One of the best benefits and greatest challenges of the information technology age is the ability to work remotely. I’ve been able to take advantage of this flexibility in the past few years by working from home part-time and then traveling to client sites as needed for meetings. I love being able to work from home a few days a week and find that it allows me to be more productive, but it isn’t for everyone and it isn’t always easy. So here are a few tips to help set you up for success if you are considering working from home:
- Create boundaries – Deciding what you will and what you won’t allow yourself to do while working at home is critical. For a place where you normally relax, watch TV, do chores, and entertain friends, it takes intention to inject some semblance of a professional working environment. For example, I will listen to music but refuse to turn on the television. If I need to run an errand during the day, I’ll use my lunch hour to do it so that I don’t cut into productive time. If I have family or friends visiting, they know to stay out of the house until I’ve wrapped up work and can put my focus on them.
- Create a schedule – Having a schedule really helps ensure I stay focused and accomplish my tasks for both work and my personal life. I wake up at the same time every morning and exercise before logging into my work laptop. Once I’ve got my laptop open I prioritize what I need to do for the day. I try to have lunch at noon and then wrap up by 4 p.m. If I need to go into the office for meetings, I try to schedule them for the afternoon, so that I can catch up on email and other work before heading into the office. The opportunity for distraction increases exponentially when working from home, so a solid schedule becomes key to ensuring you get your work done and on time.
- Make sure to move – Exercise is important no matter where you work, but when you work from home it’s a lot easier to forget to get up and walk around every once in a while. Going into an office everyday may not be an Olympic event, but when you walk to your car, walk to the office from the parking lot, or walk to the break room to get coffee, you are at least moving. At home, with everything at your fingertips it is a lot easier to remain inert. I love yoga, running, and bicycling because not only are they great stress relievers and they get me moving, but they also get me out of the house. Getting my heart beating, as well as getting some fresh air, and a change of scenery go a long way to help reduce stress, clear my mind, and improve my mood throughout the day.
- Stay social – One of the things I have struggled with while working remotely has been meeting new people and staying active in the community. In order to remain active and to prevent myself from becoming too stir-crazy, I’ve pushed myself to schedule more time with friends and colleagues and to try out new activities. This allows me to fulfill my need for social activity, which many people are able to get while they are at the office.
- Make sure you have the right equipment – In order to be effective when working remotely, you need to be equipped to work remotely. Obviously, you’ll need a laptop so that you can be flexible and mobile. You may be working from home, but that doesn’t mean you may not need to work at a café, a client’s office, or even just in different rooms in your house (maybe you do better writing at your desk, but are able to focus on research more comfortably from your couch). If you do have a desktop computer, be sure you have cloud applications that make transitioning between your desktop, laptop, and phone as seamless as possible. It typically also helps to have a camera so that you can participate in video conferencing; this can help some clients and co-workers who are skeptical of remote working situations see that you are present and working. While having a printer and a scanner is becoming less and less necessary, it is still smart to have one available for those one-off situations when you’ll be glad it is there. And beyond that, a strong internet connection and strong coffee are a must!
These few steps should help get you organized and ready to work from home. Before committing to it though, be very honest with yourself about whether you’ll be able to keep yourself on task and if not seeing your co-workers on a daily basis will make you feel lonely or isolated. Working from home can be great if you have the right personality but could quickly turn into a nightmare if you don’t.
Please share your thoughts: what have you done to ensure working remotely works for you and your company?