It is not a new notion that employers will allow their staff to work from their homes. In the last ten years, advances in the internet and digital communication in general have paved the way for this freedom. However, there remains an impression by most employers that employees that work remotely take advantage. That is, they sleep in and tend to neglect their work. While there are some progressives that see beyond those snags and understand remote workers to be as effective, if not more than they are intended to be, certain habits remain that speak to the contrary. Here are some tips to work from home, like a boss.
Not enough hours in the day? Add one.
Most of us are expected to “punch in” at a prescribed time. But, just because your work day begins at 9am doesn’t mean your alarm should be set for 8:55. The ability to work remotely is a privilege that grants you a unique opportunity to actually add productive time to your day. This is especially true for those of us avoiding longer commutes. Take into account the actual travel time it takes to get to your office building, door to door. The single greatest perk of working remotely is taking back that empty time.
To really leverage the time you save by subtracting a commute, follow your normal schedule (6:15 alarm, snooze, 6:30 alarm, coffee, shower, breakfast, pants), whatever it may be. Let’s say your typical commute is one hour, when the time comes to begin the hour-long schlep to the office you are not only ready for your day, but effectively have a full hour to fill before your typical workday begins.
This extra time is as useful as you allow it to be. Get a jump start on the day’s work (which your employer should love), or work in some better lifestyle habits. That is, go for a jog or walk, get to that morning yoga class, stimulate your creativity with a personal passion project, meditate, and so on. Do not underestimate the benefits of the latter. We can all use an extra hour in our day to dedicate to personal goals. Not only will positive use of your morning energize your approach to the workday, it will help you maintain healthy habits that manage stress more effectively. You could of course spent your hour eating fruit loops on the couch watching Al Roker dirty dancing with Ryan Gosling on The Today Show, but if you have read up until this point, I’m guessing you are more motivated than that.
Business casual. Shoes optional.
One of the most misused habits of working from home is not actually dressing and grooming for work. There is an immediate connection between the way we dress and how we feel. By dressing for a productive day we are more inclined to focus. It is too easy to roll right out of bed in our pajamas and onto a laptop. Don’t. This hinders our performance in a number of ways. First, we tend to remain lethargic if we dress for sleep. It is a cue to our brain to prepare for rest. What rest? Second, it will affect your mood later in the day. Spending a whole day in the same clothes that you slept in is depressing, period. Third, if you need to (and I encourage you to) go outside at some point in the day, you’ll find yourself unprepared to.
There is no worse feeling than realizing it is 5pm and you are still in your pajamas and never brushed your teeth.
Get ready, shower, brush your pearly whites, and put on a clean outfit. Stay away from sweatpants, and go for jeans or pants instead. Be comfortable, yet presentable, as if you already anticipate meeting a friend or colleague for lunch at that trendy cafe you like (even if you aren’t). While it is okay to be comfortable, the goal is to remain attentive, confident, and energized. None of which actually require shoes… you hippie.
This is also true of our dedicated workspace (hint: have a dedicated workspace). Sit upright at a desk or table rather than reclined in a couch or chair, and away from distraction. Your space should grant you the space and amenities you require to get through your to-do list without much hassle. Good natural light, cool airflow, and a clutter free space is the goal.
Get out. At least once.
I mean it, leave. One of the drawbacks to working remotely is an increased sense of needing to check in. In the office, the very act of being physically present allows us to feel accounted for. This is not true at home, well, the feeling at least.
If a tree falls into an inbox, and no one replies, was it received?
The incessant urge to reply to everyone in real time and chime in where we normally might not is our way of making our presence known in our physical absence. Face it, no matter where you are working from, the demands of the job remain the same. In the office, people can see if you are busy, putting out fires, on an important call, out to lunch, etc. The feeling that you must “prove” you are actually connected and attentive while out of the office is really a hurdle in company culture. It is the same feeling that can keep us glued to the computer screen, non-stop, from dawn til dusk, and that is not as productive as it sounds.
Despite being incredibly unhealthy, remaining seated and glued to a screen for an entire workday leads to some serious burnout. For the creative professional external stimuli hold the potential to inspire. Ideas that formulate in our sub-conscience may surface when we are occupied by other things. Remember that time you had an awesome idea for an invention when you were in the shower?… yea, something like that.
In short, wake up with time to spare, change out of your sleepwear, and see the light of day (at least once). You will be surprised at how much more energy these habits will bring.