As more companies honour a healthy work/life balance, and the gig-economy grows, it’s important to understand the ins and outs of working from home. In under three years, I’ve somewhat mastered working from home and it’s only fair I share what I’ve learnt. If you’re a seasoned pro or newbie, it’s possible that I’ve discovered something you haven’t as I’m sure you’ve done the same.
In my experience, the pros of working from home outweigh any cons.
The level of autonomy attached to working from home is an achievement in itself. Sure, you may earn less at the beginning. But that’s a minor trade-off when you are removing the worst parts of a 9-5 office job: long commutes, meetings with no agenda, endless office emails, etc.
Once you learn to overcome distraction and get into the rhythm of working from home you’ll be happier (believe me!), have more time to spend with loved ones, choose your own weekends and more.
1. Wake up at the same time every day
Now that I’m waking at the same time I’m sleeping better, and focusing longer. My internal sleep clock knows how much time it has to get all it’s resetting done and I wake up feeling fresh.
This also goes the other way for heading to bed at a reasonable time. I’m lucky because many of my clients are in New Zealand. The time zones are almost opposite, so they’re asleep when I’m working for them. We only have the occasional phone call. Because of this deadlines aren’t much of a thing for me, they’ll usually set my work and wake up to it done.
2. Build a worthy workspace
When you’re working, the environment around you plays a big part on the quality and quantity of work you’re producing. We notice this not only with the obvious setbacks–bad internet connection, slow machines, not having the right tools–but with the ambient influences too; room too cold or hot, audio distractions, and more.
Pick the room (or table, depending on your setup) and make that your base. Create boundaries that separate paid hours from housework and remove distractions. Choosing where you work means a space with no tv, no housework (in sight) and a room separate from where you sleep. Mixing work and sleep can impact work performance, and can disrupt your sleep in the long term. It’s best to keep work and sleep separate—no matter how lovely it is working from bed.
It’s music that I need to keep me going. Some jazz on vinyl would be best but Spotify does the trick. When it’s serious work time I’ll put on some headphones too but generally, I’m casting to my PlayStation which is hooked up to good speakers.
3. Find your routine
I like to get emails out of the way before I go and shower. I’ll prepare a good pot of fresh coffee (french press is my go to, otherwise it’s the Nespresso machine) and take a seat in the living room at the dining table. I’ll open the window no matter how cold it is outside because the fresh air gets me going. And if it’s sunny that particular morning I’ll let daylight pour into the room to remind me I should get up earlier tomorrow.
When the morning’s emails are out of the way I’ll go shower, get dressed and have a big breakfast. I eat a big breakfast because I forget to eat when I’m in the zone, and if I’m home alone this means I’ll go until about 2 or 3 in the afternoon only drinking water because I’m too busy to eat—not good!
I recommend some snacks or something you can eat while you work but also make sure you stop at routine intervals for meals like lunch or you may fall into a mindless eating trap and gain lots of weight.
4. Master the telecommute
Working from home also sometimes working from a phone. Your personal phone can become your work phone, and be having them one in the same is a sure way to blur the lines between when you’re working or playing.
When you’re heading to the grocery store or visiting the dentist mid-day (as you can when you work from home) and a client sends you an email it’ll come to your phone, depending on how you’ve set it up.
If a work email comes in when I’m not working I scan through it, or not open it and I’ll delay it until the morning. Google Inbox’s snooze feature makes this super easy. I’ll snooze the emails until the next morning (or later that day), then, at 8 am all work emails arrive at once and I can spend 15–20 minutes sorting them and making the day’s to-do list from what I’ve read.
If I’m taking the morning off I can snooze emails for later when I’m home, or even by location. For example, when I’m back home they’ll show again as a notification.
5. Don’t neglect collaboration
With the work from home lifestyle, it’s easy to become isolated and form some lonely habits. You’ll need to flex your social muscles and keep them in their prime for client meetings and pitches depending on the kind of work you do.
Keep things social by connecting with other home-based workers you know or hot-desking in a coworking space. My favourite is visiting a local cafe and working there. Keep in mind that a flat white or two every day can be costly if you’re working from a cafe. If you’re a coffee person I recommend having filter coffee as it’s about half the price usually and some cafes allow free refills.