Working from home has so many great benefits. You can save time on your commute and work in sweats, while stealing a few precious hours of distraction-free work time. But of course there are challenges, from getting your desk set up just right, to staying connected with colleagues.
Before I started at Dialpad, I spent two and a half years working from home, so I learned a few things about making remote work palatable for the long term—while not getting distracted by Game of Thrones marathons!
Comfort comes in many forms, from the clothes you wear, to the way you set up your desk, to the strength of your coffee in the morning. I think we can all agree that no one does their best work when they’re uncomfortable.
Many articles tell you not to work in pajamas and to get dressed for the day before hopping on your computer. Not me. Rolling out of bed and working in my pajamas is the best part of being off-site! Of course, this isn’t the case for everyone, but don’t feel guilty if you do forget to shave or decide to forgo the suit for some sweatpants. Just find what makes you comfortable and keeps you productive.
For all day comfort, I highly recommend trying out a stand-up desk. Standing helped me eliminate lower back pain, and I feel more mobile and energized while I work. Studies claim standing just a few hours a day is good for your health and can help you live longer. If you do switch to standing, make sure you get an anti-fatigue standing mat and buy some comfortable shoes to work in.
Separation of Work and Life
One of the biggest challenges of working from home is creating a barrier between work and regular life. If you can, try to commandeer a room as your dedicated office. If you don’t happen to have a spare room at home, at least cordon off a work zone that you don’t use for personal activities. Then once your day is done, give yourself a break from your work zone and go somewhere else.
While it’s tempting to flick on the TV for some background noise or catch up on the latest episode of Game of Thrones, don’t do it. TV is an attention suck that is guaranteed to make you less productive. Instead, queue up some music (it can make you more productive), or if you prefer a more conversational environment, try a podcast or station on TuneIn radio.
One of the things I liked least about working from home for a long period of time was the lack of human interaction. Depending on your situation, you may be able to go into the office a couple days out of the week. But if that’s not possible, you’ll need to find a way to get in some face-time so you don’t go insane.
Sometimes just going to a coffee shop for a few hours or meeting a friend for lunch can be enough. Or, if you want to talk shop, Meetup.com is a great place to find people in your area with similar interests. If you just can’t make it out of the house, jump on a quick conference call and have a social conversation with a colleague—it’ll be as if you bumped into each other at the water cooler.
With more and more companies adopting cloud technology, it’s getting much easier to take your work with you, wherever you go. I love being able to share documents with Google Drive, take my business phone anywhere with Dialpad, and access all of my tasks and projects in Asana.
While the right tools help immensely, maintaining a regular daily schedule also boosts productivity and keeps me on track. I use RescueTime to track my computer activity to ensure I don’t spend too much time checking email or browsing sports scores.
Working from Home Isn’t a Vacation
People are always putting air quotes around “working from home,” insinuating that work from home days are more like days off. They often expect that because you work at home, you can skive off for a day to play golf, go shopping, or even worse, do all the housework. But back here in the real world, working from home actually means getting stuff done.
The ability to clearly communicate that “work from home” actually means work is paramount to success. Having a clearly demarcated work space helps with this, as does setting a “work” schedule. Then you can let friends and family know that during work time you’re working, but outside of your work schedule, you’re free to do whatever.