Companies allowing their employees to work from home has been in an increasing trend. Many find working from home appealing with no morning commute and the ability to work from your living room. As more employers switch their employees to telecommuting, more workers are realizing working from home could present some new challenges.
Whether you’re adding a couple of days of telecommuting or switching to working from home full-time, it can take a while to get used to your working environment, or lack thereof. Follow these seven tips to help you transition from a physical office to a virtual one with ease.
1. Set Expectations Early
Regardless of your specific telecommute arrangement, the first thing to do is talk with your boss to understand expectations. Setting guidelines at the start of your work from home experience will make it easier for both you and your employer.
You should have a candid conversation with your boss about what you can accomplish from home and what tasks need to wait till you’re back in the office. Work together to make a list of priorities and start on those first. Your team should also discuss any recurring duties that are routine in the office but might get overlooked when everyone’s at home.
2. Keep Your Morning Routine
Some people can roll out of bed and head straight to their laptop to start work, but they’re the minority. If you’ve never worked from home before, it’s best to stick to your regular morning routine to stay productive.
For example, if your normal workday starts with a coffee, shower and getting dressed in professional attire, keep part of that routine when you work from home. You may eventually find that by staying in your casual clothes or that skipping your morning shower after a few weeks of telecommuting can allow you to be more productive. Until then, however, it’s usually a good idea to go through the motions of your morning routine to help you get in the mindset for work.
3. Stay on a Schedule
Similar to maintaining a routine, you’ll probably want to set working hours and keep them the entire time you work from home. Many people find they either never take a break at home or they get too easily distracted when working from their living space.
Whether you’re more prone to overworking or slacking off, maintaining regular working hours can help you keep a rhythm while you work from home. Try using a time tracking app to record the time you spend working versus taking breaks.
You can then set working hours that best fit you. For example, if you tend to work through lunch and into the evening, set an alarm to mark the end of the day. Once the alarm rings, you know you need to put your work away for the day.
On the other hand, if you find yourself getting distracted often, set alarms for frequent, short breaks throughout the day. You may find it easier to focus on work if you know a break isn’t that far away.
4. Organize Your Office Space
Switching from working in an office building to your home can be an adjustment. Many people don’t have space in their homes dedicated to working. This often makes it difficult to get in the right mindset when working from home.
Before you try to get any work done, set up space specifically as your in-home office. If you’re lucky enough to have a spare room, such as a guest bedroom, switch the main purpose of the room into your home office.
For workers who don’t have extra space, set up your office space in a place that’s comfortable but doesn’t stop you from getting things done. Many telecommute employees choose to use their kitchen table as their desk since there’s usually space for a computer and any paperwork you might need.
Remember to organize and tidy your office space at the beginning of each day, especially if you have a temporary workspace that’s taken down each evening.
5. Check Your Technology
Part of organizing your office should be checking that your technology is working properly. You shouldn’t wait until five minutes before an important video conference call to see if your webcam or microphone are working. Likewise, you wouldn’t want to find out your internet router is broken as you’re trying to complete a major project online.
Check any technology you think you may use when working from home to ensure it’s in proper working order. You should also create a backup plan in case something goes wrong during the day. For example, see if you can use your cell phone as a mobile hotspot if your wireless internet suddenly goes out.
6. Stay Connected with Coworkers
If you’ve never worked from home before, it can get lonely. You may not realize how much you enjoy hanging out with your coworkers. You lose a lot of human interaction by teleworking, from chatting in the break room, impromptu collaboration on projects, or to grabbing lunch. A lot of the small talk and friendly conversation disappears because you’re only communicating through email or the occasional phone call.
Staying connected with your coworkers in a non-work setting is important to keep yourself from feeling lonely. Some people start email chains or group chats that are for non-work topics only to replace the usual chitchat. Be sure, of course, to keep your conversations appropriate for the workplace, even if you’re working at home.
You could also try setting up a virtual happy hour or social gathering via webcam after work. This way, you can still see and talk to one another in a social setting.
7. Relax When Life Happens
You might be embarrassed beyond belief when your dog starts barking at the mailman or your child comes running into your office in the middle of an important call. While you should try to set boundaries with the other people, and animals, in your home, it’s not always possible to have control over your environment.
Luckily, most employers, clients and coworkers understand that life happens. When things go wrong, relax and remember that many of the people you’re interacting with are also working from home. There’s a good chance they’ve experienced a similar unexpected interruption and are glad to know it happens to others as well.