Are you living the telecommuter dream? Or has working from home become a professional nightmare?
“Telework,” as the federal government often refers to it, allows employees to manage their work and family obligations, helping them achieve an ideal work/life balance. It’s a growing trend, thanks to advances in communications technology.
Employers are surprised to discover that at-home workers are often more productive. More than 50 million U.S. workers could work from home at least part of the time.
But people who work from home are also tempted to watch TV, chat online, mow the yard—stuff that would absolutely kill productivity at the office.
If you work from home (or if it’s your goal to do so), here are some tips to help you do your best work from home.
Get into a routine. Do you often feel like you’re running out of steam? A routine is a rhythm, and you have to stay in the groove to keep things moving. Write down a typical daily schedule, an hour-by-hour list of what you need to be doing. Think of it like being on autopilot: first hour, send emails; next hour, make phone inquiries; then, do research, and so forth. Of course, every day throws curveballs (those fun little unanticipated surprises that can derail your well-laid plans), so keep this “to-do” list as general and vague as possible. It is simply a template for each day.
Go with the flow. When you feel inspired, toss out the schedule and go with the flow. I know, I know. The last tip was all about setting a routine and sticking to it. But you have to know when to improvise. In fact, you can schedule your work hours to coincide with your most creative periods. This is a huge advantage to working from home—you don’t always have to ignore a creative impulse to go attend a pointless meeting.
Change scenery. A change of scenery is invigorating. It’s great for recharging the brain and bringing inspiration back. If you see the same old things, you’ll produce the same old things. Working from home doesn’t have to always mean literally working from home. Mobile technology allows you to easily get away from your usual workplace to go work somewhere else. Try a coffee shop, a park or the local library. A change of scenery is a breath of of fresh air. But beware: Lots of places have Wi-Fi these days, and just because you CAN work from a noisy bar or restaurant or hotel pool (for example), doesn’t mean it’s going to necessarily be your best option.
Take a break. One secret to doing better work is knowing when not to work at all. Take a break and don’t feel guilty about it. Office workers, of course, take breaks all the time, but these are not “true” breaks in that they often have a time limit. So the pressure’s on to “hurry up and relax.” Real breaks are necessary to recharge your batteries and reset your focus. If you take a break when your mind and body are ready for a break, the boost in productivity you’ll see when you get back in front of the computer will be quite remarkable.