Tips for Working from Home
Amy Bergman, President, Insight HRM LLC
Gary Bergman, Life Sciences Practice Director, Oxford Global Resources
If you find yourself suddenly working from home, instead of a traditional workplace, it may be exciting and a little bit overwhelming at first. Here are some productivity and focus tips from a couple of professionals that have been working from a home office for several years. In addition, they share a co-working home office space and absolutely love it (most of the time)!
Productivity: Surprisingly, you can be exceedingly productive working from a home office and may find that you are able to accomplish more in your workday than you normally would in the traditional office setting. Removing the distractions of ‘water-cooler chit chat’, impromptu and/or lengthy meetings and gossip will free up a great deal of time for you to in turn be extremely productive. These are the productivity tips from the Bergman’s.
Schedule – Stick to your designated work hours. Wake up at the same time as you did when working in a traditional office, shower and put on your business casual (Friday attire). Don’t dress in yoga pants, PJ’s or sweatpants. Your attire will set the mood and play an important part in your productivity for your day.
Calendar – Schedule phone or web meetings utilizing your calendar. Share your calendar with your co-workers (i.e. Google Calendar, Outlook, etc.) so that others can easily schedule meetings with you at times that people are mutually available. Schedule regular updates or touch-bases with your team and business partners. If you’re going to be away from your office (doctor apt., child care, etc.) for a couple of hours, be sure to let your coworkers know. Be responsive to calls, messages, emails and texts. Don’t let people feel like they fell in a black hole waiting to hear from you. Give them no reason to think you’re binge watching the final season of Game of Thrones!
Communication – There are a variety of web meeting tools that are easy to use, low or no cost and allow audio, screen sharing and video (optional). Amy stated “As a small business owner, my go-to resource is Zoom.us because it is the perfect solution for my size business.” However, husband Gary who works for a large, global company uses WebEx as that is more appropriate for the international and large-scope needs of his company.
Purposefully stay connected with colleagues. Communicate where you are on projects and tasks often.
When participating in web meetings and conference calls be sure to limit possible distractions such as dogs, children, spouses (ha ha!) in advance of the scheduled meeting. Also, some web/conference call etiquette includes muting your line/computer audio when you’re not speaking so that others aren’t hearing your background noises! Get a good headset for conference calls; there’s nothing worse than talking to someone on a cell phone that sounds like they’re in an underground bunker.
It’s also important to clearly communicate with your co-work partner(s) if you’re sharing home office space with another. For example, if you need uninterrupted time while in a virtual meeting or while concentrating, be sure to advise your partner in advance. If you both have conference calls at the same time, arrange in advance for who will relocate to another quiet area in the home. Something as simple as determining who will attend to the delivery at the front door when the other is on a call can go a long way to creating harmony in a shared work space!
Discipline – Have a defined structure to your work day and keep your routine similar to as if you were going to a physical work place. Get a disciplined mindset and separate “work” from “home” even though you are at home. Follow your daily task list.
Accountability– If you need to employ a measure for accountability, articulate your goals or priorities and commit to deadlines to coworkers or your manager. Ask if they need help on their priorities and help hold them accountable too.
Assimilate that you are an important part of the company, not something on the outside. That you are integral to your team, department and company. Make yourself so! Be intentional about participating in meetings remotely, via technology, to be present, involved and contributing to the success of the team. You don’t want to become out of sight, out of mind!
Focus: It requires some forethought to be focused on work when working from home. Consider these tips that are essential to maintaining your focused attention on work while in your home work space.
The Office: Establish a designated work space in a room, not at the kitchen table. If you can’t have dedicated office room, try to create a dedicated space. Carve out a nook somewhere in your home, separate from areas of other common use, even if it is a corner of a guest room or the 2nd floor hallway. We highly recommend refraining from ‘officing’ in the kitchen, bedroom or family room.
Distractions: Don’t have a TV on while you’re working. Leave the household chores, such as laundry, dishes or meal prep, for off hours. You wouldn’t do these things if working in a traditional workplace so don’t do them while working from home.
Children: Young ones need someone to watch them. You cannot focus on working with a 2-year-old running around. Consider altering your work hours or partner with spouse/partner to work in time blocks so each of you get the dedicated focus time for work while the other is tending to young children.
Physical Activity: You may find yourself so focused that you don’t stretch and walk around enough. Try to get up every hour, walk to the kitchen and fill up your water, go outside and walk around the house for 5 minutes periodically.
Eating: If you’re prone to lack self-discipline in having easy access to the kitchen, pack your lunch and snacks for the day and stick to that, just like you would if you were going to a traditional office.
Planning: Take time at the beginning of each day and the end of each day to plan out your day, review accomplishments and plan out the next day. Mentally approach it like you’re working; you’re not at home to hang out.
Overall, working from home can be very productive and rewarding as long as you make and follow a solid plan, maintain self-discipline and have the tools on hand necessary for making it work. Gary shared “I’m more productive than ever, working from a home office. However, it’s easy to work too much when your office is in your home so be sure to set your professional and personal boundaries as well. Try to leave work at the end of your ‘normal’ work day and separate work from home.”