While working from home may seem like a dream come true, at least in the beginning, the reality is that it brings its own set of challenges just like working at the office does.
- Lots of office workers find themselves working from home full time, for the foreseeable future, and are struggling to find structure and work/life balance in their new roles.
- Setting clear boundaries for work hours and down hours, as well as keeping work spaces uncluttered and free of distractions is one of the keys to successfully working from home.
- Some businesses are using apps like Slack and Zoom to keep teams communicating both for work and for team downtime.
Working From Home Long Term
With more and more Americans working from home, not just for the short term, but many for an indeterminate future, many find that long-term working from home brings on many challenges. The occasional day of working from home isn’t the same as working from home day in and day out, and the latter requires routines and structuring of the workday to help maintain productivity.
Thankfully, there are people who have been working from home full-time for years, and that have already figured out solutions to the problems many new at-home workers are facing.
Set Clear Boundaries
Perhaps one of the more challenging things about working from home, is just that, you have to do it from home. While in the past, many who worked from home would break up the monotony by working out of pubs, cafes, and the like, these options are now largely unavailable due to COVID-19.
Working inside your home requires clear boundaries between workspace and working hours, as well as hours for relaxation. Working from home can easily turn into sleeping in your office, but this is not a sustainable arrangement. You can’t work whenever you aren’t asleep, and you shouldn’t. So how can you set boundaries to make sure home life and family time is separate from working hours?
Keep Work Hours Regular
You need to maintain a work/life balance, even if both work and home life now exists inside the fours walls of your home. One simple way to do this is to maintain regular work hours. Even though you can be a bit more flexible with your work hours when you work from home, make sure to stick to your scheduled amount of hours per day.
Avoid Burning The Candle At Both Ends
If you work a few extra hours one night, make sure to hold off on starting work the next morning. There are apps you can use to track hours worked, which are both a great way to make sure you stick to your regular hours, and might also tell you if there are certain hours of your day when your focus is better, so you can schedule more important work during those hours.
Routine is important, and often the best way to help your brain and body separate working time and downtime. Create morning routines, or start of the workday routines if you don’t work in the mornings, and likewise a routine that you do after work is done for the day. You’ll be amazed at how much more productive you can get when you have clear routines for work time and home time.
Keep Your Workspace Clean
One of the nice things about going into the office for work, is that it’s a clean space, ready and waiting with no distractions. If you have a home office, make sure that it doesn’t get cluttered, but remains a clean and tidy space where you can easily focus.
If you don’t have an office where you can close the door, maintain a separate space in some other part of the house where you can do your work and nothing else. Avoid eating, sleeping, and working in the same space, if at all possible.
Keep Out Distractions
Regardless of how quietly your family members go about their day, it’s probably not going to be the same as a shut office door. Headphones can be a great way to help keep out distractions if you don’t live alone. The best kind are the noise cancelling over the ear ones, but earbuds will work in a pinch.
Constant working without regular breaks for eating, sleeping, exercise, and downtime will not serve you well in the long run. Make sure you stop working at the end of the day, and that you take breaks as you normally would at the office. Many employees have a lunch hour and two additional 15 minute breaks throughout the workday. Don’t be tempted to skip on your breaks. Instead, if you come back to your desk early, get back up until your full break is over.
Don’t Sit For Too Long At A Time
One tip to avoid sitting too long, which is bad for you all around, is to stand up or even walk around when taking phone calls. Intermittent exercise breaks throughout the day to break up the monotony of sitting in one place is a good idea both for your brain and your back.
Leave Your House
Sitting inside all day isn’t good for you either. Your body needs fresh air and exercise, so even though you might not need to leave the house to work, try to leave the house at least once daily, if nothing else, take a stroll around the block.
Don’t Forget Team Down Time
If you run a one man show, this might not apply, but if you are used to working together with a team in your office, the team downtime, random discussions, and office camaraderie might take a hit while everyone is working remotely. Poking your head into someone’s office when their door is open isn’t exactly something you can do when everyone is an intentional phone call away
Using Zoom and Slack To Facilitate Downtime
Some bosses schedule work happy hours over Zoom to help maintain a tight working team. Others solve the lack of opportunity for office small talk with Slack channels devoted to topics outside of work, so that workers can chat in between meetings and work responsibilities.
Working from home brings its own unique challenges, and although there are definite drawbacks to working this way, there are some benefits as well. For one, you don’t waste time on getting to and from work, or sitting in traffic, leaving these hours of your week open.
Whether working from home is ideal for you or not, it looks like it will be the way things are for a while longer. Hopefully these tips will make your time at home every bit as productive as your office time used to be.