Are you excited about working from home or panicked? That probably depends a lot on the situation. Did your boss tell you something like “The world is shutting down because of a global pandemic” or “We’ve decided to honor the many requests we’ve had to work remotely”?
Perhaps you’ve been laid off and are starting out on your own. Regardless of the situation, good for you!
Sometimes serious circumstances force us to do what we needed or wanted to do all along. Let me extend a heartfelt welcome to the ranks from a 20+-year veteran of the at-home workforce!
Now that you’re here, you may feel a bit like a hippopotamus at a tea party. What exactly do you do here? And when? How are you supposed to connect with others? And how do you stop yourself from reaching into the snack cabinet every time you pass the kitchen?
How do you deal with others in your house when you’re trying to get work done? What sort of conversation do you need to have to help them understand you have to work?
Never fear! I have advice and the answers to many of your questions below. The Comments section is open if you need help with anything I don’t cover in this post.
Struggles Faced By Almost All Who Work Remotely
I’m drawing from a wide range of research as I build this list — comments in my Facebook group and other social sites, blog posts, and my own experience over 20 years ago. Trust me when I say, if you’re new to working from home, you probably are or will experience the following:
One of the first things that fall apart is getting too casual. An ironed shirt and pants quickly transition into all-day jammies. Yes, you should be comfortable, but staying unshowered and in sweats or pajamas all day can slowly drag down your mental state. (Trust me, I know!)
What To Do:
Unless your work requires it, you don’t have to put on a suit, but you should shower and dress in clean clothes that you haven’t slept in.
Struggling To Get Work Done
No matter how hard you try, time passes, but nothing gets checked off your to-do list. Whether you find it difficult to combine work and home, there are too many interruptions, or you have to deal with spouses and kids, the bottom line is you aren’t keeping up.
What To Do:
My best advice is set a schedule. Just as if you were in a brick-and-mortar office, set a start time, lunchtime, afternoon break, and quitting time. Next, have a conversation. Publish your schedule so others in the house know when you will be available and when you are “at work.” Talk to your spouse and/or children, so they understand why it is important that you get your work done. Of course, emergencies must be handled, but respectfully request that they honor your work schedule. NOTE: Be sure to take those breaks. You need and deserve them!
If you are a single parent (or are the only adult at home right now) with small kids, try offering independent play ideas such as educational videos or building-block projects. You might also try rotating toys. Leave half your child’s toys in his/her room. Take the other half and pack them away in the attic or closet. In a couple of weeks, pull them out and swap them. This keeps toys fresh and interesting.
Find a room with a door. Having trouble concentrating? If there is another adult at home or your kids are old enough to be trusted on their own for an hour or two, move your office into a room that has a door… and close it. Let your spouse and/or kids know you’ll be working until X o’clock.
Avoid social media. Unless online social site visits are part of your job, resist the urge to scroll your Facebook timeline every 15 minutes. Leave that as something you can do during breaks, at lunch, or after work.
Turn the TV off. Working at home from the sofa while the TV is blaring is not the optimal setting for most people. If you prefer noise while you’re working, turn on a radio, Spotify, or some other source of music (softly). Audio is not nearly as distracting as video.
Stop cell phone notifications. Whether you have a new comment on your Instagram post, your dog’s birthday reminder pops up, or your best friend is texting about the deal he found on 70% alcohol, notifications on your cell phone can nibble away hours of your day.
If you find your phone getting out of control, turn your phone off during work hours (unless you use it for work) or at least silence it and put it in another room.
Use headphones. If you can’t tolerate the noise, put headphones on to buffer the sound.
Staying On Track
Do you find yourself forgetting to do things, or letting priorities slip? Setting and recording deadlines is a must when you are working remotely. They not only help you keep track, they also log the event in your brain, so you are more likely to remember it.
What To Do:
I rely on a calendar, a to-do list, and a collaboration tool.
Google Calendar — I love Google Calendar because I can access it on my computer, phone, tablet, or another device. There are several other calendar apps you can choose from, both paid and free. Pick one you like and start using it today to record appointments, due dates, deadlines, birthdays, and anything else you need to remember.
I like to set multiple reminders. For instance, if I have an email that needs to go out on a certain day/time, I’ll add it to my calendar, then set reminders for 2 days before the due date, 1 day before, and 4 hours before. But that’s just me.
To-Do Lists — I typically start my day by reviewing what I need to get done that day, in order of priority. The absolutely-must-do items go at the top and are tackled first. Next are the need-to-be-done items, and on down the list I go.
I get great satisfaction from actually marking things off my to-do list, so I write those on paper. You may prefer a digital option.
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Trello — Another fave! My team (who are working remotely) and I use Trello every day to schedule and implement tasks. That email I added to my calendar? Once it has been written, I’ll add it to my assistant’s Trello board along with her due date and instructions. She sees it, schedules it, and then marks it “done,” so I know it was completed. Very smooth!
Zoom — Need to meet in person virtually? I love Zoom for this! There are free and paid versions. It’s easy to do meetings or webinars with multiple presenters for full collaboration. Zoom can record the meetings and then offer video and audio files for download. I recorded a very casual demo that you can watch here.
Here are the links I mention in the video:
Giving Into Current Events
When a crisis happens, those of us who work from home don’t have the comfort of others around us. In a physical office place, coworkers can comfort us by exchanging ideas and suggestions.
When we work from home, tips and recommendations mostly come from online sources. Beware of social media and questionable news sites during a crisis!
Choose the sources for your news updates carefully and make sure they are trustworthy.
If you haven’t worked from home on a regular basis in the past, your home Internet service might not be at top speed. If your broadband connection is moving slowly, contact your Internet service provider and ask if you can upgrade to a more robust plan.
You may also want to have a backup on standby just in case. I use my data plan, which comes with a free mobile hotspot. That way, just by plugging my phone into my laptop, I can be back up and running again. Takes 4 seconds! Make sure you ask for a mobile hotspot. The data for those is normally not throttled (slowed down) after it reaches a certain limit. Other data plans probably will be.
If you’ve started a new career at home, or are going to be working remotely for several weeks or months, you’ll want to create a comfortable office space. The chair you sit in for hours a day will need to offer ample support or you most likely will suffer from back, neck, and/or shoulder pain.
You’ll want good lighting that doesn’t cause a glare on your computer monitor, as well as a window, a telephone (if you need one for work), plenty of outlets and USB plugs, and office supplies. Here’s my shortlist:
- Printer paper
- Printer ink
- Paper clips
- File folders
- File cabinet/drawer
- Mailing/shipping envelopes
- Ink pens
- Desk organizer
- Calculator (possibly)
- USB camera
- Stand microphone or headset
- Post-It notes
If your work involves shipping envelopes or packages to customers or your physical office, you might also want:
- Digital scale
- Shipping tape
- Packing materials
All of these can be found and shipped to you via Amazon.com.
- Post Office Flat Rate envelopes/boxes
- com subscription
Getting And Staying Productive
If I could only give you one piece of advice, this would be it: Learn and implement great productivity practices.
This is how online workers (whether temporarily working remotely or permanently working from home) get things done, have more free time, and prosper!
I recently got Cindy Bidar’s Practical Productivity For Online Entrepreneurs and am digging into it as I write this. Even after working from home for 20+ years, I have room to improve my productivity skills.
Because I want to do more in less time (and make more, too!), I’ve decided to devote my time to finishing Cindy’s exceptional course. If you’d like to become a productivity whiz kid, you can pick up Cindy’s course and save $10 with code MARKETINGWORDS.
5 Working From Home Don’ts
1. Never Set Liquids On The Same Surface As Your Computer — I can tell you from experience (more than one)… liquids and electronics don’t play well together. Before I learned my lesson I dumped juice, soda, and water onto a keyboard (not all at once) and drowned a USB keyboard and a cell phone. If I have a drink or other liquid with me I place it away from my desk on a different table or cabinet. NOT on my desk with my computer.
2. Don’t Stash Food At/In Your Desk — For me and a lot of others, it’s too much of a temptation to mindlessly munch while I’m working. Make yourself get up and walk to the kitchen to get a snack.
I set my meal and snack times. Breakfast is at 7:00am. Lunch is at 11:00am. A snack is at 2:00pm. Dinner is at 6:00pm. Sure, there are days where this varies. But on most workdays this is my schedule. I know myself too well. If I don’t eat by the clock, I’ll be nibbling all day.
3. Keep Pets Off Your Office Chair — Yet another sage piece of advice learned from painful experience. Have you ever seen the carnage pet nails to do leather (err… fake leather) chairs? It’s not pretty! I place a box in my chair every time I leave my office so my pets don’t leap in.
Sneaky little furballs!
4. Breathe! This is a great working-from-home tip and one many people forget. When you feel the stress wrapping around your chest and neck like a python, inhale… exhale. Inhale… exhale. Slowly. Again. Count to 5 on your inhale and 5 on your exhale. It has a very calming effect.
5. Move! Our bodies weren’t meant to sit for long periods of time. Walk. Stretch. Jump. Dance to your favorite song. Shake that body and get your blood flowing, your mind energized, and your mood elevated. Now, back to work! 😊
With all these working-from-home tips, you’ve got this!
Did I leave something out? Do you have questions about working remotely? Talk to me below!