This article was originally posted on LinkedIn. See the original here.
This is Dash. He’s a 6-year-old Jack Russell Terrier and he loves that I work from home. Someone commented to me once, while I was walking him through our apartment complex when I lived in the Bay Area, that she “just couldn’t imagine keeping a dog like that in an apartment! He must be so hyper!”
Excuse me? Do you see how lazy this dog is? Yes, he’s a full 15 lbs. of fireball, if by “hyper” you mean he sleeps and sunbathes like a cat for a full 20 hours a day… but I digress. Dash loves that I work from home because it means he can gleefully sit (sleep) at my side (on the futon) while I take conference calls and answer emails.
There are plenty of huge lifestyle benefits to working from home. I can pick my kids up from school in the afternoon. I can be home to make dinner. I don’t have a stressful commute to face every day. There are major benefits to my employer, as well. I have less distractions around in my home office. I am available for off-hours calls or extended hours during major rollouts. Flexibility goes both ways, but to make the most of your flexible work conditions, you have to do your part to make it work – both for you and your employer.
Here are 8 lessons I’ve learned in my years of working remotely:
- Be honest with yourself. Working from home, with all its perks, is actually not a great fit for some people. To be a successful remote worker, you need to honestly assess your ability to self-motivate and stay on task. Just like taking on a new role, taking on a new set of working conditions will have its own adjustment period and if you try to force something that’s not a good fit for your personality and work style, you will only end up hurting yourself, your reputation, and your career.
- Stay organized. Okay, so you’ve done a self-evaluation and you’ve decided that you can manage yourself well enough to work remotely. Now, you need to set up a system for keeping yourself organized. I use my Outlook calendar to track meetings, an daily meeting organizer to take notes about each of the items I’ll be tackling that day, and OneNote to keep track of notes about any long-running or recurring topics that I might need to refer back to frequently. Find a system that works for you.
- Get up and move. It’s very easy to find myself having not moved from my desk in 8 hours and by the time I get up, I’m so sore and stiff all I want to do is lay down. Set a timer on your computer that reminds you to stand up and stretch, get a cup of coffee or water, use the restroom, walk up and down your stairs, whatever you need to do to stay limber. Which brings me to my next tip…
- Invest in your office space. It took my partner reminding me that I spend 8-10 hours daily at my desk before I finally caved and invested in a standing desk for my home office. I have not regretted that decision for a single second. We all love the perks and amenities that come with being in a nice corporate office, but when it comes to our home set up, some of us have a harder time justifying the expense involved. At a minimum, be sure that your set up is ergonomically sound. Studies are showing these days that sitting for long periods of time is horrible for your health. Now is the time to do something about it.
- Eat regularly. Just like getting up regularly, eating regularly is a critical part of maintaining your work-from-home health. In an office, you have social prompts to get lunch. You may have a walking meeting with colleagues, see other people get up for their lunch, or receive an email notice about a lunch delivery in the breakroom. One way or another, you are usually prompted to take a break and eat something. This won’t happen at home, so you need to find a way to make sure you maintain some semblance of a regular food schedule. Block a space on your calendar so other people don’t fill it up with meetings. Set a reminder. Physically walk away from your desk so you don’t get pulled into another distraction.
- Set boundaries. When you work from home, it’s common to experience more blurred lines between “work” activities and “personal” activities. Setting boundaries goes both ways. Don’t perform too many personal tasks during work hours. Don’t allow yourself to be a 24/7 employee. If possible, create physical boundaries by having a dedicated work space in your home, or by finding a quiet, distraction-free place to do your work (such as a library). As much as possible, keep a standard schedule of work hours and, when your work day is over, move on to your personal life. Your family and your boss will both thank you for maintaining these boundaries.
- Disconnect. Setting boundaries should include virtual boundaries as well. When it’s time to “clock out,” make sure you are leaving your email, phone, and computer in your office. While you’re on vacation, leave your work devices at home. Make sure your team is covered, then check out. They’ll be fine and you do them, yourself and your family no good if you don’t use your vacation time to disconnect, relax and regenerate.
- Stay accountable. Working remotely means that your boss has less chances to check in with you, so staying on top of your work is critical. It’s even more important that you effectively manage your relationship with your boss. It’s your responsibility to keep your boss apprised of the status of your work. Make sure you have regular opportunities to meet with your boss and your team.
What other tips would you share with remote workers? How do you make your home office work for you? Let me know in the comments!