15 Tips to Effectively Work from Home
These days, with modern technology, many jobs can be done from home, from a remote work site, or even from a coffee shop with an internet connection. Business owners working from their homes, employees work remotely - either part time or full time, people using VA's to help run their businesses, freelancers using a laptop to work while they travel - work no longer has to be confined to the "office" and so many jobs can be done anywhere there is an internet connection.
We actually have two HQ's at Little Bird Online Marketing - my home office in Logan, and Courtney's home office on the Sunny Coast. We work from home, from shared workspaces, from coffee shops, sometimes from the park while our toddlers run around the playground. We love the flexibility and freedom that comes with "remote work", but we also know it can be hard - losing the structure of the 9 to 5 can throw some people off their game, while others miss the social aspect of the office.
We're working with heaps of people these days that have ditched the office for remote work, some kicking ass at it, and others still finding their way. So for those still working out how to make it work, here are our top 15 tips to effectively work from home.
#1. SET UP A DEDICATED WORK SPACE
Working from home does not mean sitting on the couch, in your PJ's with the TV on all day while you plug away at your laptop. As nice as it sounds, it's not a recipe for productivity I'm afraid! So, set up a dedicated workspace for yourself - a home office, a desk in an unused corner of the room, or a set up in your garage. Anywhere that you can be comfortable, minimise distractions, and not have to clear away every time you need to eat a meal.
Make sure your space is set up with everything you need - your computer, pens, paper, a filing system, printer - whatever you need to get your work done throughout the day.
#2. GET UP, GET DRESSED
You may not be hopping on a bus or train and going to the office, but you're still going to work, so start your day right. Get up, have a shower, get dressed and be fresh and ready for a day of work. Staying in your PJ's all day is not going to get you into the right mindset to smash out your work goals.
#3. SCHEDULE YOUR DAY
When I worked in an office, the first thing I did each morning (after coffee of course), was write out my to-do list for the day: the meetings I had, the things I needed to achieve that day, and projects I needed to work on.
Now that I work from home, I still have all of those things to do - meetings, deadlines, projects. So, I still have the same ritual of mapping out my day. I know I get more done if I have a plan in place and know what I need to get done each day. Whether you do this on paper, use your online calendar or an app like Todoist, take some time each day or week to map out what you need to get done and put a schedule in place.
#4. HAVE A TO-DON'T LIST
While I do love a good to-do list, a to-don't list can be just as helpful. While I'm writing this, I can't help but think of the dishwasher that needs to be stacked, the dinner I need to make tonight or the bills I need to pay. When you're working from home, it can be really easy to get sucked into all of the home things that need to be done. But if you were at the office, they would only get done later, and you need to treat it the same way when you're working from home or remotely.
So, every time you think of something that is a distraction from your work, write it down on your to-don't list and save it for later. At least you then won't forget you need to do it, but you also won't drop what you're doing to take care of it.
#5. EAT THE FROG
And no, I'm not being literal. This is a great way of saying you should start your day with the thing you most want to avoid doing. Maybe its a phone call, or a report your need to write. Maybe its a client email you need to send, or bills you have to pay. If you sit on it all day, putting off doing it, you just land up thinking about it all of the time, and that's not helping anyone's productivity. So, get it done - eat your frog! (By the way - this isn't just a great tip for people working from home, it's an all-rounder!)
#6. REDUCE DISTRACTIONS
I've set up my home office in our downstairs spare room - that way I'm not near the TV or the fridge. My two biggest distractions when I'm working from home. It's really easy to get sucked into time-wasters when you're at home - hello Netflix - so if you can, try to minimise the number of distractions around you.
#7. STAY VISIBLE
If you work with a team, staying in contact with them during the day can help give you that office environment feel. You can let them know what you're doing, what tasks you've completed, ask questions on things you're stuck on, and let them know you're around if they need help. Courtney and I are big fans of Google chat, and we chat each other throughout the day, as well as have regular video calls.
#8. EMBRACE THE "DO NOT DISTURB"
On the flip side, if team chats are distracting you, or you have a piece of work you really need to concentrate on, don't be afraid to say "yo, peeps, going to be offline for a while", and set your chat to "Do no disturb". It is ok to be unavailable for a while.
#9. GROUP MEETINGS AND APPOINTMENTS
If you have meetings or appointments at your home office, have to video conference into meetings or drive out to see clients at their offices, try to schedule these close together. That way you can have a chunk of time dedicated to your meetings, and a chunk of time free to get stuck into actual work. If your meetings are spread out throughout the day, you may find the time between them all isn't enough to get anything productive done.
#10. EMBRACE VIDEO CALLS
Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype - they're all fantastic tools you can use to be more productive working remotely. You can still call into that meeting from your local coffee shop, or chat with a teammate over video about a project you're working on. Maybe consider investing in a decent pair of headphones if you're going to be doing this frequently.
#11. TAKE REGULAR BREAKS
When you're working from home it can be easier than normal to stay at your desk for longer than is recommended. So try to take regular breaks away from your desk - get up for a quick walk around your yard, make a cup of coffee, or move work spots.
Also make sure to schedule in some social interaction - it can feel really lonely at times working from your home, so try to set up a few lunch or coffee dates, maybe go to a midday yoga class, or have a chat to another mum at school pick up. Feeling lonely and isolated can quickly lead to burn out, so try put a plan in place to combat this aspect of remote work.
#12. CHANGE IT UP A BIT
Feeling sluggish at your desk? Bored of the same view all day? Isn't the ability to change that part of the beauty of working remotely? You don't need to be chained to your desk all day, so grab that laptop and head out - work from a park, grab a coffee and send some emails while you drink it, or work from a co-working office for the day. A change of scenery can do wonders for your productivity.
#13. USE YOUR PEAK HOURS EFFECTIVELY
Are you more focused first thing in the morning? Or maybe you're more alert after lunch and a few coffees? Whenever your peak periods of productivity hit, make sure you're using that time for your most important tasks of the day. Then leave the less important stuff for times in the day when you may feel mentally fatigued.
#14. DETERMINE THE END OF YOUR WORKDAY
My workday ends at 4.30pm when I go to pick up my son from daycare (but who am I kidding - I own my own business, I'm always working!). Once I pick the kid up, we head home to play with the dog, have dinner and read stories before bed. So once 4.30pm hits, its laptop off, office door closed, and I focus on these things instead.
It's really easy to just "send one more email" or keep working until the task is done when you're working from home, and you can quickly land up doing a lot more hours than you would if you worked in an office. So, determine in advance when your workday ends, and include it in your daily schedule.
#15. HAVE A SHUTDOWN RITUAL
When you work from an office, you usually have the commute home as a time to wind down from the day, reset your mind and get ready for "home life". But what about when home life is work life and they all start to merge? That's where a shutdown ritual can help.
Do something that helps you decompress from your workday and transition into the evening - whether its writing up what you achieved for the day, making your schedule for the next day or even tidying your desk, it's something that signals to your brain that your work day has ended and you can then focus on family, dinner, friends or whatever plans you have for that evening.
Working remotely is a fantastic way to achieve more work-life balance, but it can be very easy to swing in either direction. You switch on the TV and next thing you know you're 6 episodes into a Netflix binge. Or you start a task and 3 hours later you've missed lunch and haven't left your desk at all. But, hopefully with some of these tips and tricks, you can establish a work routine or environment that allows you to be both productive and have work-life balance.
And if you have any other tips you use to be more productive when working from home, please share them on our Facebook page! I just wrote this through my lunch break, so even I could do with a few new tips and tricks to try!