In 2017, IT provider Softchoice surveyed 1,000 full-time North American office workers who use a computer or mobile device during the majority of the workday. Nearly 75% of respondents said they would quit their jobs to work for a company that would allow them to work from home, even if their salary stayed the same. When it comes to a work perk, working from home is number one on many employees’ wish lists.
If you work from home, you’re well aware that while the arrangement has many benefits, it also has drawbacks. At-home workers struggle with distractions that keep them from focusing on work and with unintentionally becoming workaholics because they’re always more or less “in the office.” Working from home can also be boring and uninspiring. The key to making the most of this coveted work arrangement is to learn how to work from home effectively. The first step is to create a schedule.
Make A Schedule and Stick to It
It may seem counterintuitive, but following a schedule when you’re working from home is more important than it is when you’re working at an office. Why? The only person to hold you accountable is you! The good news is that since you work from home, you don’t necessarily need to stick to a traditional schedule. You don’t have to worry about your commute. You don’t have to worry about what your coworkers think of your timetable. And you don’t have to worry about packing your lunch. Make a schedule, but one that works best with your internal clock and your non-work responsibilities.
Here are four non-negotiable items to include on your work at home schedule.
1. Schedule when your office opens and when it closes.
Just as offices have office hours, your home office needs opening and closing times. Just as employees in offices sometimes have to come in early or stay late, you obviously have that ability too. The keyword to focus on is sometimes. One of the keys to a successful work-at-home arrangement is to set physical and mental boundaries between “work time” and “home time.” If you’re not careful, your work-at-home arrangement can turn you into a workaholic.
2. Schedule lunch.
Most office workers look forward to lunch because it provides a welcome break from the monotony of work. Even if you had a huge breakfast and aren’t hungry, take your scheduled lunch break. The lunch hour is not just about eating. It’s about clearing your mind and enjoying a change of scenery so you can return to work focused and refreshed. There are plenty of studies, including this one conducted by Tork, concluding that mid-day breaks increase employee productivity, creativity, and feelings of wellbeing.
3. Schedule meetings regularly.
In your home office, you can’t stroll over to a co-worker’s cubicle to discuss a project. While you may be tempted to quickly communicate with co-workers, vendors, or customers via e-mail, try to schedule meetings regularly instead. If you are close, you can go into the office or meet at a coffee house or restaurant. There’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction, but if it’s not an option, you can also schedule phone or video conference meetings. When you work from home, you have to make an effort to schedule these meetings to ensure that you’re touching base and checking in regularly.
4. Schedule physical activity.
Whether you work out at a gym, do sit-ups and pushups in your living room, or take your dog for a walk around the neighborhood, schedule in some exercise. Even short 10- or 20-minute activity breaks to during the workday will benefit your physical health, and do wonders for your mental wellbeing and productivity.
Other Successful Ways to Work from Home
In addition to making and sticking to a work schedule, there are other steps you can take to make your work-at-home arrangement successful.
Change out of your pajamas.
While those who don’t work from home have glorified visions of at-home workers lounging the day away in their pajamas, that falls under “what not to do” category. Research published in Human Resources Development Quarterly notes that employees who dress in business attire feel more authoritative and competent. Additionally, if you dress for work you’re setting a distinction between work time and personal time.
Define your work and living spaces.
Speaking of distinction, create a clear one between your living areas and your work area. This way you’ll feel a true sense that you’re going to work, and you’ll be able to shut the door and leave work behind, even if you’re only 20 feet away from the office.
For many people, working from home is the ultimate dream job. If you do it right and set clear physical and scheduling boundaries, it does provide the best of both worlds: flexibility and a paycheck!