Congratulations! After years of daily commutes to the office and long hours trapped behind a desk (right next to the guy who always smells like garlic) your company has agreed to let you telecommute. Hello late mornings and two-hour lunch breaks! But before you start celebrating your new-found freedom from the office, you should be aware that working remotely comes with its own set of challenges.
You may no longer have to satisfy your boss by arriving to work at a set time or fit in with your coworkers by dressing according to office protocol, but now you have to create your own work standards and be responsible for your own productivity, which can take a while to get used to. That’s why it’s a good idea to set up for yourself some grounds rules so that when you transition to working from home, you will hit the ground running.
First thing’s first- get dressed! For some reason, working from home has become synonymous with all-day PJ parties, because, apparently, people just don’t like to get dressed. And perhaps you will try it one or two times, just for the novelty of it; rolling out of bed and starting your work day in bunny slippers and a robe. But in the long-term, if you want to be successful at working from home you should dress each morning as if you were heading out to the office. The reason for this is- the way that you dress actually has an effect on the way that you work.
According to a study by Northwestern University researchers Hajo Adam and Adam Galinsky, people perceive themselves differently depending on the clothes that they are wearing. So a person that takes the time and effort to shower and dress in the morning will be more focused and motivated than someone that heads for their laptop in boxer shorts and bed head. This doesn’t meant that you need to dress in a suit and tie each day but putting on clean, presentable-looking clothes, as well as shoes, will help you have a more productive work day.
Next, get an office: The comfy couch in your den might seem like a tempting place to spend your workday but you’ll most likely get more done if you set aside a dedicated area as your workspace. This can be in a separate room, the garage or even just corner in your house. The important thing is that you and everyone in your household knows that this is your office space and when you are working there you are not to be disturbed. This office space will help set boundaries between work and home as well help you avoid distractions.
Be prepared: If it works for the Boy Scouts it can work for you. At the start of each work day prepare for yourself everything that you expect to need for the day. Pencils? Paper? Water? Snacks? Make sure that you have it all ahead of time, so that you won’t end up wandering around the house looking for a much-needed item and risk getting distracted by the dishes in the sink or the pile of dirty laundry.
Set for yourself a schedule and stick to it: We can all agree that one of the perks of working from home is the flexibility. You can sleep in late, work a couple of hours, go for a run and then work a bit more. While this might be fun for a while, eventually you should make an effort to stick to a regular routine, starting and ending work at the same time each day. Not only will you get more done each workday but if you have a boss or team mates that you need to check in with, they will appreciate knowing when you can be reached.
Find some good productivity and tasks management tools: It’s easy to let things slide when you don’t have a manger looking over your shoulder, making sure that your work is getting done. As a remote worker you are responsible for your own productivity which is why good organizational skills are crucial. But with the right tools on hand, keeping track of your to-do-list can be a lot easier.
Here are some of my favorites: •
Google Keep is a handy tool for creating task lists, quick notes or recurring reminders, which can be accessed on any device, since it syncs with Google. • Freedom– If you find that you’re constantly checking your email or Facebook page then cutting yourself off for a while is probably a good idea. Using Freedom, you can block all internet access for a set time, removing this tempting distraction long enough for you to get some work done. • RescueTime: If at the end of the work day you’re shocked by how little you’ve actually gotten done, RescueTime can help you get back on track. This tool will help you understand where your time is being spent and will assist you in setting up goals to ensure that you stay productive.
With the pro edition you can even block distracting websites for a certain amount of time and set alarms to go off if you veer off course and spend too much time on Facebook (or whatever it is that tempts you).
Slack: When you are working as part of a team that has members in different geographical locations, it’s important to have a good team communication tool that will make it easy for everyone to keep in touch, collaborate on projects and just hang out online.
Slack is a great option because it’s easy and fun to use, allows instant chatting and file sharing and integrates a large selection of tools.
Freshbooks: Track your time and create invoices with this service, which is available for free for up to two clients.
Coffitavity– Now that you’re working from home your productivity should be soaring, since you don’t have chatty coworkers constantly stopping by your desk to show you pictures of their kids and pets. But, it’s possible that your home office may be just a little too quiet, and that can be distracting as well. Thankfully Coffitavity solves this problem by providing you with just the right level of background noise to help you get focused without being distracted.
Get out, be social:
One of the downsides to working from home is that you are pretty much on your own all day. There’s no chit chat by the water cooler or coffee breaks with coworkers. As Justin Seeley, a Staff Author at lynda.com, points out, the lack of face-to-face human interaction is one of the biggest challenges to working from home, and without resolving this issue you will probably fail.
Video conferencing tools like Google Hangout offer online solutions to getting in some face time with your clients and coworkers, but getting out of the house is important for your mental health as well. So be sure to schedule some time into your calendar for the occasional lunch with friends, or even just take your laptop to a local cafe to work for a couple of hours. You may also want to check if there is a co-working space in your neighborhood where you can pay a small fee to work in a comfortable shared space, along with other telecommuters.
With some good organizational habits and the right tools, working from home can be a fantastic experience.
Follow these tips and you’ll soon be rocking your new work-from-home job. What are your favorite productivity tips and tools for working from home? We’d love to hear about them!