Working from home was once reserved for the writers, artists, and entrepreneurs of the world. Today, it’s much more common, with approximately 3.9 million Americans working from home at least half the time. And, according to a study by the 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce Report, that number of is growing.
Working remote can be the best: You save on gas and time commuting, but best of all, there’s never a line for the microwave. It’s so great that sometimes it can be hard to stay focused on your actual work. Which means your work days can grow longer as you try and play catch up on what didn’t get your full attention because you were watching videos on YouTube.
Here are seven tips to make the most of your remote working experience:
1. Know your company’s remote work policies.
Inside and out, you should be aware of your company’s expectations of remote work. Do they want you to be available between 9 and 5? Or is your work more project-based and deadline driven? If you have the luxury of working for a company that allows you to work from home, even if it’s part of the time, you must adhere to company policy. One person abusing this perk could mean everyone losing the perk, and you don’t want that person to be you.
2. Define a workspace.
When you work from home, the line between your work and personal life may blur. You can play fetch with your dog while on a conference call, throw in a load of laundry in between emails, and wear pajamas all day. These are all major benefits of working from home, but it can become easy to let your home life distract you from your work responsibilities.
By creating an organized space that you only occupy during work hours, you can cut down distractions. I am sure there will be plenty of mornings that you work from bed; try to stick to your designated “office” space. By keeping work as separate from home life as possible, not only will you be able to focus on your work, but at the end of the day it will be easier to unwind on the couch, especially if you haven’t spent all day working there.
3. Be available (and reasonable).
If you’re working on solo projects, this isn’t quite as important (although you should schedule regular check-ins and status reports with clients), but if you work as part of a team, make sure your team can reach you during normal working hours. Whether you use GChat, Slack, or another chat client to stay connected, keep it updated. If you run out to walk the dog, change your status to “on break, available at [insert time here].”
Speaking of normal working hours, you may be at your most productive at midnight or 2 a.m. If you work as part of a team, respect their time and don’t send IMs late into the evening if the rest of your crew sticks to a more traditional schedule. If you’re a solo contractor, the same rule applies for clients. Sure, you can send them a draft at 2 a.m., but no texts or calls unless it’s during their working hours.
4. Play around with different organization techniques.
Planner addicts (like myself) struggle to grasp how anyone likes to use a digital calendar to plan their day. And digital adopters would be lost without calendar alerts on phones. The point is, everyone has a technique that works, and you need to find yours.
Some people map out ideas on post-it notes, and others use notebooks. A handwritten to-do list can do wonders, but so can a task management app. Take this opportunity to find what works best for you, test what works, scrap what doesn’t..
5. Eliminate distractions.
Without co-workers watching your every move, it’s easy to get sucked into your favorite distractions. While it won’t be fun, your productivity will skyrocket by removing them from your workspace.
If you love having the news on in the background, but every headline catches your attention, turn it off. And, you already know that putting your phone away is a good idea. Keeping tabs open for your personal Facebook, Twitter, or other non work-related social channels is also a distraction. If you can’t live without social media, set aside chunks of time before and after work to read or post.
6. Plan your weekdays.
Because you don’t have someone telling you where you must be at a certain time on Monday morning, you might tend to let your weekend errands slip. To be fair, the grocery store is much less crowded on weekday mornings, but if you save your home chores for the workweek you are going to fall behind.
Do your heavy cleaning, stock your fridge, and catch up on laundry over the weekend. These activities can take up a lot of your time and focus. Set a chore schedule outside of work hours and stick with it. You’ll feel saner during the week and will have no excuse not to get to work.
7. Fill the void.
Working from home is a luxury many office workers jump at the chance to have, but it doesn’t mean that it’s always perfect. You might find yourself restless and this can cause you to find solace by scrolling through social media more often.
If you find yourself going stir-crazy midday, head to a library or coffee shop. Take a walk. Do a 30-minute yoga class. If you can replace what working from home lacks then you will be happier and need less distractions to get through the workday.
By using these tips, you can make an effort to keep your productivity on track, and even embrace kicking ass at work in the comfort of your own home.