Working from Home: Tips from a Guru
With everything going on in the world today, millions of people are working from home that have never before. While working from the comfort of your living room with your dog curled up by your feet might sound appealing at first, it doesn’t take long to realize that it may not be all it’s cracked up to be.
As a graphic design professional, I’ve been working from home on-and-off since 2010, and on a full-time basis since 2016. While I wouldn’t trade it for the world, it does have downsides, both minor and potentially major. Let’s talk about the best way to handle working from home, whether it’s on a short-term basis or as a permanent setup.
Create your own space
I know it can be tempting to roll over in bed and grab your laptop and work from the comfort of the covers. And honestly, sometimes it’s fine! We all have those days. But in general, it can be very easy to find yourself distracted by TV episodes, playing with kids & pets, and just closing your eyes for that quick 15 minute nap that turns into a 2 hour slumber. That’s why a majority of the time, it’s essential to create a workspace separate from the major temptations of not being in an office. It can help you to focus, be more productive, and get your work done on time so that you can spend your evenings watching Netflix.
Set your alarm
Speaking of Netflix: it’s important to know when to reign it in. Late at night when the house is quiet and you’re loving the drama unfolding in the latest reality TV series you’re binging, it’s so easy to say “okay — ONE more episode!” When you don’t have a train to catch or a clock to punch, who cares if you sleep that extra hour? The problem here is that you’re putting yourself on a slippery slope. Getting up at 7 quickly turns to 8, then 9, then 10… and suddenly you’re finding yourself starting your workday at lunchtime, and wondering why the heck the days feel so short and how 5pm crept up on your so fast. That’s why it’s important to pick working hours for yourself and STICK to them. That means setting an alarm and not turning it off, even if you stayed up 'til 3am finishing that series.
Get dressed & ready for work
After you’ve successfully gotten up to your (super annoying) alarm, comes the most important step to successfully working from home: act as though you’re going into the office. Shower, get dressed, do your hair, and do anything else you’d typically do if you were walking into your company office every day. The temptation to stay in sweats or PJs is going to be overwhelming; why bother putting on pants when you’re not leaving your house for that Skype meeting? I’ll tell you why. Like pushing back your alarm, not getting dressed and ready in the morning is a slippery slope to some very real consequences that a majority of work-from-homers experience: feelings of sadness, lowering of self-worth, distance from society, and in some cases even depression. It’s crucial to still take these self-care steps even if you won’t see anyone but your family (or even just yourself) every day.
Budget your time & stay focused
When you’re working from home and don’t have specific times that things need to happen, it can be really easy to get caught up in one specific project, whether it be work related or not. You may sit down to write an email and end up down a Google rabbit hole that transforms into a social media binge, and before you know it, an hour has passed. By setting a schedule for yourself and sticking to it, you’re less likely to have to work extra hours into your night because you ended up cleaning out your fridge for 90 minutes on your 30-minute lunch break. Speaking of which…
Take a lunch break!
Some people tend to have the opposite problem of getting distracted — they work and work and work, and don’t take a break at all during the day; then, before they know it, it’s 4pm and almost time to start making dinner and helping the kids with homework. Don’t fall victim to this - a recent study by Tork found that “nearly 90% of North American employees claim that taking a lunch break helps them feel refreshed and ready to get back to work.” Also, according to Forbes, benefits of a regular break include increased productivity, improved mental well-being, creativity boosts, and increased time for healthy habits.
Working from home is a blessing in so many ways; it allows for the freedom to make and adjust your own schedule, be there for family, and most importantly to be able to smell that roast in the crockpot all day as it cooks! If you’re mindful of the above tips, working from home can be a long-term, sustainable way of working that both you and your employer benefit from.