Most people don’t realize working from home is not easy.
It’s an understandable misconception since working from the comfort of your home offers many attractive advantages. It’s no surprise 60% of companies are offering the possibility of occasional or regular remote work, and 68% of millennial job seekers said the option to work remotely would greatly increase their interest in an employer.
The advantages both for employer and employee are clear - you even get to decide how to design your office. But the misconception still stands: working from home has its own set of challenges and if you think your job (whatever it is) will be easier because you’re sitting on your couch, you’re in for a surprise.
But if you take in consideration all the advantages it offers, with the right attitude and discipline it can be the most fulfilling, rewarding, and fun kind of work you’ll ever have. You just have to know how to make the most out of it.
So first things first:
You have to be the boss
You hear it all the time:
- Wow, you work from home? How does it feel having no boss behind your back?
First of all, we have these things called phones. I do have a boss and if she/he wants to reach me immediately, it takes about 5 seconds. And second, in this day and age, we have these things called messaging software. You see where I’m going with this.
But then you hear:
- No, I mean, at least you don’t have someone passing by your desk and pressuring you all the time!
It’s an understandable assumption - anyone can relate to the idea of a boss that keeps walking by your desk to put pressure on you. You end up feeling watched and judged constantly, and no one likes that.
But working from home doesn’t rid you of this boss - YOU are this boss now.
If you’re an employee, you’ll still be answering to your boss - albeit remotely. And that stereotypical boss - the one that keeps walking by your desk to pressure you - that’s on you now. And failing to be that boss for yourself means you’ll start slacking and being unproductive.
You should know when to stop
Another situation we can all relate to is the running out the clock scenario.
You’re in the office, all the work is done, but you still have 1 hour left, so what do you do?
You wait it out.
For the great majority of employers that allow remote work, this scenario doesn’t exist. Remote employers usually prefer you reaching your goals than working a specific number of hours. You’ve reached your goals? You’ve got the job done?
Then you’re free.
And that’s great!
… but it does allow for an opposite scenario most people never see coming: the one where you don’t mind working after hours to reach your goals and you end up overworking yourself to the point of exhaustion.
And it’s deceivingly easy to get yourself in that position: you’re so comfortable at home you don’t mind staying a bit late, you don’t mind taking it a bit too far, you don’t mind showing your employer you’re willing to go the extra mile… so much so that you can work for hours upon hours without taking a proper breather and at the end of the day STILL feel like you’re not done because you’re still in the same environment - but we’ll talk about the environmental part on the next topic.
Loving what you do or simply being dedicated to your job is a good thing - a great thing even - but you need a time to stop.
When you’re done with work and start staying after hours just because you can, that’s when that boss we’ve talked about before (yourself) needs to come in and tell you to “go home.”
You need a room (or a corner) just for work
At first, most people don’t mind working anywhere in the house, because it’s actually quite liberating. You can sit on the sofa in front of the TV, use the kitchen table, a desk in your bedroom, or straight up work from your bed. It’s great, isn’t it?
Working this way only makes the line between work and personal too nebulous.
Generally speaking, people like to relax at home. Sure, you have your usual chores, but home is the place where you watch TV, play video games, read a book, sleep, and so on - you’d never think about doing any of these at the office. If you take work everywhere in the house, you’ll feel like work never leaves you alone - even when you’re trying to relax.
When you start working from your bed, it leads to you not being able to feel like you’re ever done with work… even when you’re laying down to sleep. And that’s a terrible feeling.
The solution is pretty straight forward: have a place in your home you can call an office.
Take any spare room and make it into a simple office - just a corner of another room is enough. That way, when you stop working and get away from that desk, you’ll feel like you’re done. There are many ways to make it work even in small rooms.
To-do lists are your best friends
Seriously. Working from home means you’re the one responsible for prioritizing your tasks and having an organized to-do list is the easiest way to do so. Never underestimate the power of a good list.
The ways you can go about making lists are pretty much endless, but these are some of the best tools you can start using:
- Evernote is a powerful and versatile note maker that works for small or complex notes (even hand drawn).
- Todoist is probably the best list-maker ever and works with literally any device. Any.
- Wunderlist is almost just as good, but with a more stylized UI.
- Do It Tomorrow is a 48-hour-only planner if you like things simple.
- Trello is intuitive and perfect for visual thinkers and teamwork.
- The good old fashioned pen and paper is always an option.
Use music to your advantage
Almost everyone listens to music or some kind of ambient noise during work hours, even at the office. As I’m writing this, for example, I’m listening to Rainy Mood - I love listening to music at work, but for writing it’s way too distracting.
You should take that in consideration at all times. You can listen to any music you want and you don’t even need headphones - it’s your home, after all. But this might not be the beneficial to your work.
Creative tasks such as writing are severely impaired by listening to music, especially with lyrics, and even more if you like what you hear. Basically, you have so much fun listening to music your work suffers from it.
However, mechanical or repetitive tasks can be dramatically boosted in productivity if you listen to good music. It depends on what you do, and how you feel when doing it.
Bottom line, music greatly improves your mood and consequently makes work more enjoyable. Just be sure that the music you’re listening to isn’t distracting you or impairing your concentration. In that case, if you need ambient noise to keep distractions away, try something like Rainy Mood, Noisli, A Soft Murmur, or My Noise.
You can also create a work playlist on your favorite music streamer and stick to it. This creates a form of brain association that makes working a lot easier.
Working from home doesn’t make any job easier in my opinion. You still have to reach your goals, you still have to be responsible, and most of the times you still have to answer to your boss.
However, I do agree it makes most jobs a lot more enjoyable.
If you adapt to the routine, remember to take care of your own mental and physical health, and find your own ways to be productive and responsible... working from home is the best kind of work.
Besides everything else we’ve talked about and all the other things you’ll learn on the way, remember to have fun. This goes for any job. If you’re not having fun and enjoying your office job, working from home is probably not going to fix it.