If you’re used to working a normal schedule job in an office environment, transitioning to working from home can be a difficult adjustment.
There may be different reasons that you’re making this change. Perhaps you’re starting your own freelance or online business. Maybe you switched to a new position or company that allows you to work from home. Or maybe unforeseen circumstances require you to work at home, such as the current Coronavirus epidemic.
If you’re new to remote work, it may seem ideal, but can be very challenging. For some, the lack of structure is really hard to function in. There are a lot more distractions at home. And some people find that working alone can be, well, lonely.
But working from home also has a lot of advantages, and if you can capitalize on those benefits, you’ll be far more productive, as well as enjoy it also.
As a freelancer, I’ve worked from home for over 10 years. I’ve been part of various startups where I worked from home. And in my current full-time position, I work solely from home.
Here are some tips and strategies I’ve learned to make the most of having a home office.
Optimize Your Environment
One the biggest challenges of working from home is that it’s not set up as a work environment, at least not like your office. Your home is comfortable and there can be a lot of distractions.
First, have a comfortable place to sit, or a few. If you already have a work desk, that’s great! Otherwise, you’ll have to make due with the kitchen table, the couch, a lounge chair, a side table, or something else. I’m not going to say that a proper office desk and office chair are the only solution – you just have to work with what you have.
I currently don’t have a place for a desk, so I just work mostly at the kitchen table or on the couch. Switching between the 2 places helps give me some variety in my workspace.
Wherever you are though, you’ll need to make sure it’s free from distraction. If you have family or roommates around, you’re going to need to find a room you can close the door, or work when they’re not home or asleep.
The other distractions you’ll run into are the comforts of your own home – your TV, your snack drawer, the refrigerator, or anything else you might get up for. Find a place to distance yourself from those distractions.
Set Work Hours
Your office job has a regular 9-5 work schedule, but you have a lot more freedom at home. If you have to be on call during that time, then that’s kind of set. But if you have some flexibility, you can set work hours that are best for you.
Are you a morning person? Start your work day earlier. Are you a night owl? Go ahead and work late into the night. Split your work up into 2 or 3 work sessions. You know yourself best and will be more productive and efficient when you work at your most optimal times.
But the important thing is that whenever you work, set a schedule. Don’t just work when you feel like it or when you need to. That’s a common trap of working from home and you either overwork or get lazy over time. You have the flexibility to create your own schedule, but be sure to actually set that schedule and adhere to it.
One of the inefficiencies of a 9-5 schedule is the lack of breaks. You typically get two 15-minute breaks and a 30-minute lunch break. This results in long work hours with diminishing productivity. When I was in my 9-5 job, I pretty much stopped working by 2pm. My mind was too fried to think, but I couldn’t walk away from the office to do something else. So I would just sit and stare at the computer screen, waiting for 5pm to come.
You don’t have to fall into the same pattern at home. If you schedule in appropriate breaks, you can actually work less hours, but still be just as productive, if not more, during your work day.
There are a lot of different work/rest routines. The popular Pomodoro Technique suggests 25 minutes of work with 5 minute breaks, then a 15-30 minute break every 2 hours. I personally do something like 45 minutes of work and 15 minutes of rest. I’ll do this for 3 hours, then break it up with something else for a few hours. I’ll continue the rest of work day later. Find a rhythm that works for you.
What should you do during those breaks? Get away from your screen. Take a walk. Exercise. Eat something. Read a book. Lie down on the couch and do nothing. Just do anything that unplugs you from your work so you can recharge.
Use a Task App
You may already use some kind of to-do list or project management software at work that you can just use at home. If you don’t, this becomes essential. You could just have it written down on sticky notes or a Word document, but having it in software is really a lot more helpful.
The lack of a normal time structure can cause you to overestimate what you can accomplish in a day. You could also end up working a lot longer than you should.
It’s important to have an easy and reliable tool that allows you to create tasks, group them into projects or create subtasks, set due dates and reminders, and most importantly, allow you to check them off. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of great project and task apps. Which one you choose just depends on the type of work you do and your user preferences.
It will take time to adjust to working from home. Each person’s home environment is different, along with each personality. So the best advice I can give is to ignore all the other advice that says you have to have your desk set up a certain way, or you have to have a specific routine or schedule.
Try different things and figure out what works for you. When you start getting comfortable with yourself and your environment, you’ll find that working from home can be both more enjoyable and productive than the office life.
This article was originally published on Medium