If you are like me and work from home full time, I’m sure you’re tired of the people who say, “Oh, you’re so lucky!” because you know what they’re ACTUALLY thinking: “I bet you sit on the couch in your PJs watching movies all day and get paid for it.” As if.
We are lucky, my fellow work-from-homies and me. But not for the reasons you might think. It’s nice to have the luxury of not always having to look “office ready” every day, and it’s also wonderful to be able to walk my kids to the school bus each day. And I never have to deal with a traffic jam on the way to the office. However, my days can be just as stressful as everyone else’s. I still have client calls, deadlines, fires to put out and people to manage. In fact, I would venture to say that sometimes, a LOT of times, working from home is actually harder than working in the office. We have to make a special effort, every day, to remain productive, even on those days when we just aren’t feeling it. While surrounded by every appealing distraction, creature comfort and fully stocked kitchen that makes up our happy households. So how do we do it? I have a few tips that have kept me honest now for almost 10 years of successfully working from home:
1) CLAIM YOUR SPACE – If working from home is your full-time gig, then a seat at the kitchen table with your laptop and notebook just won’t do. It’s so important to have space designated for your office — somewhere that is off-limits to the rest of your family, and also off-limits to you during much important down time. And make it a place you love. There are tons of images online of creative home office spaces (in closets, under stairs, divided rooms, etc.) that are both functional and beautiful. When you step into your office, there should be a distinctive shift in your mind set: You are no longer home; you’re at work.
2) Establish Rules for Others – To go hand-in-hand with the person who thinks you’re lounging all day and getting paid for it are the family members and friends, some who live with you and some who don’t, who will think nothing of interrupting your day because, well, they know you’re home. I’ve had my share of interruptions — I once had an au pair present me with a 2-year-old covered in vomit while I was in the midst of running a multi-person conference call – so I speak from experience. While they don’t always abide by the rules, I’ve laid them out very clearly. When my door is closed and I’m turned away, don’t interrupt. If I don’t answer a text, then it must mean I’m busy and won’t be receptive to multiple follow-up texts. I will ONLY answer the house phone while I’m working if it’s the school calling. If I’m on the phone, don’t even think about bothering me. You get the gist. These rules will vary by person, of course, but you need to set limits. In the process, you’ll be teaching your kids (and others in your world!) how to solve some problems on their own, and that’s not a bad thing!
3) Establish Rules for Yourself – Self-discipline is the key to being successful at working from home full time. Which is why it’s not for everyone. If you’ve never done it before and are considering it, do some serious soul searching before you make the decision. It’s not always easy to keep yourself on track! I know, for myself, I must shower, dress and put on makeup every work day, even if I’m not going to see anyone but my husband and kids all day. It just puts me in the proper, professional mind set. I also know that I can get lost in a project and spend far longer in my office than I should, missing dinner with my kids, etc. So I know I have to leave my desk at a certain time each night, and if there’s more work to finish, I’ll take care of it after the kids are asleep.
4) Don’t be a hermit! — One of the worst parts of working from home is not benefiting from the energy and inspiration that can come from interacting with colleagues and other professionals on a daily basis. It is easy to start feeling isolated if you don’t make an effort to create these interactions for yourself. There are multiple ways to achieve this, which are clearly more difficult during a time when “social distancing” is the mandate. Normally I would recommend scheduling a lunch a few times a week with a friend or colleague, or to run errands during the day to get out and see other people. But these aren’t normal days. To feel more connected, I’m hosting daily video calls with my teams. I know it’s helping me feel more connected and I believe the others appreciate it as well. Also, video workouts are keeping me sane and there are a lot of free online resources available to keep yourself moving and those endorphins flowing. Check out this link for just a few of them. Getting outside if possible is also really important to clear your head and take in some Vitamin D. Just remember, when your home is also your office, you need to leave it from time to time during the day to keep your head clear. Even if it’s just for a walk around the block.