Working from home certainly has its advantages and disadvantages. Who wouldn’t want to set their own work hours or make conference calls from bed?
But when you work from home, it’s easy to lose yourself in your work and, as a result, spread yourself too thin.
Not to worry, though.
With proper planning and a strong understanding of where your work life ends and your home life begins, you can avoid many of the pitfalls associated with working from home.
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Make Use of Communication Tools While Working From Home
As a remote worker, you have an obligation to stay connected with your team – and not just when questions arise or there’s a conflict.
Keeping in contact with your team should be a regular part of your job.
This means scheduling video conferences when necessary, sending emails to confirm changes in your schedule, and picking up the phone to bolster your relationship with your colleagues.
By adopting a forward-looking approach to your communications strategy, you can get ahead of problems before they escalate. Say you need to connect with a colleague who doesn’t have a great track record of responding to emails in a timely matter. Rather than continue to send email after email hoping for a reply, why not use a team messaging system like Slack to establish contact digitally?
Slack lets you “search and find all your files, calls, messages and colleagues in one platform.” Where 20 years ago you would have needed to make use of multiple devices and communication tools to work with a colleague in a different location, today you can connect with anyone in your network online.
Slack and other team messaging platforms let you ease the burden of staying connected to your team, particularly when you don’t share the same office, city or country.
So, whether you work entirely or partially from home, make staying connected to your team a top priority, remembering to leverage all the technology at your disposal to do so. Organize video conference calls to secure much-needed face time, share time-sensitive documents across distances without having to wait, and create project tickets that you want others to follow. Just stay connected and do what it takes to feel part of the team.
Define Parameters for Your Remote Workspace
One of the greatest gifts that you can give yourself as a remote worker is a dedicated workspace. Setting aside a space or actual room to work creates a physical – as well as a mental – line of demarcation between your work life and your home life that you just can’t ignore.
If possible, choose an area of your home that you wouldn’t normally need to access outside your regular working hours. For instance, instead of working from your living room, choose an area in your basement or a spare room that’s no longer in use. Keep the area clear of personal items that can be distracting, like video games and items associated with your favorite hobbies.
Whether you set aside an entire room or just a small corner of your home, it’s still important to make sure that your “workspace” is distraction-free and that it offers the basic amenities. Nowadays, all you likely need is a computer and internet connection to carry out the necessary functions of your job, such as emailing, conference calling, and online faxing.
As a general rule of thumb, you wouldn’t want to have anything in a home work space that you wouldn’t have in clear view on a desk in an office. So, toss those magazines out and leave that old basketball in another room. Your workspace should be for just that: work!
Establish Rituals for Starting & Ending Your Day
One of the biggest challenges when working from home is having the discipline to structure your day. Regularly starting and ending your day at the same time can help you to take greater responsibility for your time and make adjustments as needed. That way, you know exactly how long you work each day and how your work day is typically divided.
A great way to ensure that you follow a fixed schedule is to set up rituals for your day. For example, you may want to check your email at the start of your day or connect with your team by phone at the end of each day. Just make sure that your rituals help you to start and end your day with a sense of productivity and purpose.
Finally, having a set schedule can make it easier to pencil in regular breaks. Just make sure that your breaks coincide with when you start and end your day to avoid periods of burnout.
Maximize Productivity While Working Remotely
We all know the importance of productivity.
But don’t think that productivity is all about to-do lists. Software programs let you track your entire day – project by project, minute by minute, like these below:
So instead of wondering how long you typically spend writing blog posts for your company website or participating in video conferences, you can actually track these and other activities online.
As you review your day, be sure to look for areas where you’ve spent too much or too little time doing something, and make changes as necessary to ensure you’re maximizing productivity at every stage of your day.
Keeping in contact with your team isn’t just about “checking in” or passing along information. It’s about developing a clear and shared identity with your colleagues.
So, solidify this relationship by working hard to keep an active and consistent schedule, being there when your team needs you, and maintaining a professional and dedicated work environment.
Remember, even though you work alone, you are not alone. There are a plethora of apps and other technology tools that can assist you in thriving as a remote worker. So don’t hesitate to use them.