In today’s interconnected world, working doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to a grey-walled office building filled with rows of cubicles. It doesn’t need to mean you’re jumping on a plane every couple of days, or that you’re in constant competition for the room with the biggest view. Working from home has become increasingly possible and popular. More than 30 million Americans work from home, and Forrester Research’s US Telecommuting Forecast predicts that number will rise to 63 million by next year – meaning that 43 percent of the U.S. workforce will work remotely.
It’s not a piece of cake to work from home if you allow the distractions of your spouse, kids, pets and UPS deliveries to disrupt your workflow. Working from home is awesome as long as you set up your home workspace to meet the needs of your work. Don’t let working from home turn into unnecessary sleep-in days, wasting time on the internet, extraordinary heating bills, or a snickers addiction.
Jaime Marie here, giving you important rules about working from home.
- Get Dressed Everyday
“I find that the most important thing for me is to keep a regular routine and to shower and dress every day as if I were going to an actual office,” says Jenifer Kramer, Principal of West Hollywood, California-based Jenerosity Marketing. Getting dressed is just one of those things that tells your brain it’s time to work. Some may think that “dress for success” doesn’t apply when you can roll out of bed and be at the office in a minute or less; however, you should definitely still change out of those flannel pajama bottoms.
Researchers Joy V. Peluchette and Katherine Karl conducted a study that was published in Human Resource Development Quarterly, and found that participants reported feeling more authoritative, trustworthy, and competent when wearing formal business attire.
Wardrobe can affect your career, even in a home office. Here are six reasons why:
- You can maintain professional perception…if you participate in video meetings, dress the part.
- You can boost your own productivity…what we put on influences how we act.
- You comply with company culture…if your company has a dress code, you should still follow it at home.
- You create boundaries…when the lines between home and business are blurring, attire can help determine the difference.
- You give others a visual reminder…if you’re in jeans and a t-shirt, family members may not take your work seriously.
- You can help keep your focus…helps you be physically and mentally there.
Dressing up for work is a physical and visual distinction, and it helps you set boundaries. Otherwise, you may feel like the day never ends. The relief you’ll feel when you slide into those sweats at five PM will be totally worth it.
- Define Your Work Space
If you’ve ever had the opportunity of working from home, you know what a big challenge that may be. Distractions are endless. Every time you look up from your computer screen there’s a pile of mail screaming your name, a plate that needs to go in the dishwasher or a family member eager to tell you a funny story.
All you want is to be transported to an alternate universe that will allow you to focus on the task at hand. If having a totally separate work room isn’t possible, create a threshold in your home that can make it clear that you are on the clock. Make a visual cue, “Step into my office.” Even if you live in a tiny studio apartment, set up a desk and chair and separate the professional from the personal. Don’t ever work in bed.
Keep your home office easy to organize by making sure you have the space and equipment to do the job, as well as keeping the space tidy. Shelves, rather than cabinets and drawers, keep everything accessible, so materials are easy to get and to put away.
- Set Daily Goals
Regardless of their size or time-sensitive nature, setting goals is of great importance for home-based workers, since it not only gives you a time frame for completing your tasks, but more importantly keeps you motivated.
- Make sure your goals are specific. Don’t be vague when it comes to setting your goals. If you’re vague, you give yourself more room to slack off. When it comes to working from home, slacking off isn’t going to pay off. One small goal that you reach consistently will make a greater impact than a huge goal that you cannot accomplish.
- Make sure these goals are measurable. Don’t just set “Work on Project X” as your goal. Set “Work on Aspect A of Project X for two hours” as your goal. If you can’t measure your goals, then it’s too easy to say you met that goal when you really didn’t accomplish anything.
- Make sure that you can actually attain your goals. Organize your work and predict how long certain aspects of a project might take. Attack big projects in small chunks and congratulate yourself on moving through the chunks. It will help keep you motivated. And when it comes to working from home, keeping motivated is extremely important.
- Make sure these goals are relevant to what you’re working on. If Project “X” is the most important thing on your agenda, then make sure most of your goals relate to Project “X”.
- Your goals should also be timely. It’s okay to set goals for the entire month, but you need smaller goals spread out as well. Don’t just set a goal of having Project “X” done by the end of the month. Set a goal of having Aspect A done by the third, Aspect B done by the eighth, and Aspect C done by the fifteenth.
You’ll be amazed at how much of an improvement you can make with smarter goal setting. Try it for a month and see how much it will increase your productivity. Trust me, you’ll be glad you gave it a shot. I know I sure was.
- Set Working Hours
Boundaries are SO important when it comes to at-home working. It can be lovely – you can choose when and where your work is getting done and enjoy a level of flexibility often envied by office-bound employees. With all that comes the responsibility of ensuring that you do actually work – that deadlines are met, and clients, employers and customers are kept happy.
Working from home myself, I always get the response “Oh wow, you must enjoy all that free time!” or “Gee, I’d love if I could go to work in my pajamas!” The truth is, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve worked in my flannel drawstring pants, and I think I was recovering from a cold.
While one of the benefits of homeworking may be flexibility – especially if you’re a freelancer or run your own business, having a routine is important. Not only does it help you to structure your week and plan your work so you can be confident you will meet your deadlines, it also helps to discourage unexpected visits and phone calls. Let your friends and family know what hours you generally work, so they can leave you to concentrate at those times.
Below are three different nontraditional 40-hour week sample schedules to give you some alternatives to structure your time!
Part of working smarter is knowing when taking a break might be helpful. When you are working at an office, breaks happen when coworkers stop by to ask a question or you grab lunch with the guy in the cube next door. Breaks don’t happen as naturally when you are working in your home office, so you need to make break times happen when you complete tasks or schedule work phone calls to get yourself away from the keyboard.
- Be Careful What’s in Your Kitchen
Keep your fridge stocked with healthy, fresh foods and enjoy the fact that you can whip up a healthy and satisfying lunch without having to pack one. However, don’t stock your kitchen with empty-calorie sweets and snack foods. When you have unlimited supplies on hand, it can be way too tempting to avoid.
Though you might be too self-conscious to open a bag of M&Ms and devour them in an office, you can overindulge without anyone noticing when you work from home. If you’re prone to ”secret eating,” working at home can be tough.
So, instead of fighting cravings (we all have them!), be smart about keeping healthier options on hand. If you’re a chocoholic, try sipping on some sugar-free hot cocoa. If you’re craving salty foods, pop some low-fat popcorn. If you’re feeling like a creamy treat, enjoy some non-fat Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey.
Also, be sure that you’re truly eating according to your hunger—and not just eating because you’re stressed, bored or lonely while working at home.
Set a schedule. Stick to it. Remember to smell the sunshine. Afterward, go out and be social. The key to productivity is knowing when to come up for air. Pace yourself. If you find you’re veering away from your work tasks to check Facebook, redirect yourself ASAP. Throw on some sneakers. Go outside. Get refreshed. Get a recharge. Then come back and put your all into whatever you’re doing.
For more ideas and help with setting up a Telecommuter or Work-From-Home Policy, contact the experts at HR Strategy Group, email@example.com.
Find us on the web at: www.hrstrategygroup.com.
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