll miss it when you have to go back in the office.
Have sht you will get done by a specific time or by the end of the day. Not a "oh I'll do 3 hours of work". No. Get tasks ready or you will get distracted and lose focus.
Also put on some music or something that is not too distracting get comfortable and you may end up getting in a "flow" or "the zone". That is when you really get a ton of work done. You end up doing better than in an office.
24 Hours Of Wear And Tear
My husband I have worked from home since 2002. Something you're going to realize: your house now gets 24 hours of wear and tear. Be extra diligent about cleaning up after yourself and putting things back where they belong, otherwise your house, especially your kitchen, will "silt up" with mess.
If you keep finding yourself on Facebook or reddit (like me when trying to do my online college course) download something like "cold turkey" to block distracting sites during certain time frames. I have 10-15min breaks in my schedule to get some down time, but other than that don't touch social media when I'm supposed to be working. Helped my productivity level a ton!
Don't work from your bedroom. It is meant for sleep not work. You may get tired if you try to work from there.
A Trial Run
I work from home most of the year.
GET UP AND BE GRATEFUL! Wear comfortable clothes and be productive.
This may just be the trial run for tele-work that many people have been hoping for, so shine! Lots of companies have been resistant to it and now have no choice, maybe it could be the norm.
-Set-up a desk-like area, use the same travel mug you normally do!
-Don't turn on the TV and don't work in bed!
-Take breaks and take a lunch.
-If you have pets, enjoy your time with them, this is a perk. It will make you want to work harder to preserve this.
-Keep a log of the tasks that you are getting done, at first managers are more vigilant to be sure that you are working and not slacking. Once you prove that you are working, they tend to back off.
-Stop working at the same time you normally do, don't get sucked in to working late.
-Go outside and take a walk - get some exercise so that you don't get sick of your home.
Communication And Availability
Be available over whatever IM your company uses. Communicate with your co-workers at least as much as you do in the office. Write brief status reports even if nobody is asking for them.
Communication and availability are important to maintain because this is what is most at risk when people aren't in a shared environment.
Status reports are useful to help you maintain focus, but also can help your manager keep track of what's going on with people. If you have daily stand ups, then this isn't necessary. Your managers are going to get asked about how the team is doing in this new environment; give her tools to effectively answer those questions. The best updates are short and frequent; daily and brief, not an essay once a week.
You've Left Work
Start your day exactly the same as of you were going in to work. Get up at the same time, shower, shave, put on real clothes, and eat your usual breakfast. Then 'go' to work and have the same tea and lunch break you usually would. And when the work day finishes, do NOT check your work email or answer work calls. You've left work, you're home now.