The number of people working from home has skyrocketed in recent years, but it’s old news for some of us. I have been a FMH for over 10 years and have learned a lot in that time. Here are some tips I’ve picked up.
I got my first remote job in 2011 and have been working from home ever since. What started out as a laptop in my bedroom turned into a dedicated desktop and office. While the right technology certainly helps, the key to successful working from home is developing good habits.
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put on real clothes
Let’s start with what might be my most controversial opinion from the WFH: You should dress to work from home. I don’t mean just throwing sweatpants over your boxers. Put on some “real” clothes.
You don’t have to wear a suit and tie, but simply putting on a pair of jeans and a different shirt than the day before helps me transition into “work mode.” Sure, there are days when I still get out of bed and go straight to my computer, but I always feel better when I take the time to compose myself a bit.
Create a dedicated workspace
Speaking of “work mode”, you should have a dedicated space in your home to work. You don’t have to have a fancy office; even a desk in your living room will work. The idea is to have a place in your house where you can go to work and leave when you’re done.
That second part is just as important as the first. You can’t afford to leave your work in a separate building, so it’s important to have a workspace in your home that you can get away from. It’s tempting to work from bed or the couch—I certainly do sometimes—but dedicated workspaces are good for maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Workspace on your computer
A separate physical workspace may not be possible. You can also create a separate workspace on your computer, assuming you don’t already have a “work” computer that you need to use. That way, you’ll also have clearly defined work and personal digital areas.
There are a couple of ways to do this. I use Microsoft Edge for personal stuff, and Google Chrome is where all my work happens. In the past, I’ve also set up separate personal and work profiles in Chrome. The goal is to be able to easily open and close all your work-related tools at the end of the day, sort of like walking out of a physical office.
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Stick to a schedule
One of the great benefits of working from home is flexibility, but it can be too good if you’re not careful. Try to stick to a schedule as if you were working in a traditional office environment.
You might remember something you wanted to do, and since your computer is only a few steps away, it’s tempting to quickly log in and take care of it. However, if you wouldn’t make a separate trip to the office to get it, you should wait until tomorrow.
I’m not saying you have to be super rigid with your schedule. Flexibility is truly one of the best things about working from home, and you should take advantage of it. But having a general work schedule is another good way to put yourself in “work mode” and unplug when you’re done.
Don’t eat lunch at your desk
This advice can be applied to people who work in an office as well as those who work from home. When it’s time for lunch, or when you have time to eat, get up and put your computer down.
Why? As with the previous tip, it’s easy to work more than you should simply for the sake of comfort. Give your brain a break so you can end the day strong. Watch a couple of YouTube videos on the couch or go find some food nearby. Just watch something else while you eat.
Get out of the house from time to time
Work from home doesn’t have to be work from home home. If the nature of your job allows it, you may need to leave your home and work from another location from time to time. A change of scenery can go a long way.
Working from home can be very isolating. All your interactions happen through a screen and a webcam. To avoid claustrophobia, I like to work from time to time in a cafeteria. It’s nice to feel like you’re actually part of society for a while, and being around other people can be energizing. It’s not possible with all WFH jobs, but I highly recommend it if you can do it.
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Use Do Not Disturb when you’re off the clock
The last tip is another way to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Working from home requires a lot of communication over the Internet, and that means you’re easily reachable at all hours of the day. Unless your job explicitly requires it, you should set some limits.
Both Slack and Microsoft Teams have settings to block notifications during certain hours. You can also use your iPhone or Android phone to block apps at certain times of the day. It’s important to set boundaries so you can really disconnect from work. It also allows coworkers to message you without fear of annoying you if they know you’ll see it when you want to see it.
If there is one theme that stands out from all these tips, it is compartmentalization. Getting dressed, having dedicated workspaces, making a schedule, eating away from your desk, etc. This is all about creating clearly defined walls between work and personal life.
Working from home is not as easy as people might think. You have to actively work to maintain your workspaces, stick to boundaries, and stay on task. However, with some of these tips in mind, you’ll find yourself being more productive and less stressed.
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