I have worked from home for over 10 years.
I have been between jobs.
I have worked in toxic cultures for unqualified managers.
I have owned my own business.
I have worked for large corporations and small family run businesses.
I worked for beautiful companies and wise people.
I have worked for terribly unethical companies and evil people.
I have done it all.
This experience was painful as I was going through it, but now it has given me the necessary tools to help others.
Here’s some lessons learned from working from home.
1- Create Space
Make an office space and use it only for work. Create an inviting space. You can shop your house for a desk, plant, lighting, and whatever else inspires you. My husband and I both work from home now and he uses the home office. I have a desk in my bonus room, which is also my closet. So now I have a “cloffice”. I can shut the door and have privacy and also shut the door and leave my work outside my bedroom at night. Setting up your physical space is important. It's a bonus to have a window to look out. Investing in a comfortable chair is a great idea. A family vacation photo is a good reminder of why you work so hard.
My routine is to get up and do all my creative work such as writing and marketing while drinking my coffee. I do this from the couch in my pajamas. Mid morning I take a break to workout, eat, and shower. Then I am ready to return to work with a fresh perspective. Not everyone will have this flexibility in their schedule, but you are allowed to block off some breaks for yourself during the day. Just as if you were in the office, you can step away from your computer guilt free. Be sure to let people know when you are not available. In the office you might step out for lunch, or catch up with a coworker for a brain break. You can do this from home too. A walk around the block, preparing a healthy snack, and a quick snuggle session with your dog are all great ways to recharge throughout the day. You are not chained to your computer, just because you are working from home.
3- Keep it Professional
Keep it professional. If you are on video calls, it might be ok to be somewhat casual, but don’t embarrass yourself. You should not shock everyone with your at home appearance. Looking professional still counts. Same goes for language. You may feel more lax in your environment, but work calls are still work calls. Keep your language professional. Don’t have a business call while laying down. Don’t flush the toilet in the middle of a meeting. The same professional conduct is required when working from home, as it is in the office. Hold yourself to the same level of professionalism.
You are not expected to work 24/7, just because you have the technology and access to do so. Create boundaries for yourself. For some that is a set schedule. For others, it is project based. Be clear that you will complete the required outcomes for your work, and that you are also taking time away from work. Exhaustion is not a badge of honor. Time off of work makes you a better worker. It is healthy to step away, so don’t be a martyr about it. Many of my best ideas come after I unplug.
Communicate, communicate, and over communicate. It is more important than ever when working from home to keep your calendar up to date. People need to know when you are available and when you are not. Make it a priority to update necessary people and systems when you step away. Be clear about deadlines. Be open about availability.
These are all very serious tips, but the truth is, it's ok to have fun with it. Your dog will bark when the doorbell rings and everyone on the other side of the call will likely have a sense of humor about it. You can too. Mistakes will be made and they might be quite comical. You will work from home best if you can remain light hearted. Offer yourself and others a bit of grace. Kids, pets, and neighbors, might provide some comic relief and laughter really is the best medicine to make it through the workday with ease.