For more years than I can remember, I’ve been working from my home office—completely by choice. Today, thousands of professionals are being forced to their “home office,” thanks to stay-at-home orders. Some find it uncomfortable, others find it cozy. For the new-to-remote workforce, I offer these 10 tips to make working at home, work.
- Set up your office – find a spot, a corner or a room that’s as free from distraction as you can make it. This your office—just within four different walls. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just comfortable. Put all your work materials within easy reach—everything you need to get the job done every day. If your desk can face a window, all the better. This will give you the illusion of space and make staying inside even more bearable.
- Set up shop from 9 to 5 – just like your regular job, you’re at work during business hours. Don’t think of this any differently. Of course, if you have little ones, you need to put aside time to play or teach. But as much as you can, be at your desk during regular business hours.
- Be disciplined – this is probably the hardest thing for new-to-remote workers to embrace. How many times have I heard, “I can’t work at home. I’d be watching TV all the time”? Working at home is a mindset. Think of it as a business, open during business hours. Want to watch TV or hang out on Facebook? Lunch hour is fine. But back at your desk immediately after.
- Get dressed, get to work – it may be fun to work in your pajamas, but you’ll feel more professional and be more productive if you get dressed (no need for a suit!) before you take your seat at the computer.
- Know when to call it a day – because you’re not leaving an office, there just doesn’t seem to be an end to the workday. Wrong. The hours you keep on your job, keep at home. Want to do some “overtime”? Go for it—but know when to walk away.
- Connect digitally – instead of conference rooms, your meetings will be done via phone or videoconferencing platforms like Zoom, Skype or Google Hangouts. Be sure to sign up for these services before your call with a client—this way you’ll be good to go when you receive or send an invite.
- Stay fresh, take a break – get up from your chair, walk around the house, make coffee, play with the kids for a few minutes. Just like you do in your job, get up and walk around. Otherwise, you’ll be staring at a computer screen for hours, your eyes will be strained, and you’ll be “fried.”
- Look away! Be sure to look away from your computer screen every once in a while. Fixed attention on your screen can actually shorten your vision permanently. So make a point to take in the view and look at objects, people and places much further away than your computer screen from time to time.
- Communicate with your kids – it’s a big deal when Mommy and Daddy are home. Your kids will want to be all over you (especially when the phone rings!). Talk to them—let them know it’s work time for you, or you’re going on a call. Keep them busy during your that time—preferably outside your office space.
- Be proud of your kids – kids playing in the background is business as usual. It’s almost inevitable that they’re going to make a little noise while you’re working—unless you’re in a completely isolated space or someone else is keeping them busy. Let your client know they might hear your kids and offer a gentle apology. Don’t be embarrassed. Don’t propitiate. The sound of kids in the background is joyful—unlike when I first started working from home years ago. I was afraid to let my clients hear my son in the background—it would have been one of the reasons why women in the workforce were a problem. Not today.
We’re facing a different reality these days, but as time goes on, some adjustments may continue into our future. As a career freelance copywriter (after a decade as a full-time copywriter/ACD), I’ve found that working remotely gives you the power of choice—including how to manage your time and juggle many projects over the course of a day. If remote becomes your choice, stay disciplined, think of it as a business, and it’ll work out beautifully.