I’ve now been working (almost) full time from home for three full months. And it’s taken just as long to get into a groove. Yes, work is work is work. It takes focus and discipline and passion plus some skill and maybe even some talent and you’ve got yourself a fine job. But working from an office and working from home are two different beasts entirely.
It took me a couple months to find the right space in the house to work from. I’ve used two “desks” and three different desk spaces. I’ve worked varying hours, trying to find the new rhythm that suits my needs and my company’s needs best.
Recently, I had an illuminating conversation with a team member about this topic. She’s been a work-from-home professional for more than 20 years. In our conversation, I shared with her how surprisingly difficult it was to find a satisfying routine in my new work life and that I’d only recently discovered some best practices. Her reply was encouraging and reassuring as many of the insights I’d gleaned over the recent months matched her tips. And I thought perhaps others of you out there working from home might find the same tips likewise useful.
1. Designate a workspace. This is tip number one for a reason. If you don’t have a proper working space, the job will be that much harder. Not only do you need the right tools around you for convenience, you also need the right set-up for your physical well-being. I had to stop using the desk in our living room because it was too tall for me I was beginning to experience back pain. Now that I’m working on the dining room table instead, the back pain has disappeared.
If you can, try to designate a location in the house as the workspace. Just like you have a dining room for eating and a bedroom for sleeping find a location that is reserved for work. When you enter that space your mind will become accustomed to focusing on work tasks. And on the flip side, when you leave that work center, your mind can leave work behind as well.
2. Don’t sit all day! I can’t emphasize this enough. Sitting for 7+ hours is not only plain unpleasant, it can also be harmful to your wellbeing over the longterm. I do my best to plan breaks throughout the day where I make tea or go for a walk or simply stretch. Not only does this feel good for my muscles, it also helps my clear my mind. When I take a quick break from staring at my computer screen filled with spreadsheets and emails it’s as if I’ve hit reset on my brain and creativity can flow.
3. Be done when you’re done. I set strict hours with myself and do my best to keep them. If I didn’t it would be too easy to “just finish this one last email” and “clear the inbox.” But in a business like the one I’m in, the inbox is never clear for long. By the time I’d finish that last crop another few would come in. Suddenly, a couple minutes could turn into hours! Be mindful of your time and this goes for taking breaks too.
A friend who also works from home relayed to me that last year she had gotten into a bad habit of working straight through her lunch hour. It gave her more time at the end of the day but she wound up starving and grouchy from low blood sugar. Breaks are important not just for you personally, but they also affect your productivity and performance. Work when you work and break when you break. For this reason I try to take my breaks outside. And with the weather warming up it’s all the more enticing to do so! I walk around my neighborhood,or get a snack from the bakery up the street or a coffee at a local cafe.
4. Find ways to be social. It’s easy when working from home to suddenly find yourself living the hermit life. Often I don’t have to leave the house for days at a time. Usually, I enjoy a bit of solitude, but not being social for long periods can be downright lonely! I make an effort to first just get in the company of other people – going for walks or to the coffee shop. Planning to meet a friend for lunch is good too, though I don’t have too many friends to have lunch with out here, so I try to plan dates for the weekend when I have time to make it to the Berkshires or they can come here. This past weekend a few friends came out for a late brunch and to window shop. If your time allows it, joining social or networking clubs can be great for you and your business. I’m an active member of a Toastmasters club and I’ve come to enjoy our bi-monthly meetings for the social aspect as much as for the personal growth.
5. Reflect on the good stuff. Life can get busy and overwhelming for all of us no matter where we work or what we do for a living. The best tip I can offer is to frequently make lists of what you love about working from home or what feeds you about working from home. Consider what inspires you… Anything that brings good feelings is worth writing down. Reminding ourselves about the benefits of where we are right now will help us appreciate the blessings of our situation. Gratitude expands the good. Always.