When people hear that I work from home, they often envy me. How awesome and easy it must be to just hang out in my pajamas all day and work. No getting up early, no dressing professional, no commuting, no dealing with petty office politics. While there are several perks, it’s not all easy. Not everyone has the right personality to work from home. My husband says he’d be unable to resist distraction and not switch on the Xbox when he got bored. A traditional workplace is set up for working. Some offices even have “cube farms” with every employee in their separate little cubicle. The workday is regimented and organized: you’re expected to arrive at a specific time, attend meetings, take a few short breaks, eat lunch at a certain time, and clock out at 5. There are co-workers, supervisors, and managers all around who might catch you if you’re slacking, if you arrive late or leave early. There are several skills and practices you’ll need to adopt to handle the non-traditional work environment and succeed working from home. Self-Discipline The number one characteristic you need to be successful working from home is self-discipline. You need to be able to set a schedule and stick to it. If you can, get up at the same time every morning, start working, and clock out at the same time. Treat it like a normal job with a set schedule. You also should be able to complete projects without a lot of supervision or micro-management. Supervisors may forget telecommuters, so you’ll need to stay in regular contact but also be able to solve smaller problems yourself. Focus Without the strict work environment, it’s harder to stay focused. There are infinitely more distractions at home and no one around to see you indulge in them. Chores, children, pets, TV, and the internet can easily distract you multiple times in one 8-hour shift. Tips for managing the distractions and staying focused include:
- Play music that helps you concentrate.
- Put your smart phone just out of reach so it’s not too easy to grab when you get bored.
- Make it very clear to your family that the hours between 8 and 5 (or whatever your shift is) is only for working.
- If it’s possible, close the door, especially when you have a high-priority deadline looming.
- Make your work station comfortable. Make sure you have plenty of light and an ergonomically sound chair.
- Remove distractions from the immediate vicinity.
Time Management With less direct supervision, you’ll need excellent time management skills. You’ll still be expected to deliver on time just like office workers. Organize your personal and professional tasks, with enough time dedicated to each, and be ready to go when it’s time to work. Create a schedule to efficiently progress through normal daily tasks such as emails so you have enough time for the big stuff. Your Own Work Station Ideally, you should dedicate one room or corner just for your work area with a desk, computer, printer, bookcase, and whatever else you’ll need within reach. Only you should be allowed to use your work computer. I am lucky enough to have an alcove dedicated entirely to my work space in a downstairs family room. At the end of my shift, I shut down my computer, leave my desk, and don’t see it again until the next morning. Being able to physically leave your job and not see it in your off time makes it easier to mentally leave behind the stresses and worries of your work. Take Breaks Don’t forget to take breaks from your desk. Sitting staring at a computer all day is not great for your health, particularly your eyes and your posture. Look away from the computer screen once in a while to give your eyes a rest. Stand up and do a some stretches every few hours. Step outside and get some fresh air. When it’s sunny, I like to take 20 to 30 minute walks on my lunch break. Get Out of the House I have trouble with this one because I don’t live close to town. Cabin fever is a common affliction for telecommuters. Working from home can be isolating. Take every opportunity you can to get out of the house and interact with people in person: meet friends for a happy hour, join a book club, volunteer, and have date nights with your spouse. More and more employers are allowing their employees to work from home. There are many benefits for both the employer and the worker. Telecommuting also lessens wage disparities and helps working parents, military spouses, and disabled people to participate in the work force. But working from home is not the same as working in an office. Being aware of these differences, the challenges involved, the skills needed, and your own tendencies will help you succeed as a telecommuter. Visit Meditec to explore career options.