Working from home is not all rainbows and unicorns. Here are three suggestions to make things go more smoothly.
As nice as it sounds to putter down to the kitchen in your slippers for a cup of coffee, working from home is not without challenges. If you’re one of the 4.7 million Americans who work from home, you know that, in reality, it takes a little finesse to be successful.
There are a number of reasons we work: We seek a sense of accomplishment, and want to feel productive. We enjoy companionship, being part of something bigger than ourselves. But primarily, most of us work to earn money, to provide for ourselves and pad our bank accounts. The other benefits are just nice additions.
If you want to prosper in your career, it helps to face your challenges realistically, and to come up with a plan for dealing with them like a pro. Here are a few ways to make your work-from-home lifestyle successful.
1. Set hours
Establishing regular work hours serves at least three purposes. It reminds you that this is your “real” job, and that you must treat it as such. If you treat a work-at-home job like a hobby, you’re likely to get paid as though it’s a hobby. Setting your alarm for the same time each morning and knowing what time you’re expected at your desk gives you the ability to create a schedule, to realistically know how much you can accomplish in one day.
Regular work hours can also combat burnout. If you’re relaxing in the den and suddenly realize that you forgot to make a call, it’s tempting to go into your office, find the number, and make that call. The proximity of your workplace makes it easy to do “just one more thing,” which can easily lead to burnout. Training yourself to work consistent hours not only helps you accomplish more during the day, it also provides you time to rest and renew.
Finally, setting firm work hours allows you to tell people, “These are the hours I work. During these hours, I will not pick up the phone for chats, babysit your child for an hour, run errands, or otherwise distract myself.”
Although the number of people who work remotely is expected to rise over time, only 3.4% of Americans have the luxury today. A lot of people just won’t get it — they’ll assume your job is so flexible that you will be available whenever they choose. They may not understand that you have the same responsibility to your employer as any other employee, and that you’re building a career. You must remind them, and then remind them again. Having regular work hours can help you do that.
2. Get to know your coworkers
Working from home can be an isolating experience, but if you work from home, there’s a good chance others within your company do as well. Whether your coworkers are still in their PJs at 2 p.m. or they drive into the office each day, become part of their team. It is through your coworkers that you learn more about corporate culture, figure out who plays which role, and discover how you can be most useful to the company. Caring about how your coworkers fare adds to your sense of purpose, and feeds your need for connection.
3. Keep learning
No matter how long you’ve been in your career or how much experience you have, there is always more to know. One of the great joys of adulting is that you can still be delighted by learning something new. Learn from your coworkers by joining a professional association in your area, by reading, or by taking classes. Whatever you do, don’t stop learning. Take time to learn about things outside of your job, like how to play a new sport, invest like a pro, or speak a new language.
Ultimately, the more you learn, the more valuable you are to your employer and the more enriched you are by your job, no matter where you do it — and that makes working from home a win/win.