Working from home is the ultimate goal for many people today. From stay-at-home parents to travelers to students, working from anywhere with a strong wifi connection can create work-life balance unknown to previous generations. With the amazing technology we have at our fingertips, it probably won’t surprise you that many business are hiring web based freelancers or full-time remote workers in favor of the traditional nine-to-fivers.
While ditching your commute may sound like a dream, working remotely isn’t always easy. For those used to a traditional office space, finding a place in your home suitable for working long hours can be uncomfortable. You may encounter more distractions from family or friends, and not being around any co-workers in person can get lonely. Don’t fret though, with a little discipline and the right setup, working from home can be so rewarding. Here are some tips I’ve learned to keep myself happy and productive while clocked in at home.
- Create your workspace
First things first - creating a functional workspace where you are comfortable is essential. When you first switch to working remotely, you may be tempted to use your laptop in bed or slouch over your dining table with paperwork. That’s bad for your body and your work. Investing in the right desk for your home office will boost your productivity and keep you feeling good.
Many employers care about their employee’s well-being, even if you’re not face-to-face every day, and are open to purchasing standing desks or other ergonomic products for their employees. The overhead costs they are saving from you working remotely likely outweigh the costs of a proper desk set up for your home office, and will increase your productivity and output. Convincing your boss you need a desk upgrade could change the way you work for the better.
Don’t leave out other important accessories like a personal filing cabinet to keep your work organized or additional monitors and monitor arms for an ergo-friendly workspace. Make sure you have all the tools you need to do your job effectively. If you’re short on space, check out our article on products and DIY workstation solutions for tiny spaces.
- Get dressed and take regular breaks
While no one will care if I stay in my bathrobe all day, actually getting dressed and looking somewhat presentable before clocking in puts me in “work mode”. I also tend to mull around the house when I’m hungry or bored, so taking regular breaks and having lunch prepared ahead of time keeps my productivity level where it needs to be.
I recommend setting a wake-up alarm for the same time every morning and creating reminders for breaks and lunch, just like you would for an office job. Similarly, use your calendar to schedule in conference calls or meetings, and block out specific hours of your day for individual projects. Keeping your work structured will get you into the swing of being in charge of your own schedule and getting the most out of your time.
- Stay connected
Just because you may be working miles away from your co-workers doesn’t mean you can’t chat it up at the virtual water cooler! There are a whole host of online tools you can use to stay connected. I use the chat system Slack for staying in constant contact with my work buddies and to receive daily updates - they have a mobile app, desktop app, and website - so you can literally be connected at all times if you want to. Skype and Uberconference are useful for conference and video calls when required, and when I need to access files or share what I’m working on, Google Drive has everything I need stored in the cloud to be accessed at any time.
- Don’t become a recluse
I live alone and sometimes, during a busy week, an entire day or two will go by without me talking to an actual person! It’s really important to incorporate social activities and outdoor time into your weekdays so you don’t get cabin fever. I found a donation based yoga class close by and starting jogging outdoors instead of at the gym to counteract all of the computer time. If going out to lunch is something you’d normally do while working from a traditional office, lunching at your favorite local spot once or twice a week will be a welcome change from eating at your desk. Even better, meet up with other remote workers in your area!
Plus, working remotely doesn’t necessarily equate to working from home. If you live with roommates or just want a hybrid work experience and time out of the house, check out local coworking spaces or coffee shops.
- Be productive
For those of us that sometimes lack discipline (*points at self*), we need daily motivation, reminders, and to-do lists to keep us on track. Lucky for us there are some awesome apps to whip us into shape! Here are a few of my favorites:
Asana - Collaborate with co-workers, manage projects and set reminders.
Wunderlist - The most visually pleasing list making app.
Google Calendar - Schedule meetings, calls and share your calendar with co-workers.
Noisli - Listen to ambient sounds to stay focused.
For more useful productivity tips: How to Build the Perfect Freelancer Toolkit
- Know when to unplug
While working remotely has its obvious benefits, staying in constant contact with your job can be very draining. Even though you’re not in an office, creating your own “office hours” and setting boundaries will help you to establish balance in your working world and in your personal life.
Most communication apps can be silenced of snoozed within in a certain time frame and I highly recommend taking advantage of that. Working from home can go from super fun to super tiring in no time. Be aware of how many hours you spend in front of a screen and try not to overdo it.
- Enjoy your flexibility!
There are so many ways to take advantage of remote work. I recently found that all of the public parks in my city have free wifi, so I’ve been working a few hours a week outdoors. A friend of mine saves thousands of dollars a month on child care costs by staying home with her children while working. Some remote workers become digital nomads, traveling the world one wifi hotspot at a time. Armed with your laptop and an internet connection, the possibilities are limitless!