According to recent Stanford University research, more than 10% of the U.S. workforce now works remotely or from home. This setup can be beneficial for everyone—managers get more productive workers due to eliminating a commute time, and workers get to concentrate on their duties without too much micromanaging from their bosses.
Working from home in your pajamas sounds lovely, doesn't it? You get to get your job done while throwing in loads of laundry in your coffee breaks. But being super-close to all the trappings of your home life—or just being far away from all your colleagues and supervisors—can be distracting and have an isolating effect. To make sure you’re maximally productive “on the job,” even when at home, follow these handy tips.
1. Set your hours.
Pencil in the hours when you will be “at work.” These hours don’t have to be 9-5, but they do have to suit your working/living needs and schedule and not conflict with the needs of your boss. Once you set them, stick to them. Don’t plan long lunches or personal appointments during these hours. Treat it like a time card. If you prefer to break up the day into chunks, make sure those chunks are long enough to be productive (say 3 hours) to get some work done.
2. Designate an office.
Even if you live somewhere cramped and can’t have “an office,” at least mark off some sort of work station or area for yourself. Turn off the television, and try to get off the couch or your bed. Head to the same spot to work each day. Train your brain that this area is where your job happens, and the rest of your house is where your life happens.
3. Don't forget to get outside.
Don't go skipping around the block regularly during your work hours, mind you—unless it’s just for a wee stroll to get the blood moving. But do try and make sure that you aren’t spending all day and night, every day and night, at home. Make after-work plans, or incorporate out-of-the-house exercise at some point.
4. Plan your days out each morning.
Make to-do lists for yourself of all the work tasks you need or want to accomplish in a given day. Then figure out how to ration out your day to complete them. This will keep you from veering off task, even when distractions present themselves. Don’t procrastinate, and you’ll stand a good chance of getting things done.
5. Minimize online (and other) distractions.
The less time you spend surfing Reddit or falling down the rabbit hole of social media, the better and more productive you will be. Use programs like Freedom or Self Control to keep you off the Internet during your work hours.
6. Take care of yourself.
Make sure you get on a steady sleep schedule that complements your work schedule—and stick to it. Get enough sleep. Make sure to shower and put on something other than sweatpants. Eat a good breakfast and healthy lunches and snacks throughout the day. Exercise when you can to keep your blood and brain flowing.
7. Demand a quiet space.
You might have to tell your friends and family to leave you the heck alone during your business hours. Tell them what your constraints are, and then be ruthless about adhering to your schedule. When your people know your break and off times, they’ll be able to train themselves not to interrupt at other times.
8. Check in with others.
Don’t just work all day all by yourself and send emails to your boss with progress. Check in with your colleagues and supervisor regularly. Develop relationships with other telecommuters. Perhaps set up a happy hour for other work-from-homers. Get yourself some human interaction—professionally as well as personally.
9. Log off every day.
Once you’re done for the day, leave your workspace, shut your computer, and step away from the job. It’s even more important to keep these boundaries fiercely drawn when you’re working from home. Don’t end up checking work emails until bedtime—you’ll drive yourself nuts!