5 Tips to Make Working from Home Successful
By now you’ve probably seen the viral video that made Marion Kelly, 4, the poster girl for working from home gone (adorably) awry. A boisterous Kelly gleefully bounced into her father’s home office in South Korea while he was being interviewed by BBC on live television. A secondary star of the interview? Her little brother James who rolled into the frame in his walker, quickly followed by their flustered, horrified mother who scooped them up and retreated.
Over the past decade, flexible work arrangements have become increasingly common. Employees are no longer expected in the office Monday through Friday without question. The prevalence of widely accessible Wi-Fi, video conferencing, and web-based work-sharing tools make working remotely relatively painless. But if you ask anyone who has worked from home with some degree of regularity, they will each have their own Marion Kelly story for you—an interrupting child, a home repair disaster, Wi-Fi disruptions. Life happens.
To make working from home as seamless as possible, there are steps you can take to optimize your remote work set up.
Map Out a Dedicated Work Space
If you have a home office, great. Use it. If you don’t have a home office, it might be tempting to plop down on your couch and work from there. Think again. Set yourself up in a more structured environment, like a dining or kitchen table. Equip yourself with all of the tools necessary to do your job—notepads, pens, good lighting, phone, chargers—so you don’t have to go looking for things every few minutes. If you work from home with some regularity, consider keeping your “mobile office” in a tote bag so you can set up your workspace quickly and efficiently.
Save Your Jammies for Bedtime
Many people fantasize about working in their pajamas, but experts recommend getting showered and dressed for work, even if going to work involves going from one room in your house to another. Doing so adds structure to your day and you’ll be prepared if you need to jump on an unexpected video conference.
Keep Regular Work Hours and Take Breaks
Often people who work from home say they are always working. Be sure you keep regular hours and “leave” work when the day is done. Additionally, be sure you take breaks throughout the work day. For those who work in a traditional office setting, breaks happen naturally when they get up from their desks to get food or drinks, ask a colleague a question, or stop and chat on their way to the restroom. Breaks help you reenergize and refocus you when you return.
Pick up the Phone (or Skype)
While most business can be conducted via email, there is something about face-to-face interactions (or at least having a conversation) that humanizes work. It can help to alleviate tensions, resolve misunderstandings and cut down on back and forth emails. And sometimes it’s just plain old nice to see or hear your colleagues.
Lock the Door
This may literally mean locking the door to your office when you have an important deadline, video call or meeting to keep people from interrupting you. For others it may mean making sure children, pets, and others are out of the house when these calls may happen. If you are a parent of small children and you work from home, you may consider sending your kids to daycare or out to a park or playground with a nanny or babysitter for a few hours during the day. If kids are older, make sure you explain to them that while you are physically in the house, you are at work and they have to abide by certain rules.
Even if you follow all of these suggestions, there are days when you’ll be faced with unexpected obstacles. A few days after Marion Kelly became an unwitting star during her dad’s BBC interview, my husband and I found ourselves working from home during a snowstorm. Daycare was closed and we had our two-and-a-half year old son and 3-month-old daughter at home with us. And guess who crashed my video meeting? An excitable little boy who thought his mom’s coworkers were a new audience solely for his antics.
Lauren J. Sternberg, Communications Manager, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants
Working from home courtesy of Shutterstock.