Working from home is the dream. But for those of us lucky enough to have cracked the code and figured out how to make their remote dreams a reality, it doesn’t always turn out to be the magical situation we may have imagined it to be.
Just because you get to work in your pajamas doesn’t mean you’re not working. You still have deliverables, expectations to meet, and a boss to please. In some ways, it may actually be more challenging to work from home than to work from an office. Here are three tips to help you be a happy and effective telecommuter.
1. Carve out a dedicated work space (that’s separate from your living space)
I’m a strong believer in designating a space that is specifically and exclusively for work.
In theory, you could grab your laptop and dig in anywhere. And that may work for a day or two, or if you’re under a pressing deadline at work and have adrenaline pushing you toward the finish line. But, add any type of distraction—your child, roommate, significant other, landlord, neighbors, or even construction nearby—and it’s likely your productivity will take a hit.
Try these ideas for creating a productive work space while keeping your home a sanctuary:
- If you don’t have a separate room, start with a corner. You can create a workable office in whatever extra (tiny) space you have available. Get creative in a corner, closet, or even cabinet! To fit your home office in, pick a part of your home that is underused, under the stairs, next to washer and dryer, or a corner of the basement.
- Incorporating DIY office design elements such as wallpaper, floating shelves, creative storage containers, and homemade bulletin boards can do wonders to decrease clutter and stylize your home office to match the rest of your space.
- Green things do wonders for your focus, so check out these 7 Office plants you won’t kill.
- Your “home” in the virtual world should also be a sanctuary, so keep your digital work life independent of your social life and social media.
2. Stay accountable, maintain a routine, and track your time
If your work hours are at your discretion, create weekly or daily schedules and embrace routines to stay organized and on task.
Even if time tracking is not required by your employer, tracking your time can facilitate proactive reporting and allow you to examine your time allocation. Toggl and other desktop and mobile time trackers are helpful project management tools.
Another way to stay accountable is to communicate an agreed upon level of transparency with your boss and coworkers. Create a shareable calendar and to-do list, and submit regular project updates. For micro-time management, digital reminders, and timers work great. Suggesting a monthly phone calls or Skype can help maintain an up-to-date feel for office culture and expectations.
3. Establish boundaries
Try to remember, it’s now more important than ever to set some boundaries for all aspects of your life, because now all aspects of your life exist in the same square footage.
Set boundaries with your colleagues. When you work from home, common signals that the day has come to an end–packing up your things and heading out the door–don’t exist. And, sometimes telecommuters overcompensate by extending their availability to pay for the privilege of working from home. While it is important to be accountable, make an effort to determine a set time frame when your coworkers and manager can contact you, especially if you’re setting your own hours.
Set boundaries with roommates, friends, and family. The transition to working from home if you have roommates, family, or children at home may be confusing. You’re there, but you’re actually not there. You’re off-limits and working, and that means you’re not available to pick up things at the store, shuttle people around, deal with contractors, cable guys, or maintenance personnel. And if you have little ones at home, you’ll likely need to get a sitter or employ some kind of daycare.
Remember, even if you are wearing your fluffy slippers, you’ll still need a game plan to make the best use of your time and space–you only have yourself to balance your work and life. Good luck out there!
Working remotely or want to? Struggling or thriving? Reach out and let us know! And, for more information on working remotely, check out this Idealists Careers series.
About the author: With a background in the performing arts and journalism, Caroline understands the often motley course of career change. She’s been a reporter at NPR, a music teacher, and co-managed a yoga resort in in northern Michigan. Her passions include helping at-risk youth, supporting women’s rights, and encouraging girls to study science.