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Working at home has many perks, such as flexibility and avoiding commutes, but it’s not without its challenges. There are adjustments to how you work, dealing with distractions, and managing work/life balance. We’ve asked our experts to share the things they feel are especially helpful to know before you start working at home.
1. Separate your work area from your home area. Make sure your work space is quiet and focused and gives you the ability to separate yourself from the traditional home environment;
2. Take breaks that get you outside. Even though you are likely an independent contractor and have some flexibility, it’s important to take a moment to take a walk, stand up and stretch – get outside to refresh your perspective. You’ll come back more fresh and ready to work.
3. Consider incorporating to protect your personal assets. Even though you don’t have a physical office space, it is wise to protect your personal assets from those of your business. Incorporating or forming an LLC not only saves you on taxes (especially with new tax laws), but it also allows you to have significant write-offs, and liability protection. It separates your personal from your business even when your work space is the same.
1. Just because you’re working from home does not mean you’re available to do things at home. You will be tempted to schedule appointments, or attempted to say yes to your spouse setting appointments, asking for things to be picked up, etc because you’re at home. Say no. Say no early and often. proceeding and following it.
2. Set up a home office and give it a door. Even if your home office is just a corner of a one bedroom apartment – find ways to wall off your work space from the rest of your house. This serves two functions: your whole house won’t feel like work and, with a barrier (closing the office door at night/ opening your computer cabinet in the morning) you’re creating a physical separation that will help keep work at work.
3. Resist the temptation to do work in non-work settings. It sounds counterintuitive but if you start working from your couch you’ll find it’s a slippery slope to work life bleeding into home life. Keep those worlds separate, not just physically, but with distinct start/ stop periods.
The big takeaway: working from home is implicitly unstructured, and while the benefits are many (no temptation to eat office kitchen donuts, no commute, can wear sweatpants if you feel like it) the downsides are real and severe (burnout, anxiety, and loss of a peaceful home.) Plan for structure early, adhere to structure while you’re working, and you’ll enjoy maximum benefits with minimum downside.
1. Be sure to schedule your day just like you were working in a traditional office. Time often slips by if you don’t schedule your day
2. Take time weekly to get out of the office to meet with others. You will be surprised how often you will learn something when you get out of your office setting
3. Dress in a manner that will allow you to leave quickly should you need to meet with someone. Appearing in professional dress is important even in video meetings.
1. My best time management tip is to make a to-do list the night BEFORE I start work the next morning. This has really helped me hit the ground running when I wake up in the morning because I know exactly what I need to focus on that day. With a pre-made list of priorities, I’ve found it a lot easier to stay focused throughout the day and resist the usual
2. Focus 45s. Using a wind-up kitchen timer and setting it for 45 minutes. For those 45 mins you must stay focused! When time is up, set the timer for 10 mins, check email, FB etc. Then wind the clock back up for another 45.
3. Find an accountability partner. Someone that you KNOW will ask what did you accomplish today? This does wonders for keeping you on track.
1. Don’t skimp out on your technology or internet. I was working with a remote server in a previous job and it would disconnect about every hour. My internet connectivity was fine, but this unreliable server my employer used would get in the way of me working. Between the connection frustrations and getting back into the zone after each disconnect, I easily lost an hour of my day. I’m not the only one either! On average, people lose a week of productivity each year from internet or tech issues.
2. Know your distractions and find ways to minimize them. Some people work with Netflix on in the background. Some just end up watching Netflix. Some work with music or white noise in the background, while others can’t stand the noise. In my case, I have a smart Australian Shepherd/Husky mix. She’s crazy smart. She also knows my weaknesses. It made WAH hard at first, but now she recognizes that when I’m at my laptop, I won’t play with her.
1. Be disciplined – Just because you do not have to get up and drive to a set location does not mean that you do not need to be disciplined. Set business hours, don’t always work in your pajamas, and make your home office look like an office. It’ll help keep you focused and productive.
2. Know Your Boundaries – One of the hardest things about working from home is that you sometimes struggle separating work from home. Allow yourself breaks, take a day off, don’t stay in your home office all day! All work to stay in one area so you can rejuvenate yourself.
3. Make Sure Others Respect Your Work – Not only do you need to set boundaries for yourself, but you’ll have to set boundaries for others as well. People need to understand that you working from home still means that you are working – they can’t come and sit in your office all day or call you every 10 minutes. You work just like they do, so make sure that they understand and respect it.
Beginning the work-at-home journey can be both exciting and terrifying. The top three tips that I tell clients just starting out are as follows:
1. Set Goals – Identify why you are embarking on this journey, and then identify where you are and where you need to go. Take that big-picture goal, and break it down into bite-sized goals, and set realistic dates to accomplish each step. Having a plan, is essential for staying motivated and on track.
2. Be flexible – Give yourself grace, this is a new endeavor and you may hit some roadblocks. Heck, you may even have some failures! Failing is a necessary step toward success, and it allows you to re-evaluate, pivot, and then correct your business plan. Don’t let perceived failures keep you from making forward motion.
3. Network/Mastermind – Surround yourself with the people you want to become. When you go to a networking event, don’t set your goals to landing a client, but rather forming relationships. Find other like-minded entrepreneurs to collaborate with, send referrals to, and bounce ideas off of.
1: Plan your productivity window. When working from home, it’s hard to find a clear work time that’s an opportunity to get into a peak mental state of flow. It’s easy to fall into the trap of working all the time, but without the productivity gains from the extra hours. With distractions and lack of focus you can end up in semi-burnout, where you need to do extra hours just to get on top of work.
The solution here is to decide when you’re naturally most energized and creative, then block out that time for just one important task each day. Some people like to get up really early to get their best work done, others work late at night when everything is quiet. I prefer the afternoons, where I can do routine, urgent, or unimportant things in the morning, and then see how I feel in the evening. 1-5PM is the time when I achieve one rewarding task, the ones that can grow my business.
2: Plan your contingencies. Working at home has great benefits, but there are times when it’s not the best option. Depending on your business, you might want to entertain clients, crate a mini conference, or attend a Skype call with really fast internet and a background that creates an amazing impression. There will also be times when family, friends or builders next door make business hard – usually during a really important task.
It makes sense to plan ahead and map out all of the alternative locations where you could work, entertain, or do things that you can’t do at home. Have a list of options and alternatives mapped out in advance, don’t wait until you’re under pressure and stressed to find a solution.
3: You need a change of environment at times. To live and work in the same building is great for a time and cost management perspective, but you can get sick of it very easily. You should build alternative venues into your schedule. Libraries, hotel lobby restaurants, coffee shops and or bars during quiet periods will give you variety and stop you from ending up like a mad hermit!
Note From Leslie
There are some aspects of working at home that you can anticipate, but until you experience them, you won’t fully be able to deal with them. With that said, I agree with the suggestions by our experts. Working at home gives you a great deal of freedom and flexibility, which can easily get away from you. The first week I was home full time, I binged watched videos thinking I had all the time in the world. My tips for being prepared to work at home include:
- Be sure you know you have the self-discipline to work in an environment that doesn’t have a lot of work-related cues.
- Set up a schedule and stick to it. Yes, working at home means you can be flexible, but you also have to work. Using a schedule insures you get the work done.
- Make a plan for children or others in your care. It’s really difficult to put in full-time hours (or even part-time) during your child’s nap time. Arrange child care in your home, participate in a coop child care, sign your child up for pre-school, or work when your partner is home and can watch your child.
- Have a designated space for work.
- Have everything you need to work. You don’t want your computer in one place, and needed files in another. If your work-at-home job requires a good headset, get one and keep it in your office. You can’t get work done in a timely manner if you’re always looking for the tools and resources you need.