The Number 1 Rule for Working from Home
Tis the season for sickness! I caught something this week and have spent three days out of the office. Though it has been unpleasant, I haven’t been incapacitated, and I did a fair amount of work from home. Luckily I have the kind of job where I can work remotely, and we have management who trusts the staff to telecommute. It’s not always easy, though. My house is rife with distractions and warm spots to take naps. I’ve had to follow a few basic rules in order to stay productive while working from home.
Here’s the number one rule of working from home (and five more helpful tips)!
- The number one rule of telecommuting: communication is key! Stay in touch with your colleagues, make sure they know when you’ll be available, and when you will be unreachable. Set your chat status appropriately, keep your phone on you, and collaborate when asked (or when you need to). Google Hangouts and Skype are great for those times when you want to have a conversation and want to involve more than one person, or want to feel more connected than being on the phone. And if email fails, pick up the phone. Sure it’s old school, but it works!
- Go to your special place. Being sick, I have worked from the couch under a blanket with my two kitties. If I was healthy, I wouldn’t recommend it. When I needed to really power through some detailed work, I went upstairs to my office and set up at my desk. Having a separate space with no refrigerator and no TV made it a lot easier to get work done.
- Block out your time. It’s especially easy while working from home to jump between small tasks, answer a couple personal emails, watch a Youtube video, and then suddenly I’ve messed around for an hour. I have a guilty conscience, though, so I always end up adding time and working a longer day. I can’t help it! But if I can block out my time, be even more focused than usual, and don’t multitask, I get more done and am more successful working from home.
- Get up early. Alright, not everyone is a morning person like me, but getting an early start to my day is my favorite way to telecommute. It would be easy to not show up until our video chat at 10am, but I’m up hours before that! And if I can get working early, that makes up for taking an extra few minutes to take a shower during lunch, or to pick up for a few minutes in the afternoon. Plus, being on a regular schedule is just a good habit and way to get your brain used to functioning when you want it to. That said, some of my friends who freelance and work from home all the time like to have crazy schedules and non-traditional hours, so don’t let me tell you how to live your life.
- Wear clothes. Some people may not agree with me on this one, either, but pajamas don’t make me feel like working. It is possible to work in pajamas, though. I did it all day today! But especially once I’ve been working at home for a few days, I feel the need to put on regular work clothes—maybe even shoes!—and go to my special place to work.
- Get a change of scenery. If you’re having trouble staying focused or getting started on work, sometimes a change of venue helps. I used to work from home as a contractor and spent many more hours a week at home. It would get old after a while, so I’d head to a new coffee shop, library, or other type of workspace. All I really need is my phone and the internet, so I can go almost anywhere. I had fun getting to know some new parts of town, and being in a quiet space (with coffee) made me feel creative.
If you’re sick, take time to rest! I know that it can be tempting to try and be a trooper, but you’re not doing yourself any favors. And if you show up to work sick, you risk getting everyone else sick, too. I hate that! Don’t try to save up your sick days for days when you’re healthy and just want to skip out on work. Everyone will resent you for it.
If you need a few days to work from home, stick to a routine and make sure you communicate with your colleagues to be a successful telecommuter. And if you’re one of those bosses who thinks that it’s not possible to work from home, stop it! Like me, most people only need a computer to work, and wouldn’t you rather have people get work done than use personal days or have to choose between career and family?