Not everyone is comfortable working from home. But there are instances that you may find yourself having to do it. For example, during the time this is posted there is a current lockdown or “enhanced community quarantine” going on in Metro Manila, Philippines and all around the world due to an outbreak of COVID-19; a new type of flu. A lot of people who are fortunate enough to be able to work from home were allowed to do so by their companies.
But getting used to working from home for an extended period takes a lot of discipline. Some may not like it and become under-productive.
I’ve been working as a Freelancer for 5 years, on and off, within the past 12 years. Here are some lessons I learned on how to work from home and do it well.
Transition to Work Mode
A home is where they are most comfortable. It is a place for relaxing. So one of the biggest problems people who work from home for the first time is getting in the mood to work.
On top of that, there are just so many distractions. The bed is right there. Suddenly, you are realizing that the floors are dirty. You get hungry every minute. You want to talk to your family or friends. There are just so many other things that are going on around you when working from home.
The trick here is to create a space that when it’s set up, you are in work mode. With normal office work, there is a transition that happens traveling from home to office. Your mind and body adjust accordingly to prepare for work. So in working from home, you have to create that transition as well. And you can do this by building a routine.
My routine is that when I get up, I plug in my computer and turn on the router. I brush my teeth and wash my face. Once I sit on my office chair, the transition is complete. My mind already knows it’s game time. I then proceed to check my to-do list and plan out my day.
You can do other things to trigger this transition. For example, you can take your normal bath before going to the office then get dressed in office clothes. This gives your mind the time to “wake up” and get into that working feel.
Having coffee and breakfast first can also be a great transition.
It doesn’t matter what you do. The important thing is that you develop a routine to let your body and mind know that hey, it’s time to get to business.
Have a Place to Work
One of the most important tips I always give out to people who are making this transition is to build a place for work. Now for those who are fortunate enough to have a spare room, that’s great! You can build your own office to work from home.
But not all of us have that luxury of course. But there are other ways. Just find a space at home, any space that can be as far from distractions as possible. But the most important key is that the space shouldn’t be used for anything else. Now, set up your computer here. A table, a chair, that can be the basic start for it. Other things can follow later.
A kitchen table isn’t ideal because you will think about eating or food. Your bed isn’t ideal because you will be too comfortable and feel sleepy. So try to find a neutral place to set up your computer. Once you sit there, your body will know it’s game time.
To break the monotony, you can go ahead and bring your laptop to your bed or the garage. But always have a place, even just a small corner of your room, dedicated to working from home. It makes a huge difference.
Side note: Do NOT place your working table in arms length of the refrigerator or pantry. You won’t stop reaching out for food. Oh I know…
Have Regular Hours
One of the things I found to be very helpful is to set specific hours for working. As a Freelancer, I usually find myself having flexible hours anyway. Most of my work is output based. This can lead to a lot of procrastination. So what I try to do is set a “time limit”. Oh I hate time limits. And that’s why I think it works for me.
I set myself to work on a specific time range only. I should only start at this hour and should end at this hour. Now I can be flexible on the specific hours, but the important thing is that there’s a limit. This helps me keep my focus on my job and get things done.
After that, it’s time to do the house chores, watch Netflix, and everything else I need to do besides work.
While I am very guilty of not following this myself but I do know it is important to set breaks for yourself. Take 5 to 15 minutes break every couple of hours just to get yourself re-focused and relaxed.
When having your meals, leave your computer alone. Go to the kitchen or dining table to eat. As mentioned earlier, your computer table is your place to work. It should be for that specific purpose. On top of that, it simply isn’t healthy to eat while you are working. Take lunch breaks as an opportunity to eat, move around, and recharge in the middle of the day to get through the rest of the working hours.
I think whether you are working from home or the office, this is important.
Transitioning to work from home can be a challenge. There are things you need to get used to and changes to understand. But it is not impossible. Develop the right routine and make the right adjustments, and you will get there.