From an outsider’s perspective, working from home seems like a luxury. As the rest of the world faces an arduous commute and deals with cranky coworkers, we imagine our friends working from home lounging on their couches, watching Ellen, and typing a few emails. It sounds perfect. Those who actually work from home would beg to differ and tell you it’s harder than it looks.
What are the keys to successfully working from home? Without a few important elements, you could easily end up in a five-day Netflix binge and look up to realize you haven’t showered or gone outside all week. You have to implement organization and boundaries.
Working from the couch with the television on sounds ideal, but it’s definitely not productive. You need your own office space—whether it’s a small corner with a laptop in it or a decked out home office. Once you have the designated work space, you have to keep that space organized. If you’re like most people, your desk can quickly become messy. Combining an unorganized office space with your already-messy living space will create nothing but chaos. Technology is your biggest asset in this instance. Go paperless and take advantage of apps to streamline your workflow – Trello, Dropbox, and Evernote.
Keep yourself physically organized as well as mentally organized. Your to-do list is even more important now that you work from home. Otherwise, you’ll look up and have wasted the day and accomplished nothing. Check in with coworkers and superiors frequently. If you’re a one-man company, find ways to connect with other professionals. Bouncing ideas and frustrations off others helps keep you sharp and gives you a sense of community.
When working from home, it’s easy for those around you to mistakenly think your schedule is wide open. The outside world should see your schedule no differently than if you were working in an office building downtown. You have set hours and deadlines. You’re not free for a two-hour lunch. You’re not able to pick up carpool every single day or available to take your mother’s phone call all the time.
It’s not always the outside world trying to distract you. Some of the toughest boundaries to set are with those living inside your house—roommates, significant others, children. This is when the previously mentioned home office is even more vital. Your remedy could be as easy as putting a “do not disturb” sign on the office door. Some tougher days may call for more drastic measures like noise cancelling headphones.
There’s also a flip side to these boundaries. Just like all other professionals, you have to set up boundaries with work. It’s just going to be a little more difficult with your stack of work physically staring you in the face on weekends and during days off.
Enjoy your flexibility. It’s probably part of the reason you decided to work from home in the first place. But don’t forget these two cornerstones of staying productive. These are the keys to thriving while working from home.