POSTED BY: Katie Ittenbach | February 3, 2023
Working from home may feel like a modern concept, especially since pandemic guidelines challenged many offices and workplaces to suddenly make significant shifts to work from home or face closures. But people have worked from home for hundreds of thousands of years, the earliest being hunter-gathers who combined work with living space to prepare meat, grind grains, and make clothing. In medieval times, craft and trade shops like bakers, potters, and blacksmiths conducted business from their homes. It wasn’t until the industrial revolution that many workers began to leave their homes to work in factories and offices. But today, technological developments during the 1940s have made it possible for many workers to return to home-based work.
Some perceive home-based work as a perk, while others struggle to combine their working space with their personal living space. Challenges with home-based work are often distractions, boundaries, communication, and accountability. However, small changes in the physical workspace, routines, and mindset can help you achieve a productive work life and enjoy a personal life.
Have a Dedicated Workspace
You don’t need to create an executive office, but you do need to separate work from play. Set aside some physical space that’s comfortable, free from distractions, and where you’re most likely to be alert and feel confident. A small desk in a quiet corner, or a dedicated table or counter space, will help you be more productive than sitting on the bed or couch with your laptop. Keep the mindset that your workspace is for working, while your bed is for sleeping, and your couch is for relaxing.
Explain to your friends, family, spouse, and other household members the importance of how your workspace and work hours impact your ability to focus on work. Create a schedule with short breaks for individual attention with children and pets. Set boundaries with digital devices used for social media, gaming, entertainment, and TV shows by turning off devices or setting time restrictions. Also, dedicate household chore time either before or after work.
Bring Good Workplace Habits into Your Home Office
Structure your remote workday as if you were going into an office or workplace. This means setting a routine for getting up and dressed to help your mind and body prepare for work. Start and stop your workday at set times, create a schedule to manage your time well, plan and prioritize your workflow, be punctual with meetings and project timelines, and take breaks and lunches.
Be Aware of Communication and Company Culture Challenges
Communication is more challenging when you can’t see body language or stop by a co-worker’s desk with a quick question. Be proactive and use video conversations or internal messaging to get the needed information. But keep them short and to the point. Office culture is a challenge when there’s no office. To avoid feeling lonely or isolated, participate in virtual gatherings and activities to help create bonds among co-workers and promote your visibility within the company.
Do What Productive Remote Workers Do
Here are a few suggestions, but also look at productive workers that you know and observe, or even ask them what they do to stay at the top of their game.
- Practice good meeting etiquette: Arrive on time, turn on the video, pay attention, participate, and avoid distractions such as devices and other work.
- Make yourself visible: Take action by responding quickly to questions, check in with managers and co-workers, let others know what you’re working on, ask for feedback, and share your work.
- Connect with co-workers: Take a few minutes to share personal chats before rushing into work topics. Try to get some face-to-face time by using more video and less phone and messaging.
- Hold yourself accountable: Keep focused, set realistic goals, block your calendar, make task lists, then check off items as you go, and socialize important completed tasks with co-workers.
- Maintain good health: Schedule walks/exercise time, get up from your workspace every 60 minutes, go outside for a few minutes every day, eat and drink well, or meditate or do deep breathing.
- Create comfort and atmosphere: This may be workspace location, when you start/stop working, what you wear, what you eat or drink, and if you listen to music or simply silence.
Always keep in mind that home-based work is not new. The key is to learn what makes other home-based workers productive and then experiment until you find what’s right for you.