Working from home sounds like all the rage these days. Working in your pajamas, choosing your own hours and no awkward conversations with Frank from accounting at the water cooler. Seriously Frank, give it a rest. You’re accru-ining our good time here.
But there are a lot of things I’ve had to learn about being able to be productive while working from home that I wish someone had told me. It’s a constant learning process and here are a few things that I’ve picked up along the way:
You need to have a dress code at home. I know, I know – one of the many benefits of working from home is not spending time and/or money to look professional at the office. Unless you’re doing a lot of video teleconferencing, no one would know whether you’re in a three piece suit or your Hello Kitty pajamas. But just because there isn’t a standard at home, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care.
When you don’t take the time to prepare for the day – shower, shave, get dressed, you can feel like taking a nap is an option at any time. Or spending an afternoon on the couch doesn’t seem like that bad of an idea. Getting dressed gives you a sense that you are actually at work, and not just sitting at your computer. I would generally define my dress code as ‘casual business casual’ – polo shirt and shorts/pants, depending on the season. That way if I do pop up a video conference with someone, I look professional from the waist up and don’t look like I just rolled out of bed.
My dad always used the line ‘there are 24 hours in a day.’ And that’s true, especially in my business. Websites can be done from anywhere, at any time. But my clients, for the most part, work the normal 9-5. So that’s when I like to be at my desk, at a minimum.
Having a routine of getting up at a regular time, and preparing for the day as if you had an office job is important to making sure everything starts off on the right foot. Sure – there’s flexibility to work early or work late, but having a normal routine ensures your clients know when they can (and can’t) reach you and you can better separate your work time at home from your personal time at home.
It’s easy for me to go downstairs, make a lunch and then come right back up to my desk to keep working. But it’s rarely a good idea. Your mind and body need a break from staring at the computer screen.
I suggest taking at least 30 minutes to unplug during lunch. Sit outside on your patio or in your favorite recliner. Turn your phone off and disconnect from the world, just for a little bit. Or even better – have lunch out. It doesn’t have to be with a client or a friend (but it should be, sometimes – see #4).
Before we had our daughter, there were times I’d sleep in while Kelly got ready for work. I’d wake up with her already gone for the day and not say a word out loud until 4:30pm when she came through the door. That’s not a good thing. Human interaction is important, that is, until we all have robots at our disposal.
Just because you don’t have an office doesn’t mean you always need to work from home. I try to spend at least one morning or one afternoon at a local coffee shop and/or patio beer-drinking spot. I can always find some work that can be done away from my home station and getting out to soak up some Vitamin D or political and/or weather banter is always good for the soul. “Trump/Clinton, am I right or am I right or am I right?!”
The lure of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Go, Showtime & any other streaming service under the moon is strong. It’s always there, beckoning you to just watch one episode. But 8 hours later, and your to-do list has not only gotten shorter, but you’ve added 10 emails worth of tasks onto it and the only thing you’ve accomplished is re-watching the second season of Dexter – you’re not going to be happy with the end results.
I’m not saying I’m perfect here. You’ll catch me with a third screen on quite a bit at my desk. Last week I was watching all of the Lethal Weapons and telling Oscar (our cat) that I was getting too damn old for this all afternoon. (I needed some interaction for the day.) But I wasn’t locked in to watching it. It was more or less background noise that I took a peek at every once in awhile. Again, not ideal working conditions, but as long as work is being done in parallel to flowing Mel Gibson mullets – I’m not going to dock your pay.
Working from home has tons of benefits, but it also has its drawbacks. Especially if you’re unable to stay focused and organized. Some of the challenges I’ve listed took me months to learn and some (I see you new season of Orange is the New Black) are still a work in progress. But as long as I continue to learn and get better at it, I’ll continue to love all the awesomeness that comes from the 5 second commute to work.