Working from home is fantastic until your cat pukes on your computer. And across the street, your neighbor, who you can only assume is building a time machine, starts firing up all sorts of power tools and loud machinery.
COVID-19 has made remote work a necessity rather than a luxury for many professionals. But which environment is more conducive to productivity: the home office or the office office?
In the office, your coworkers are often the greatest threat to getting some serious, head-down work done. They stop by your desk, strike up a conversation, and invite you to lunch, according to what I’ve heard. The social benefits are appealing, but they can be difficult to maintain if you are easily distracted.
However, while family members can be a distraction at the home office, I’ve found that it’s all too easy to become your own worst enemy. Because when you’re not surrounded by coworkers, you’re free to let go of those pesky inhibitions. No one is watching at the home office. You may not feel the same peer pressure or communal obligation to get things done. (You are also not required to wear pants.)
I’ve compiled a list of great work-at-home tips and tricks from some of my awesome coworkers below.
1. Communicate your expectations to anyone who will be staying at your house.
Of course, you can work from home and still have “company.” Ensure that any roommates, family members, and dogs (well, maybe not dogs) respect your workspace during working hours. Working from home does not imply that you are at home.
If you share a workspace with another adult who works from home, you may need to establish ground rules for meeting times, shared desks and chairs, and quiet times.
CEO Sam Mallikarjunan discusses how he manages to get work done even when others are present.
“If anyone else is going to be at home when you’re working, they just have to make it clear that when you’re in your ‘office’ (in my case, having headphones on), you’re working — even if it looks and feels like you’re hanging out at home.”
“It’s easy to get distracted by the many things that need to be done around the house during the day,” he continues.
2. Take frequent breaks.
As a telecommuter, it is all too easy to become distracted and avoid taking breaks entirely. Don’t let the guilt of working in the same building where you sleep keep you from taking five minutes to unwind.
Instead of simply opening YouTube and watching some comfort videos, use your breaks to get away from your desk. Take a walk, get some fresh air, or spend time with others who may be in the house.
Follow Ginny Mineo’s advice. “Breaks, such as preparing and eating lunch, can recharge you and allow you to do better work. Don’t assume that in order to be more professional, you must work 100 percent of the time while at home.
3. Communicate with other people.
When your office starts working from home, you’ll probably miss the casual social interactions with coworkers that you’re used to having throughout the day. Working from home eliminates the small talk and other activities that distinguish each day at the office.
So, what are your options? Communicate.
By communicating with coworkers on a regular basis, you can combat boredom and loneliness. Contact them via video chat using apps like Zoom and Slack, or in any other way, your company communicates.
Keep in mind that you’re working from home, not the moon. Interacting with others during the day is permitted, even if they are not your coworkers. When you spend the majority of your workday alone, it’s a good idea to see another face during the day. So, take advantage of your breaks to socialize with others.
4. Plan your meals the night before.
When you’re at home, it can be tempting to spend time preparing a nice breakfast and lunch for yourself, including chopping and cooking. Don’t waste time preparing your food on the day of work; instead, prepare it the night before.
Preparing food ahead of time ensures that you can eat during your meal times and that you are not performing non-work tasks that waste energy that could be spent at your desk.
Lindsay Kolowich, a digital marketing strategist, adds, “Cooking at home is time you wouldn’t have spent meal prepping if you’d been at work that day, and I’ve found that the minutes add up. To counteract this, I try to cook and prepare my meals the night before, just as I would for a day at the office.”
5. Establish a firm deadline.
Working from home may give you the impression that you have a better work-life balance, but be wary of that assumption.
Working from home can also feel like you’re in a casino — you can become so engrossed in your activity, in such a relaxing environment, that you lose track of time.
“It’s really easy to let your work life bleed into your personal life if you work from home full-time (or on a regular basis,” Tyler Littwin says.
“Maintaining a boundary is important for both halves of the equation,” he continues.
Instead of coworkers reminding you to pack up and leave the office, set an alarm at the end of the day to indicate that your normal workday is coming to an end. You don’t have to stop at that exact time, but knowing that the workday is technically over can help you begin the process of saving your work and calling it a night.
6. Consume food and sleep.
What is the most significant advantage of working from home? One of the most significant advantages for some people (including myself) is complete access to the kitchen.
When I take a break, I automatically head to the kitchen for some snacks.
An unhealthy diet can have a negative impact on productivity and energy levels. When I changed to a healthier diet, I was able to function better and get more out of my routine.
So, when working from home, eat well.
It’s also critical that you stick to a regular sleep schedule. Save your favorite show binge-watching for the weekend. Working from home can be a success if you eat the right foods to keep your energy levels high and get enough sleep to refresh your body and mind.
7. Speak with your boss.
If you like your current job and don’t want to leave it, the obvious next step is to figure out how to pivot the position.
One suggestion is to incorporate the possibility of going remote into your next promotion cycle. Inform your boss of your intention to pivot on a regular basis.
And, if you’re not sure your employer will agree to work remotely entirely, discuss the possibility of working remotely one or two days per week. When you use the work from home tips we’ve provided above and your boss sees how productive you are, he or she may allow you to work from home more days.
8. Work for a company that encourages remote work.
If your work can be done remotely but your current boss or organization does not permit you to work from home, you may need to look for a new job.
You can use the same methods you used to find a regular office job to find a work-from-home job. This includes channels such as job boards, classified ads in local papers, and social media platforms.
9. Begin a freelance career.
If your current job does not allow for remote work, you can start your own business as a freelancer or consultant.
Depending on the nature of your current job, you may be able to start your own freelance business while still working.
The advantage of starting your freelance business while still working is that it reduces the financial strain that any new business faces.
10. Start a home-based business.
One way to enjoy remote work is to start a home business.
In contrast to other fields, certifications and education are not usually required. Instead, researching, developing a sound business plan, and selecting the right business is more important to the success of your venture.