The beast of self control
With so many businesses switching to remote offices and a large growth in people finding new ways to make money working from home, leaving their 9-5 behind and turning their house into an office, I thought I would give some advice. As someone who has been self-employed and worked from home since 2013, I can confirm it is an odd transition. There are several tips I would give to someone just starting out in this type of work environment.
If you are used to working at an office or retail/food space, you are used to having a physical place separate from home and have no issue making that mental transition of “Home life” to “Work life”. Just the drive from A to B helps in that situation. Working from home makes that adjustment into work mode 10 times more difficult.
Here are my eight biggest suggestions to make working remotely a bit easier.
1. Act like you are “at” work - because you are!
It is tough. You are at home. You get out of bed, do your morning routine, and just like that - BAM - you are at work already! Nowhere to go, no “transition” to really help you make that mental shift. That is why it is so important to get in the right mindset of being “at” work, even though you are at home.
2. Commit to a routine schedule
It can be tempting to let utter chaos rule. Why do I have to get UP at 8am to be at work at 9am? If I get my day-to-day work done, does it matter when/where/how I work?
It’s possible playing a chaotic neutral character will work for you, but for many, it can be very challenging if they don't find some sort of pattern to commit to. I highly recommend having a distinct and dedicated office space that is separate from everyone/everything else.
I also recommend committing to a consistent work routine, even if it is as simple as starting work at 9am Monday through Friday. Maybe you are done with work by 3pm and can call it a day, that is fine! Maybe you have to work until 8pm, also fine. (Well, it’s fine so long as you’re being paid for your time!) But you have that consistency of getting started at 9am, and the morning routine that precedes making that happen.
3. Stay Organized
I have blogged in the past very thoroughly about How to organize your life, and I highly recommend giving that a read. Really, all of that advice can apply here. It is important to keep your work space, both physically and digitally, organized. Now that you are at home, you may be using your own computer or laptop for work. You will want to find a way to keep that information separate so that you can easily find what you are looking for.
Forming good organizational habits does not come easy, but once you start the process, it becomes easier over time to improve and refine those skills. Take baby steps!
4. Learn to take breaks
Just like at an office, something as simple as taking proper breaks can slip your mind. You might suddenly find that 9 hours have gone by and you haven’t eaten, stretched, or taken a restroom break. Now you have a headache. Not a great day!
Just like the routine of when to start your “shift”, you will want to think about making distinct breaks throughout the day. That could even mean taking a 5 minute break every hour to get up and stretch. Sitting at a desk all day is not particularly healthy, so taking that break for your body is very important. Stay hydrated. Go take a quick walk outside to get some fresh air.
Do what it takes, have an annoyingly loud alarm on the hour to remind you to stretch and drink some water.
5. Setting boundaries at home
You probably aren’t the only person in your home, and so it is important to communicate with them about some ground rules so that you can work smoothly, but also be available if needed. Make sure they know your work routine and when you need to be 100% focused on work so that you don’t get interrupted. Emergencies aside, it should be in their minds like you aren’t even home - because you ARE at work.
6. Communicate and Socialize with coworkers
It can start to feel isolating after a while, especially if you are used to being able to socialize with your co-workers throughout the day. Use what is available or create it yourself if you are allowed to - work chats, meetings to catch up, in-person gatherings for fun. You certainly don’t have to do ANY of this. Maybe you don’t like your co-workers and have plenty going on, no problemo!
But if you find the isolation getting to you, don’t be afraid to reach out and start a conversation, you may not be the only employee feeling that way. Just be sure to respect their boundaries if that is not something they are looking for.
7. Keep your home life
One of the biggest challenges is when the work day is done - turning OFF work mode and going back into your home life. Your office is always “there”, so it can be tempting to pop in and respond to an email, get a head start on another project, etc… At that rate, you are going to be a workaholic. Part of your routine should be an end time and make sure you commit to it. Go out, enjoy life! You’ve been cooped up all day and could use some fresh air.
8. Customize it to you
Above all, it is important to recognize what we each need individually is different from everyone else. Pay attention to what your body needs and what your mind needs. If you start to get frustrated, figure out what about the process is causing that and find a solution so you can have a smooth work day consistently. Maybe you DO prefer working odd hours, if it works for YOU then go for it. Again, just make sure you’re tracking your time and being paid properly.
About the Author
Founder and visual artist, specializing in all aspects of a businesses presence from imagery and video to graphics and web. A graduate of IPFW with a Bachelor in Fine Arts, Concentration Photography as well as an Associates Degree in Business. His personal photography works are focused on landscape, travel, and aerial photography.