With the holiday weekend upon us, most of us are looking forward to three full days away from the office, but for many of the estimated nine million people in the U.S. who work remotely, “unplugging” can be more of a challenge.
I’m one of those nine million people. In fact our whole team is, so I wanted to share these six tips for being a productive telecommuter while preserving your sense of home and hearth.
- Claim your space – While people often picture remote workers sitting on a beach or parked at their local Starbucks, those usually aren’t the most productive environments. Setting up shop in your bedroom or at your dining room table aren’t great choices either. Talk about wreaking havoc with your work/life balance!
Your work space should be a dedicated area that’s quiet and comfortable and separate from your living space. Not only will that help make the transition between your professional and personal worlds much easier, you might even be able to take a home office deduction on your taxes.
- Get dressed – Being able to roll out of bed and head right to your desk may seem like one of the biggest advantages to working at home, but the truth is most successful remote workers actually shower and dress each morning. Doing so will put you in the “work” mindset and will also help delineate working hours from personal time. Besides, the UPS driver really does not need to see you in your pjs.
- Structure your workday – Setting specific work hours will clearly define your workday. If you’re committed to being at your desk at 8 am, you’ll avoid wasting half the workday with distractions like laundry. Having an established time to end your day will help prevent your workday from bleeding into evenings and weekends.
Having a consistent start-of-day routine, whether it’s checking your email or prioritizing your tasks for the day, will help you to quickly get into “work mode.” Likewise, an end-of-day routine is important for transitioning from work to home. Straightening up your desk, reviewing the following day’s schedule and shutting down your computer will help mark the division between workday and personal time.
Schedule regular breaks, just as you would if you were in a traditional office environment. Chances are, if you were in the office, you’d be going out for lunch or getting up to visit the watercooler and chat with colleagues. Without distractions, remote workers often find themselves working for hours without taking a break at all, which is bad for productivity and your health.
- Set boundaries with family and friends – Every telecommuter I know has had a neighbor ask them to babysit or a family member drop in to visit “since (they) were home.” While you recognize that you’re at work, others think that your car parked in your driveway is a sign that you’re available, so it’s up to you to establish clear boundaries. A simple explanation that you’re unavailable during regular work hours should do the trick, but you may have to resort to stronger tactics.
I no longer answer my cell phone during work hours, which has helped immensely, although my daughter is now threatening to remove me as her emergency contact since I no longer answer her calls. (Previously, the biggest emergency was of the fashion variety.)
Speaking of family, it’s important to arrange for adequate child care. While working from home might give you some flexibility that will enable you to work around your kid’s schedule, you’re certain to need some type of childcare assistance. Focusing on important documents or participating in a video conference aren’t easily accomplished with little ones vying for your attention.
- Make communication a priority – Whether you’re part of a large company or a small team, it’s important to remain in contact with your colleagues.
Attending mandatory meetings is a given, but don’t forget to occasionally attend the optional meetings as well, even if it’s via video. You can’t expect to have a voice in what’s going on if you’re not available to contribute.
Your colleagues should be kept apprised of what you’re working on, especially if it impacts their work. Make it a priority to stay informed about what’s on everyone else’s plate. Reach out at every opportunity to foster those your working relationships.
And don’t forget the small talk. Take the time to chat about pets, kids, hobbies, or the latest movie you saw. Bonding with your teammates creates a sense of loyalty and keeps a team working together more effectively.
- Equip yourself with the right tools – Yes, you need the basics like a comfortable chair, a computer and a phone, but to be productive you’ll also need to consider if there’s specific software, network access, or other resources that you’ll require.
Skype, Slack, Google Hangouts, and Basecamp are just some of the tools that my team and I constantly use to communicate and organize our work.
For the right person, working remotely certainly has its benefits, but also challenges. The trick is to set yourself up for success by establishing an effective system. Once you have that in place, you may find that you’re actually more productive than you were in the office and that your work/life balance has improved.
Have a safe and happy holiday – and for those of you working from home, try to unplug and enjoy some downtime!
Director, Web and Online Marketing Services
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555