“We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead of the quality of time we put in.” — Arianna Huffington
It’s only in the last 5 years that I’ve started working at home (except for when I’m traveling). I’ve grown to love this setup, but I must admit that it took some getting used to. I learned to put practices in place that support me in keeping the balance between work and home. Now it’s hard to imagine commuting to an office every day. It’s amazing how much I can get done and the freedom I have with my time.
A study done at Ctrip, a 16,000 employee, NASDAQ-listed Chinese travel agency, showed that after 9 months of working at home productivity increased by 13.5 %.
What I’ve found is that with a little self-discipline and commitment, working at home allows for flexibility and productivity.
The biggest downside?
It’s easy to get so caught up in work that it interferes with other things, or prevents you from connecting with friends and family.
So today we’re looking at how to get the most out of working at home.
Have a Dedicated Work Space
In my time working at home, I’ve set up shop in my bedroom, at the kitchen table, and now from a dedicated office in my house. Between these options, the latter is the way to go, hands down.
Creating an office that is designated for work gives you the space where that is all that you do. When your workday is complete, you can turn off your computer and walk away.
Make your workspace a comfortable place that you want to be in. Set yourself up for success by equipping your office with all the tools you need so that you’re not stepping out to scan, copy, get paper, etc.
Make sure your desk and chair are comfortable. I invested in a desk which, with the press of button, goes up or down so I can work standing or sitting. Transform your office into a space that is conducive to your professional life. Let your office space reflect you. I can’t stress how crucial this is for productivity when working at home.
Have a Routine
When my alarm goes off at 5:30 am, I make coffee and take the time to enjoy it. Then I exercise, shower, and get dressed. When you measure your commute in feet instead of miles, you can stay in your robe all day and no one will know. But psychologically, getting ready for your workday, including getting dressed, sets you up for success.
Of course, having a routine supports you in getting stuff done whether you’re working at home or not. But the difference is that it’s up to you to make and maintain that routine.
Schedule your time and stick to it. Everyone is different, so setup your day so that it works for you. One key thing is to know when you’re most productive so you can structure your day to utilize that time. For me it’s the morning, which is why I choose to get up early. And for you night owls out there—adjust accordingly.
I used to get distracted easily while sitting at my desk and staring at my screen. Especially when I was doing something I didn’t really want to do. And of course, when you’re working at home it’s easy to think of a million other things to do. There have even been times, sitting at my desk, when I’ve thought that what I really needed to do was go clean the bathroom. (Talk about distraction!)
I’ve learned to set aside blocks of time. I commit to myself that I will focus on work and be present with what needs to get done.
And I take breaks.
Sometimes my break is a matter of stretching, or simply walking onto my front porch for a few minutes. (This is what I call Micro Care.) Other times, I put in a load of laundry, or what have you. When I go with the flow, I find that I stay focused on the task at hand.
The point is, you’ve got to allow yourself to get up and do something. Many small breaks often fuel your workday because you mind continues to tackle problems in the background. Giving yourself little bursts of downtime will help you feel better and be more productive.
Also, try not to eat lunch at your desk. Get up and get out for lunch, or just eat somewhere other than at your computer. It makes a big difference.
Taking breaks within your structured day keeps the creative flow going. (And is healthier, too!)
Dealing With Distractions
Even when you work in an office, there are bound to be distractions. For me, the biggest distraction is when I have family visiting.
What works really well is to get clear on what you want to accomplish—and that’s true whether guests are there or not. Select the time of day that you’re going to dedicate to work, and let everyone know. Be accountable to yourself, and stick to your schedule.
If your family lives with you, it’ll become normal that you work when you do. When you let visiting family and friends know, they understand. This makes it easier to knock out what you need to. The beauty is that because you’re working at home, you can schedule your time the way you want and still get things done.
Whatever it means to you, get out and have fun! It’s easy to get caught up in working all day and never leave the house except to run errands. If you live with family, make time for them. Make time for your friends and for yourself.
And remember, talking on the phone with clients doesn’t count as social interaction (this is a big one for me). Business interactions are no substitute for having dinner with a friend, going on a date with your partner, or doing whatever it is that feels good and gets you out of the house.
Making the Most of It
It’s certainly not better or worse to work from home—it’s just different. It’s really just about finding ways to encourage your own natural productivity. Decide when and how you’re going to meet your professional demands in the way that functions best for you. Imagine what your perfect “working at home workday” would be like. Set yourself up for success by being clear on what you want to accomplish, and commit to a routine that makes it happen.
With a bit of structure you can create a beautiful balance between your work and the rest of your life—all from the comfort of your own home.