Working from home, telecommuting, working from a virtual office, whatever you want to call it is becoming more and more common despite the desires of CEOs like Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer. I work from a virtual office every day of my life. I love the flexibility and appreciate the efficiency it provides. It’s not for everyone but it’s certainly beneficial if you know how to manage it. It takes work, dedication, and commitment by everyone in the house (including the cat). Here are my top 8 tips to be successful working from home.
1. Control your inner control freak.
I’m a control freak at the office. It’s what makes me good at what I do and I surround myself with people who are the same way. Those I hire are experts at what they do and are freakishly controlling when it comes to their piece of the puzzle. I know the flow of things at the office and have expectations of how things are supposed to go. I’m certainly not the Devil in the Devil Wears Prada but I have a rhythm that keeps everything under control. As it turns out, that doesn’t go well for the people you live with. A home office means just that, it’s at HOME and HOME is where life happens and life is not something easily controlled. In our 900 sq ft apartment, we have to share an office. I get it during the work day and he takes over when he’s home after work. If a glass gets left on the desk or the Mac isn’t turned back to my profile, it’s not the end of the world.
2. Set boundaries
I’m not a fan of boundaries. I’ve always been a color outside of the lines gal but in working from home I’m learning boundaries are key. No, I can’t take a non-work meeting in the middle of the day just because I work from home. No, I’m not working at my desk at 11 p.m. or 5 a.m. just because I work from home. Yes, I’ll be glad to fit in some time to make brownies. No it won’t be during the business day. Setting boundaries as to what is and isn’t ok in your day is your responsibility as a professional. You wouldn’t allow your limits to be stretched in a traditional office, so don’t stretch them in your home office.
3. Keeping a schedule, even a loose one will make or break your success. I’ve learned already how tempting it is to work more because I work from home. Yes, I was a workaholic in a traditional office environment but it’s even easier to be one here. You never get away from the office if you’re not careful so set a schedule. My schedule looks something like this:
8 a.m. take the hubs to the office (we’re still a one car family so this gets me out of the house).
8:30 a.m. Back home and working
1ish Back home and working
4:45 pick up hubs at the office
I know if I’m rigid about what happens in those working hours I’ll fail because I’m just not the type of person to set a rigid schedule outside of the required meetings and phone calls for my job. However, by keeping a basic schedule I stay in the work zone and that works for me.
4. GET DRESSED
As I asked friends and colleagues who worked from home either for themselves or someone else for tips I consistently got the same response. Shower. Get dressed. Do your makeup and hair. I’m sure it’s easy to become the ponytail princess. You know…the one who doesn’t even bother to brush her hair before she puts it up because she’s not going to see anyone anyway. Well, you’re likely going to pass a mirror at some point in your day and you don’t want to be frightened by what you see. Plus, you’ll feel better. I’m not suggesting putting on a suit every day if you’re not leaving the home office but I am suggesting that you be your best self even if you’re the only person you’ll see all day. After all, your opinion of yourself is the one that matters most!
5. Distractions happen
As I type this, the maintenance staff in our building is installing a new heating and cooling system upstairs. I’m starting to get concerned that my teeth will fall out from all of the rattling in my apartment. When I realized this was going to go on all afternoon, I considered heading to a coffee shop but changed my mind. If I were in a traditional office, I’d still push through and get my work done so I’m sticking it out. Working from home isn’t perfect. The cat will jump on your keyboard and the old lady in the lobby will want to stop and chat when you stop to get the mail after lunch. That’s the glory of working from home. That loose schedule dictates a guideline to follow, not a rigid time clock. You left that behind in your old office so relax and it will be just fine.
5. Organize your home office just like you would a traditional office
There’s a place for everything and everything has it’s place. Right? Not exactly in my world. Again, I’m a control freak about the quality of my work, but I’m not a fan of having only one place for the Sharpies or tape dispenser. Regardless, set up your home office like you would a traditional office. The easier things are to find, the more productive you’ll be. This also keeps you from getting distracted. The less time you spend digging through stacks to find what you’re looking for the fewer distractions you will have.
As I mentioned, I leave the house several times throughout the day. You’ll climb the walls if your home is your office, gym, and place to socialize like mine is. So get out of the house. This morning I stopped at Starbucks on the way home from dropping the hubs. I didn’t go through the drive up. I parked and went inside. Sure enough, I ran into two people I’ve done business with. Both were eager to chat about their lives and about my new transition. While paying $5 for a large coffee is still outrageous to me, the interaction and validation of chatting with someone I hadn’t seen in a while was worth every penny!
7. Candles, Music, and Magic
I love candles. The hubs does not. So when I walk in the door in the morning, the candles get lit and my rockin’ 70’s tunes get turned up. I get to blast my music, burn my candles, crunch my unsalted peanuts, and all kinds of other things that I couldn’t do at my old office. Not to mention, I get to decorate my office anyway I would like. If I want pink folders, I use pink folders. If I want to use neon markers on the whiteboard, I stock up on neon markers. If I want to surround myself with pictures of family and friends, then I do just that. This is some of the best stuff I’ve found about working from home. It’s my space and that means it’s my rules.
8. Working from home is a luxury
Your not entitled to work from home. Working from home in this country is a luxury and one that should still be treated as such. This means the work has to get done. I understand the dog wants to play fetch or the cat needs her tummy rubbed but there’s work to do. Turn off the TV and get to it. Especially if you’re working for someone else. They’re providing you with a great opportunity and you owe it to them to give it your best.