Working from home seems to be a dream. You don’t have to spend time and money for commuting, you can cuddle with your cat or play guitar in pauses, and you (usually) have a flexible schedule that allows you to combine work with hobbies, studies and other activities.
But sooner or later, any remote employee faces the problems that make it look not so attractive. Literally, you are surrounded by the worst enemies of productivity and efficiency. Distractions, procrastination, losing connection to your coworkers – all this is extremely disruptive for your work and career.
So, how to work from home and stay productive – and successful?
Dream come true? Not exactly
Home is a place where you’re busy even when you are not doing anything particular. As easy as it can seem first, fighting everything that gets in the way requires discipline and effort. Sometimes much more discipline than an office employee needs.
Problems that telecommuters face are pretty much the same. And the first step to tackle them is identifying them. So, what are the enemies of your success at work?
- Distractions. Home is full of distractions, and let alone TV and the Internet – household chores, even small and fun ones, are consuming your workday. Doing laundry, watering flowers, organizing closets during your workday seem to be a great idea: you switch off from work for a while and do something useful. But many of remote employees end up using this as an excuse for not doing their actual work.
- No consistent schedule. If you’re working shifts — for example in support — you have a regular schedule. What a blessing! The other side of flexibility is that you are tempted to put everything off for later. Later turns out to be late night, and you find yourself working on pending tasks instead of having a good night’s rest. This results in accumulated tiredness and irregular sleep.
- Unhealthy eating habits. As if unhealthy sleep wasn’t enough, working from home tends to influence our eating habits – and not in the best way. We eat more when we stay home because it’s easier to snack when the kitchen is just a few steps away, and – admit it – we rarely indulge ourselves with healthy snacks.
- Interruptions. Working from home is not “really working” – that’s what friends, neighbors and family sometimes think. And it’s not always easy to explain them that it is not quite true. This is why they keep interrupting you while you’re working, asking you to do more chores, or to cook – this destroys your efforts to be productive.
- Losing connection to your boss and colleagues. It’s easy to communicate when you’re physically in the office. For a remote employee, regular communication can be a challenge. Different working hours, no scheduled meetings, no defined procedure for communication with remote coworkers are the main reasons of that.
Returning to the office – do you really need it?
Indeed, being disciplined is easier with external control from your boss or coworkers. That is why some remote employees prefer to return to the office. But if you really love working from home, there is nothing that could hold you back.
The first thing you need to do is regain self-discipline. Commit to being focused and organized, and don’t let anything distract you from work.
Easier said than done – so here are several crucial steps that will help you stay productive and make your lifestyle healthier.
- Define a set schedule. Define your working hours and stick to them – this way it’s easier to resist the temptation to relax and make up the hours later this day (or this week, or this month). It will also help you set a healthy sleep schedule by preventing you from working late hours.
- Get rid of distractions. If you easily get distracted by web surfing or video games, use special distraction blockers on your computer. If your distractions are household to-dos, try pomodoro technique with a real timer or a software analog. Anyway, be mindful about how you are spending your workday, and don’t abuse your employer’s trust.
- Create a to-do list and put it in a place where you can see it regularly throughout your workday. You can also try special to-do list apps on your mobile device or computer.
- Track your time. It’s much easier to focus on your work and try to get it done faster when you are aware of your time expenses. For that purpose, try adopting special tools that summarize your daily, weekly, monthly etc. results and show them in a graphic chart.
- Communicate proactively. Remember that sometimes even the fact of telecommuting can make your coworkers wonder what you’re doing throughout your workday. Let them (and your boss) know what you are working on, share your results and concerns, and ask for feedback.
- Be accessible in your work hours. Don’t let calls or messages unanswered. First, this will help you let your colleagues know that you’re working as hard as if you were in the office. Then, it prevents your coworkers from trying to access you outside your working hours.
- Explain your friends and family that you are not available for any additional chores, household to-dos or long talks during your working hours. Be clear with them that it is not okay to interrupt you when you’re at work.
- Stick to healthy habits. Don’t overwork, follow your schedule, take breaks to exercise (it’s much easier at home than at the office), don’t eat throughout the day more than at the office, and opt for healthy snacks.
Being productive while working from home is challenging. There are quite a few reasons why, including constant distractions, no external control, and seemingly valid excuses for not work-related activities.
Follow some simple rules, and you will build up healthy habits and develop a mindful approach to your work and rest. This will improve your work-life balance, make your lifestyle healthier, and help you be more successful at your job.