How to work from home productively
Updated: Nov 6, 2019
Working from home is a dream for a lot of people, it sounds easy and fun. But is it really all that great? I took time to explore working from home and compare it to the work in the office and have come up with some research and stats, as well a list of tips on how to actually turn your work from home experience into an enjoyable one, instead of a day full of 'didn't do much'.
Imagine this: You hit the snooze button a few times, eventually get up, take a long shower - yes, including that shower karaoke - have an extended breakfast, walk your dog, meet a friend for another morning coffee (because, why not?) and then, finally, you slump down on your office chair (if you then have one) and start wildly typing away on your laptop.
Now imagine this: Your alarm goes off at 6:30 am, you want to hit the snooze button but really, you can't, as you should have set your alarm for 6:15 am to have halfway enough time to get ready. So you get up, no time for a shower, they're overrated anyway. A takeaway coffee and a stale bagel in your hand you storm out the door. The car is freezing, as it's winter and you forgot to start it while getting ready. By the time it heats up you're already on the highway and so annoyed with morning traffic, you don't even need that heat anymore! When you finally get to work, the best parking spots are taken, and you have to walk around the building and through the smoking shack to get to the entrance of your office. Finally, at work, smelling of smoke, the boss you just don't like very much is already standing at your desk, demanding to know why you're late again.
Doesn't the first scenario make you feel all fluffy and excited and think: how delightful would it be! And the second one makes you go: yup, that'll be me tomorrow.
Working from home is terrific and something that is definitely on the rise, it's popular and desired. Over the past five years alone, the number of employers offering work from home has grown by over 40%.
Two-thirds of managers who offer telecommuting flexibility report, that their employees are more productive when they work from home. Over 85% of employees that work from home agree, that they work better from home, free from office gossip, useless meetings, and distractions.
Further research shows that companies who offer work from home options have lost 50% fewer employees than companies that operate by the office only rule. Employers also save tons of money by letting people work from home, not having to provide a desk, a canteen, bathrooms, someone to clean those bathrooms, parking, stationary... and employees save money by not having to commute to work.
So, let's sum up. We have happier employees, happier employers, everyone has more money, more work getting done and there's no need for useless after-lunch meetings where most people are halfway dozed off into an afternoon nap anyways. Why doesn't everyone work from home, you ask? I know. I was wondering the same thing. So I've conducted some research and can also write from my own experience of working from home.
Lack of trust
In a lot of cases, working from home is a privilege that must be earned. Have you ever worked for a company and there was that one colleague, that was allowed to work from home for half the week? Jealous? That person has probably earned it by years and years of hard work and trust building with the business. You can earn it too, but don't be late, don't take extended breaks and don't mess around. Your employer will probably not trust you to work unsupervised if you fool around all day.
The above point exactly
A lot of employers don't allow people to work from home precisely because of the first point (lack of trust, in case you forgot). The people that are not allowed to work from home become resentful towards the ones that are working from the comfort of their homes, this creates division. By banning telecommuting altogether, your employer can cut out having discussions about the why can he and I can't.
It's too big of a change
A business that has a canteen, bathrooms, fully equipped desks already in place is not going to give all of that up so employees can work from home. Remember, your employer has probably helped build this office space and put it all together, put work and effort into it and is most likely not ready to just shut the place down and hope for the best with everyone working from home in their PJ's.
There's a lot to be said about teamwork
When working from home, you don't really get to interact with your colleagues and other members of your team. Despite great things like video conferences, it's not the same than if you work side by side with your teammates, get stuff done together and motivate each other throughout the day. There are certain jobs (let's take a call center job) that are only endurable because you have your teammates around you. Employers of positions like that know that and are aware that the only reason you get through certain days is your colleagues. Imagine achieving a goal and not being able to high five your work-bestie? Heartbreaking right?
This is the main point why working from home is sometimes difficult for me and I know I'm not the only one to feel this way. Staying motivated. There are SO many distractions when working from home. My worst enemy is the bed. It catches my eye, letting me know that a nap would be the right thing at 3:30 pm. Or the kitchen, I mostly work in the kitchen, but all of a sudden the urge to try cooking a new recipe overcomes me, and somehow I find myself at the grocery store, fully equipped with frog legs and turmeric, feeling guilty as I should technically be at home, writing a report.
Working from home really isn't as easy as it looks and as blissful as it sounds. It takes work, working from home does. I've come up with a few tips that help me stay focused and motivated when working from home. Because whether you're self-employed or get the opportunity to work at home every now and then, it's essential to get the work done, so you feel accomplished at the end of the day. No one likes to finish up a day of work and feel like they didn't get anything done and may as well have taken a personal day.
How to stay motivated and focused
1. Dress for the occasion
This is important, even when you're working from home, don't sit there in your PJ's, unshowered and your hair in a messy mess. Dress like you would if you went into work, it will give you more of a business-feel than the day-off-moods.
2. Make a schedule and follow it
Before you start your day, write down all the things you want to achieve and thick them off one by one. This will give you a sense of achievement and motivate you to keep going.
3. Take breaks
Ever had a job that didn't give you breaks? (And no, it doesn't count that you were just so super busy and would just never take your breaks, that's your own fault). I'm sure every company gives you a lunch break as well as one or two smaller breaks a day. Taken them! Even if you work from home. You're still working and you deserve your breaks. Go out for a walk, if you have a dog, great, if not, go alone. You're not weird for walking alone! Have you ever looked at anyone that was out on a walk by themselves and judged them for it? No. Exactly. (If you answered yes to that, shame on you!).
It's good to get some fresh air, it clears your head, and you can get back to work full of motivation.
4. Not all in one chunk
If you're like me, you cannot sit in an untidy work environment. It bothers me when the dishes are not done, or I know there's a ton of laundry to get through. So when I write my schedule for the day, I make sure to not just work in one big chunk for 8 hours but also plan in some time to do some housework. But its all planned, I do it from 1pm to 2pm and then back to work. This approach, of course, doesn't go well if you work remotely but still have set hours. It's only possible if you can work 8h a day whenever you want and however you want. But I find it helpful to step away from work altogether and do other things that need to be done around the house for a planned amount of time.
5. No distractions
Like if you were at work, put your phone away. Don't look at youtube videos or have the TV on in the background. It'll slow you down and will give you that feeling of not having achieved anything at the end of the day. And that will ruin the joys of working from home pretty quickly.
6. Mix it up
Working from home doesn't mean you have to be homebound all the time. I love going to coffee shops, be surrounded by people and coffeehouse tunes and get hot drinks, as many as I want. Sometimes being outside the home helps you to focus better and get stuff done faster (no bed calling for naps, no laundry, nowhere to go crazy with cooking). It's nice to mix it up.
7. Make sure to stay connected
You may not see anyone all day long when you work from home. Make sure you meet your friends and family in the evenings and still go out to the bar that your former colleagues and you used to go to. Otherwise, this whole thing will get very lonely very quickly. And remember that time slot from point No. 4? The beauty of working from home is the freedom it gives you. So if you want to plan in a coffee date with your friend at 4pm for two hours and get back to work after, Do it. You are your own boss. Just make sure to stick to the given schedule and respect yourself as an employer.
You see, working from home is not a walk in the park, it can be a struggle, and there's a lot to consider. But if you can keep yourself motivated by following the seven points above, I think you're all set to take the step to work from home. Go you!