Toward the end of my tenure as a strategy consultant within a Fortune 50 organization, my manager had given me the flexibility to work from home whenever I needed to. This was such a gift and I was thankful for the extra time it gave me both before and after work, not to mention the reprieve from having to get dressed all fancy and presentable for a conservative office environment. I would plan out my week and on days when I would have 5-8 hours of conference calls scheduled, I would work from home. The ability to use speaker phone rather than a headset and wear sneakers rather than heels were two simple but very meaningful perks for me. I am also one of those people who paces around when I talk, which was wonderful when I had full-range to do so. When it was quitting time, I could log off and be at the girls’ daycare and home in 20 minutes, giving me back at least 45 minutes to spend with them before bedtime, rather than commuting. When working from home, my days were better paced, balanced, and comfortable. I was thankful my conservative organization made an exception for me to work where and how I could be most productive. These days, it seems more and more companies are unlocking the chain from their workers’ desks.
A Gallup poll conducted last August reported that 37% of workers in the United States are taking advantage of telecommuting. “Technology has made telecommuting easier for workers, and most companies seem willing to let workers do their work remotely, at least on an occasional basis if the position allows for it,” (Gallup.com)
I asked three of my successful friends who work remotely for their advice and rounded up a few of their tips and mine.
1. Keep regular office hours and a separate work space
2. Take advantage (within reason) of the flexibility
From Chris, Director of Marketing at Graphic Language
“With great freedom comes great responsibility. In non-Spiderman related terms, treat it like an office job but don’t forget you are working from home. I would strongly recommend keeping regular office hours and having a defined schedule and separate work space so that you and your family know when you are “at work”. There are going to be times when you need to bring work “home” with you, but without that defined schedule, I have found that it is really easy to let work and personal time bleed together and not give the proper attention to either.
That being said, it is also important to take advantage of the flexibility that comes with working from home. Get the creative juices flowing by going down to the local coffee shop to work a few hours a day, or a few days a week (the actual human interaction and change of scenery will be helpful). Or, switch up your starting time on Tuesdays to take your kids to swim lessons. Letting myself have that flexibility was the biggest transition for me because I still had the mindset of the traditional office where I couldn’t leave during business hours, when in fact, that wasn’t the case at all.”
3. Make a daily face-to-face check in call
4. Your couch is not a desk
5. Befriend your phone’s mute button
6. Eat meals elsewhere
“When working from home, I’ve found it important to actively stay focused or the day can feel very long and draining. Here some things I do to keep my motivation and productivity up:
- Ensure there is a quiet, comfortable, and technologically reliable workspace. There should be a door you can close during working hours to protect your time, and be sure to have a supportive chair. Working from a place like the couch is hard on your body and not sustainable over the course of an 8-10 hour day.
- Make your phone’s mute button your best friend. Background noises bring the biggest distractions during conference calls, and I’ve heard it all – from dogs barking, to babies crying, to the Starbucks Barista, and even (gasp) a toilet flushing. Most on the listening end can usually guess who the culprit is, which means, you are now the center of attention for all the wrong reasons.
- Dedicate time to refresh. It is so easy to skip breaks and meals when working from the comfort of home, and the next thing you know, you’re brain is mush and you have no idea why your to-do list is still so long. Try to step away from your work space and eat lunch or snacks in a different location.”
And if I had any one last thing to add, it would be this,
7. Hire someone to clean your house
There is a huge difference from me working from home now versus then. We were fortunate to have some serious hired help when I worked my corporate job, so there were never any distractions of dishes or laundry or general home tidiness. Now, I sit down to write and see abandoned milk cups out of the corner of my eye and can practically smell the contents of the “accident laundry” bag sent home from school yesterday seeping down the hallway. If you can, pay someone to help you take care of these distractions. Otherwise, you may find yourself needing to barricade yourself in your dedicated office space until the mess is (magically?) gone.
Perhaps you are working from home? Or maybe you’re getting ready to make the transition? Or some of you may be considering whether working remotely is right for you. Whatever the case, I hope you find a location that brings out the very best in what you have to offer your field and your family, every day.