Working from home is an option more employers are offering these days, either as a perk to improve employee satisfaction or out of necessity, as traditional office space is no longer needed. While there are many benefits (no commute, a more flexible schedule), working from home also comes with its own set of unique challenges. It can be difficult to maintain a work-life balance when your home office is always just a few steps away. Interruptions from family members or the basket of laundry calling your name can also make it challenging to focus.
Before you get frustrated with your circumstances, though, there are simple things you can do to make your home workspace just as productive as a typical office setting. With a little planning, you can create a space that feels like your own and maximizes your efficiency.
Set a schedule.
Just because you're home doesn't mean you shouldn't start work at the same time each day. Structure your day like you would in the office, which includes daily tasks, meetings and time for a workout session or lunch break. Kelly Camps, the vice president of operations for Spark360, points out that since she never leaves the office because she works from home, it's tempting to work through the evening. "Creating a schedule and sticking to it is what helps me keep work [and] life balanced the most," she says.
Have a designated workspace.
Your kitchen table or other shared space in the house isn't ideal if you're looking to get into the work mindset. No matter how small, try to find an area that you can make your own. Jessica Santillo, also a vice president of operations for Spark360, likes to intentionally set the environment of her workspace before she dives in, explaining that this sets the tone for the day. "This could be anything from setting my diffuser, burning a candle or turning on some music," she explains. Think of your home office as a blank canvas that you can customize to maximize your comfort and productivity. This includes making your workstation ergonomic, which allows you to exercise proper posture to avoid future pain.
Without the little added movements that come from a traditional office space, Camps says that working from home makes it hard to get daily activity. "Since we don't have to park our cars and walk into an office, walk to meetings on other floors of an office building or walk far to the restroom [or break room], I find so often that it will be noon and I have [logged] less than 1,000 steps. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that," she confesses. "For the sake of our health [and productivity] while working from home, it's so important to remember to move throughout the day. I recently got an Apple Watch and it reminds me to move once an hour. Sometimes when that reminder goes off, I'll run up and down my stairs a few times just to break up my sedentary time." This movement is not only good for your health, it also provides a boost of energy and a chance to reset your mind before moving on to the next task.
Set boundaries and expectations.
Discuss your work situation with the rest of the household so they know when and how to contact you during work hours. You may not have left the house, but that doesn't mean you're not working. As such, there shouldn't be constant interruptions to ask where to find another box of cereal or to break up an argument between siblings. Similarly, commit to saving chores and errands for your lunch break or non-work hours. Even though it's tempting to make a quick trip to pick up dry cleaning or a few items at the grocery store, that mindset can be a slippery slope that adds unnecessary disruption to your day.
Have a system to check in with co-workers frequently.
Working from home can feel isolating and makes connectivity a challenge. Luckily, instant messaging (such as Slack, Google Hangouts or WeChat Work) makes it easy to touch base with co-workers regularly. Whether it's to share a quick update about a project or to chat about the latest binge-worthy T.V. show, finding a way to communicate daily helps employees feel like a team no matter how much distance is between them. In addition, it helps to have a quick way to ask a question or provide clarification on something. Like walking over to a co-worker's desk to discuss an issue, instant messaging is often more immediate than waiting for an email response or a phone call to be returned. If your company doesn't use these kinds of tools, consider suggesting it to your manager or human resources department.
The stack of work calling your name is the same whether you're working at home or in an office, but your surroundings play a significant role in how effectively that work gets done. In the long run, taking time to create your ideal home workspace is time well-spent.