You suddenly find yourself working from home for an undetermined length of time.
Maybe it’s something you’ve thought about doing but never expected it to become a reality. And – suddenly, it is your life!
You may be thrilled and excited – or you may be wondering exactly how to make it work and to continue to produce at your highest level.
Working from home has been my way of life for years and there are five things that I found crucial for success. It is different from being in an office (a controlled working environment), and adjustments must be made.
If you implement the following five suggestions – from the beginning and be consistent in using them, you will be successful.
1. Establish a Designated Workspace
Ideally, this would be a separate room designated as your office only, with a door that can be closed when you are working.
If a separate room is not possible, the next best choice is a corner of a room with a door that is used for other things but can be closed during your scheduled working hours.
If neither of those is possible, be creative! A large closet can be transformed into a very efficient workspace. One with doors that can be closed to keep your work untouched when you are not around is perfect.
Find the best place possible in your home, make it as private as you can, and enlist the support of your family to keep it untouchable – because it is where you “go to work” each day.
2. Create a Schedule and Follow It.
This can often be the biggest challenge for first-timers working at home. The easiest schedule to follow is your regular work schedule – if your office hours have always been 8 to 5 with a half-hour for lunch, start there. After a few weeks, you can adjust it to fit your situation. If you can work more effectively in the wee hours of the morning, or late at night, go for it. But, whatever schedule you set, stick with it. Consistency is critical.
Get Up and Go to Work
When you are working at home, you must keep regular working hours. You get up and go to work every day whether you want to or not. Plan exactly how you will use the time and stick to the schedule. You need a starting time, breaks, lunch, and a quitting time – follow it as closely as possible every day.
Take a 15-minute break every morning and afternoon. Don’t forget to stand up and stretch, do some deep knee bends, and walk the perimeter of the room a couple of times – then, back to work.
Set a time limit for breaks and lunch and stay within the limit. If you don’t, a 15-minute break can turn into an hour and a 30-minute lunch can turn into the whole afternoon.
You do not have to get up and shower, shave or put on make-up, but I recommend that you do those things anyway to keep you in a working frame of mind,
A big plus is that you have extra hours in the day because you no longer have to commute.
Being a virtual employee is still a real job! Do your job every day – follow your schedule, stay focused, and get the job done! The key to productivity is discipline.
3. Manage Distractions
No TV in the background, surfing the Internet, and checking/posting on social media.
With no one is looking over your shoulder, you must deal with the temptation to “watch just one program on TV” or have that second (or third) cup of coffee before you sit down to work.
If you have a family, you have the possibility of frequent interruptions, noise, and unexpected distractions. Enlist your family’s support by asking them to agree to respect your schedule and understand that during working hours you are unavailable.
The more disciplined and consistent you are, the more your family will accept that you are working – just as you always have. They will eventually realize the only difference is that you are doing it at home.
Just because management is out of sight – they should not be out of mind. You do not have free rein to do whatever you feel like doing throughout the day just because you are at home.
It is a good idea at the end of each day to make a list of things you need to accomplish the next day, which helps you to stay on track – preventing the temptation to flit from one thing to another, randomly doing whatever comes to mind. Disorganization results in low productivity and potential failure in the long-run.
A plan for how you will use your working hours can be as simple as dividing your day into blocks of time and assigning a category of work to each chunk of time. Google Calendar is a useful tool for planning and includes daily reminders of what you should be doing at certain times of the day.
A solid work ethic, self-discipline and the ability to stay focused (on-point) are three key characteristics that you will find in all successful self-employed or virtual employees. If those characteristics are already part of your make-up, you are WAY ahead of the game. If not, the faster you develop them, the faster you will realize the success you are seeking.
4. Enlist Your Family’s Support
Your family may not understand at first that nothing has changed about the work you do, except the location in which you are doing it. Talk to them about the change and what it will mean for them.
Post a schedule of your work hours on the door, or a wall near your desk and ask them to honor the time you are “at work.” There should be no interruptions except in cases of life and death emergencies.
A “do not disturb” sign on the door can be very effective. You should also make it clear that when the sign is on the doorknob, the only acceptable form of communication is texting, to which you will not reply unless it is an emergency.
One of the problems that can develop from your being at home all day is that you should be available and willing to play with them, talk to them, or help them with something anytime they ask.
These problematic infringements on your time are easier to combat when you are clear about the situation, and you have a work schedule in place that you follow religiously.
There should be no question in their minds (or yours) about what you are doing. It is important to have clear rules about when you are available and when you are not.
5. Be Disciplined and Consistent
You may be thinking, “Working from home will be a piece of cake, no worries,” and brush off the suggestions I have given you.
Mastering unexpected change in a daily long-term routine requires self-discipline together with consistent and focused effort. You must be willing to invest the necessary time and effort for as long as it takes, without relenting, until you have developed a new rhythm and flow to the way you do your work in this new environment.
Developing this kind of disciplined consistency as a virtual employee is usually most difficult in the beginning. You will never be as productive in your new working environment as you were in the office if you are not willing and able to put forth consistent and focused effort over time.
Good luck and enjoy the ride. Working virtually can be a rich and rewarding experience if you choose to take the necessary steps that will make it so.