You don’t gotta go to work, work, work, work, work, work, work…
But you gotta put in work, work, work, work, work, work, work…
We can work from home, oh, oh, oh, oh…
I joined the big-girl workforce in May 2007, just 3 weeks after graduating from Francis Marion University. The number of full-time remote workers has certainly grown in the past 9 years. In addition, many who work inside corporate offices enjoy the flexibility of working from home occasionally- if the weather is bad where they live or if they have other issues to care for (repairman, sick kids, car problem).
In June 2012, we moved to Charleston for Clay’s job. I packed up my corporate office on a Thursday, moved to Charleston on a Friday, cleaned our previous residence/apartment on a Saturday, and unpacked our new place that Sunday. Clay set my work computer up that night.
On Monday June 11, at 8 AM, my work from home story began.
In October, I’ll celebrate my eight year anniversary with my company, so I’ve spent over half my time at my job working from my home.
I’ve learned a lot about myself, my personality, and how to be a productive remote worker over the past four years. Whether you’re starting a remote job, currently working remotely, or occasionally work from your home, I hope these tips help your work productivity and life balance.
Have a dedicated office space
Your sofa, bed, or front porch are for relaxing and should not be your workplace (at least not the majority of the time).
We’ve lived in two different residences in Charleston, and I have had a separate room as a home office in both. When looking at apartments, that was my one request- we had to have at least two bedrooms so I could use a room as an office. I realize not everyone has this luxury, but at least have a dedicated corner or area of a room for work.
I love having a separate room for my desk, phone, computer, printer, and other equipment. While I have a laptop computer and could work somewhere else, I find that I am more productive in my office without distractions.
Set office hours
Since I work for a company, I have a set schedule with meetings. I have an eight-hour workday every day for a 40 hour work week. I have a team meeting every morning at 9 AM, so I must be online working by that time (I’m usually in much earlier).
If you freelance or don’t have set hours, I encourage you to set hours so that you can balance work with your life. This keeps you on task and away from other priorities during those hours. Also, if you’re the type who wants to do extra on the weekends or after hours, having a set office schedule can help you achieve a balance.
Shower and get dressed
Just as you’ll be more productive in a workspace with set hours, you’ll also be more productive if you’re wearing clothes vs. pajamas. This sets the tone that it’s time to work, not watch TV, play video games, nap, or relax.
Before I started working from home, I never exercised in the morning. I was always one to work out after work. I still do some afternoon runs or workouts, but I now do some sort of physical activity just about every morning when I wake up.
Whether it’s a BodyPump class or an easy morning run, exercising in the morning guarantees I’ll get out of my pajamas, leave my home (resembling a commute), shower, and dress in real-girl clothes. My typical work “uniform” consists of khaki shorts and a long-sleeved or short-sleeved fitted t-shirt.
No need to dress business casual, but if I’m not dressed to venture into Target, Publix, or Starbucks, I’m not dressed for work.
Set a routine and stick to it
Using a planner/agenda for work has been a total game changer. I write in all my daily tasks, meetings, deadlines, and appointments. I log any time I will be out of the office, as well as time my team members who I may need to talk to are out. As I complete a task or attend a meeting, I highlight it rather than crossing it out- so I can see what I did that day (but know it’s done).
This sounds corny, but I write down days when the corporate office is closed, so I don’t accidentally log in to work. If you work from home and have a spouse with a different holiday schedule at his job, you’ll understand.
A lot of people use their phones or computer programs for this- and that’s fine too- but having a visual reminder helps me big time.
Leave your home and socialize
When I “get off work” at 5 PM each day, the first thing I want to do is leave the house- especially if I don’t leave at lunch. I talk to my coworkers on the phone and on Skype, and I can text message friends, but it’s not the same as face-to-face interaction. I go to group runs, out to dinner with friends, and occasionally volunteer. One reason why I run so much is because I have so many running friends, so group runs and races (which I often run as workouts) become my social time.
When my shift is over, I shut down my computer and leave my office. I’ve set a goal to leave the house and be with others at least once a day- so running from the house but staying home the rest of the time doesn’t count. I’m naturally an extrovert, so I love getting out of the house and seeing people. If I don’t have anywhere to go, sometimes I’ll go out to dinner or coffee alone. You can talk to the barista or sit at the bar- and it’s refreshing to be around others.
Look at it this way: You job happens to be done in the same place where you live. You don’t live at your job, and you need to get away sometimes.
Make friends with others who work from home
You might not have real-life work buddies for water cooler chats, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make friends with others in your workplace- their own homes. Some of my best friends and track training partners (Tami and Rie) also work from their homes. Sure, sometimes we feel like the awkward homeschooled kids in a sea of those who work at corporate offices, but it’s fun having someone to go to lunch with on workdays or go to the beach on weekends.
I love my friends who work in corporate offices, and my friends who do not have 9-5 jobs, but fellow work-from-home friends truly understand the day to day life, along with the benefits and struggles of working from home. They get it.
Respect others’ needs as well
Finally, when you begin working from home- or when your spouse or significant other does- realize that it involves adjustments for everyone in your household.
While I work from home, my husband does not. Clay works in a brick-and-mortar office, except on the rare occasion that he has a doctor’s appointment or traffic is so bad that he doesn’t go in until later.Between his commute, gym, and MMA/BJJ classes, Clay is away from home for 10-12 hours every day. After Clay’s workday, he wants to be at home, even if I want to get away from home.
In times like that, you have to respect the other person’s needs as well. Over the years, I’ve learned not to be the needy wife, to leave the house when I want to even if Clay wants to stay at home, and to never make him feel like he HAS to do things with me. On the other side, he doesn’t make me feel like I need to be at home when I want to go out and play after work.
Working from home may not be for everyone, but it’s for me. In four years, I’ve developed much more self-discipline, become a better writer, and forced myself out of my comfort zone. Like any brick-and-mortar, you have to find a place of balance- and if you’re diligent, you will.