My Honest Experience of Working From Home
Hi, my name is Sarah and I work from home.
I'm a very disciplined and hardworking individual. As a major introvert, I get more work done when left to my own devices and I check all the boxes on the ‘Are You Cut Out to Work From Home’ quiz.
Or so I thought.
When I first started this job, I knew it would present its challenges. But I felt confident that I had the self-control to excel and be productive.
Fast forward a couple months. Reality check. It’s not easy. Actually, it’s the opposite of easy.
From the good, the bad, and the not so pretty, to the solutions and tips I’ve learned along the way, this is my honest experience of working remotely.
My Challenges with Working from Home
You don’t get to clock out
I sleep at home. I work at home. Sometimes it’s hard to separate private life and work life. My office is a small room right off the main living quarters. I love my office, my safe space, my cave – glass walls and all. But when I’m making dinner or watching TV in the evening – there it is.. staring at me. Why aren’t you working? Did you send that email? Have you finished that article? Even when I’m not working, I’m reminded of work I could be doing.
I eat, sleep and breathe this environment. Since I love my job (and my apartment), it’s not really a disadvantage. But when it’s hard to switch off; it’s easier to burn out.
The lure of pajamas
Staying true to keeping this an honest opinion piece, yes I'm currently wearing my slippers and a full matching sweat suit. I may also have a blanket wrapped around me. Give me a break, it’s Sunday.
The rule of thumb is that you should get dressed. I’ve learned that a professional outfit helps trigger a professional mindset and workflow. However, on days where I have no video conference calls or I’m feeling a little under the weather, sometimes comfort is key. While I sometimes rock the productive and cozy combination - it's not for everyone - and I find if I get too cozy too often, my productivity will suffer.
Distraction #1: My dog. I love this creature more than anything. But damn, is she a nuisance. I (you) don’t have time to give you a play by play of how a 1 ½ year old puppy spends her day so here’s a snippet:
- Squeaky toys galore
- Bark at evil delivery man or any person who dares come near our home
- Stare, zoom around or simply melt me with her cuteness – all trying to get this one’s attention
- Go for a walk
Distractions #2, 3, and beyond:
Roommates. Laundry. Errands. Messy apartment. Cooking. “Just one episode” of Friends while I have lunch. Naps. Daydreaming. The insect on the window. The walls. Air. They’re all distractions!
Yes, there are emails and skype video calls. But some things are just easier and quicker to explain when you’re sitting right next to a person. Fortunately for me, my boss is a remote work expert and has all our communication devices in place. Even so, sometimes I wish I could have more face-time with the boss for feedback and collaboration. And because she’s so pretty :).
Solutions to Reduce Distractions and Raise Productivity
So how do I work towards overcoming these challenges? Besides ditching the pajamas, here are a few tips and tools I've found helpful to boost my productivity:
Weekly status reports changed my life for the better. No, really. I highly recommend using them – both if you’re a business or a remote worker. Weekly Status Reports taught me that the most important thing hands down is the focus on results. They give you the tool to really measure your productivity.
Yes, I was sitting at my desk all day, but what was I accomplishing? Filling out a status report at the end of each week is that added bit of pressure that is often needed to get your work done. That form that I have to fill out has essentially become my manager being with me in the office while I work!
My manager doesn’t micromanage me (to a fault) and isn’t interested in knowing if I work 9-5 - as long as the customers are taken care of. All she’s concerned about is the bottom line and about ensuring that at the end of the week, my status report shows some meat and concrete value for the 40 hours my bum was in the seat.
In my opinion, it’s the fundamental business tool that’s required for any remote work situation and cultivates trust, transparency and efficiency.
I recommend Resultivity. It’s simple and efficient.
Keep your cellphone far away from your desk
This is a big one for me – and I’m sure most millennials. Limit the use and particularly the sight of your phone. Having the phone in plain view means that you glance at it more often than you could ever imagine as an automatic reaction – aka, a bad habit.
Assign specific times when you can check it. But don’t go cold turkey or you’ll fail! Start by setting a timer during specific periods of the day when you can look at your phone.
Eventually, you’ll get used to not having that ball and chain around your neck and you won’t think about it as often. Trust me, it'll make a big difference.
The other thing that’s really important is to manage expectations with your friends and family. Your people know you work from home and that means yes, you could answer their calls without your boss knowing, but it also means you'll be distracted. You'd be surprised how a few short personal calls a week will add up and negatively affect your status report.
My people understand and respect that I won’t be as responsive during working hours.
Match your schedule to your most productive hours
Doesn’t matter how many cups of coffee I drink, I’m just not a morning person. Be aware of your most productive hours. While I’m online for necessary work hours, I’ll save work that requires creativity or sharp focus for mid-day or evenings.
Get the most out of your most productive hours and it'll be easier to clock out mentally at the end of the day.
Establish boundaries in your home
While my office walls are glass, if my door is closed my roommates know not to bother me. The dog is slower to catch on - but she's a puppy so she gets a free pass for now.
While working from home has its challenges, there are ways to ensure you're a successful remote worker.
From new skills, to work habits, to the appreciation of status reports, to the comfort of my own home. My job continues to teach me how to practice discipline, focus, and awareness of what it takes to be a better worker. And I wouldn’t give it up for anything.
If you're a fellow remote worker and you have any tips to help increase productivity while working from home, please contact me below. I'd love to hear from you!