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According to a 2017 Gallup Study, almost 50% of Americans work from home in some capacity. I work from home full-time, and that phrase consistently receives polarized reactions. At this point in my career, working from home is not a big deal to me, but I’m often met with the question, “how do you do it?”
It’s not easy, but it’s absolutely manageable if you have the right tools at your disposal. While there are definitely pros to working from home, there are cons that you need to keep in mind.
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In this post, I wanted to share some of my tips and tricks that I have learned over the years on how to work from home effectively. Check them out below.
Pros of Working from Home
Flexibility – Working from home is great because it allows your day-to-day life to be much more flexible. It’s great to know that if I need to take my son to the doctor, I can easily do that and when I get home, it doesn’t feel like I missed a beat. This is not only good for me as an employee but for most employers as well. Employers that offer a work-from-home option see employee turnover rates fall by over 50% along with higher morale and lower absenteeism than their 9-5 counterparts.
Saves Time and Money – A 2018 study found that, on average, no matter where you live in the US, employees save a considerable amount on gas by working from home. Employees in Atlanta, Georgia see the largest cost savings — the eliminated commute saves full-time remote workers about $555 per year and $278 for those working from home 50% of the time. Full-time, work-from-home employees in Atlanta also saved on average over 220 hours of commute time annually.
Increased Productivity – Think about it. There is no water cooler gossip, impromptu meetings, or noisy and distracting coworkers. While some can argue that this is also a “con”, in terms of productivity for the company this is a huge pro. 86% of those surveyed by SurePayroll back in 2016 said they preferred to work alone to “hit maximum productivity.” Managers also agree that remote workers increase their overall productivity when working from home.
It’s Going Global, and It’s Not Going Away – 79% of knowledge workers in a global survey by PGI said they work from home, and 60% of remote workers in the survey said that if they could, they would leave their current job for a full-time remote position at the same pay rate. That speaks volumes.
Environmentally Friendly – Companies can now be “greener”, reducing their carbon footprint and reaping more productivity by letting their employees work from home at least part of the time. A study by USPTO’s teleworkers showed a dramatic impact on reducing carbon emissions each year from teleworkers (uspto.gov page 3). When 5,044 teleworkers work from home four to five days per week, they collectively save $6,534,187 in gas a year and reduce emissions by 29,404 tons annually. So, for those that work from home at all, pat yourself on the back! You’re doing good and getting paid for it.
Remote Work Meets the Demands of Both the Younger and Older Generations – A robust 68% of Millennial job seekers said an option to work remotely would greatly increase their interest in specific employers. In addition to reaching Millennials, you can also attract the Gen Xer’s & Boomers who want to continue to work past “typical retirement”, says AARP with 37% eager to accept a job that offers work from home benefits.
Cons of Working from Home
Feelings of Isolation – While the stats point to increased productivity while working from home, there are also increased feelings of isolation. You miss the everyday office interactions and coworker camaraderie that we detailed above when you work from home. Things like being able to commiserate after a heavy client call or laughing over an inside joke with people can be challenging to manufacture if you work from home.
Snacks, Lunches, Happy Hours, and other In-Office Perks – Who doesn’t love a free lunch? These kinds of food-based perks are a huge benefit of working in an office, so if you don’t, you miss that bit of excitement.
Difficulty Establishing a Work Routine at Home – When you’re working from home, it’s easy to stay in your PJ’s all day, to let your morning coffee and news creep into the 10:30 hour, or to just let the day slip by without having made significant progress in your to-do list (assuming you made one). This can really throw your entire working life out of whack, affect your productivity, and make your bosses wary of your performance.
To address these, I have some tips and tricks that will help you overcome the cons.
Tips and Tricks to Work Well From Home
Here are some of my tried and true tips and tricks that I have learned over the last few years of working from home. These are things that work for me, but I would love to hear what works for you, or answer any questions that come up for you while reading this!
Create a Space that is for the Purpose of Work
Carve out a dedicated workspace in your home. I have an office in my house, but I know it’s not always possible to have a full room to yourself. To remedy this, some people prefer to work at the kitchen table in the morning and move to the couch in the afternoon. Others have a small desk somewhere in their homes. No matter your preference, make it your own and make it work-friendly.
Present Yourself and Your Space Well on Video Calls
You want to showcase a professional look and feel, even when clients or coworkers know you work from home. Every time I know I have a video chat, I make sure that I’m not wearing my PJ’s and I have at least a minimal amount of makeup on. I also make sure the background they can see is clean, clear of clutter, and looks professional.
Don’t Skimp on What You Need
Find whatever office equipment works best for you and don’t be afraid to spend the money – you’ll be spending a lot of time in it, so make sure it’s something that you’ll be comfortable sitting in every day. For example, I work best with dual computer screens, so I have those and a separate mouse and keyboard. I also have a Varidesk, which I love. I can sit down and drink my coffee in the morning and stand late afternoon when I’m getting a little antsy. Also, as a perk of working for Go Fish Digital, our second-anniversary gift is money for a good office chair. I was able to get both a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing chair that fits into the rest of my office decor. I also purchased some solid bluetooth headphones that I use on all client phone calls, I personally love the Apple PowerBeats3.
Establish a Morning Routine
I believe it’s great to establish a morning routine as if you were driving into the office.
Here’s mine, most days
- 5 or 5:30 am – Wake up and workout
- 6:00 am – Get a coffee, shower, listen to a brain stimulating podcast, get dressed
- 6:40ish am – Wake up the house, clean, or pick out my kid’s clothes
- 7:00 am – Make breakfast, unload the dishwasher, get lunches ready, nag everyone along so they make it out the door on time
- 7:35 am – Wave goodbye as everyone heads out the door to work and school
- 7:40 am – Get a second cup of coffee, do hair and makeup, or drive the kids to school
- 8:00 am – Start work
Plan Your Days and Mark Your Shared Calendar Accordingly
Most of the people I work with don’t work remotely 100% of the time so I really try to make sure that my calendar reflects my availability. If I am going to the gym for lunch, I mark that hour as busy. If I am going to a doctor’s appointment, I set aside time in my calendar for both the drive and appointment time. That way I never have to leave early or miss a meeting because of my miscommunication.
Take Clear Breaks
This one was hard for me initially. I never used to take breaks, but I have found that they are essential and really beneficial for me mentally. I try to take a break for 5 minutes every hour or so, even if it is just to stretch. I also take two 15 minute breaks a day outside of lunch to either take a quick walk outside or do a load of laundry.
Stay in the Know
Working from home is sometimes difficult for me because I can feel very isolated from what is going on outside of my four walls. So, I typically try to listen to the first 20 minutes of any news cycle just to get the headlines and top topics across the country. This actually helps with client interaction on calls. For instance, if there is flooding in California or a NorEaster in Boston, I’m able to use that as a talking point if needed in my conversations that day.
Go Fish also has a “Learning Opportunity” Slack Channel that includes podcasts, blog posts, white papers and more. This channel helps employees advance their skills by seeing what other colleagues find interesting and educational across the web. It’s a great resource to keep a pulse on what interests people as well.
Communicate Expectations with Others in Your Household (including animals)
Ensure that boundaries are set with friends, family and even animals that may be in the house while you work. For instance, if my door is shut, that signals to my family to try to keep the volume down (as much as possible) because I am on a client call. If I have my door open but my earbuds are in, they can be as loud as they want (just don’t bother me).
Pets are another distraction not only to you but to your clients. I am all for walking the dog as a break or throwing the ball during lunch, but for me, when I am working, my dog is not in the room. This ensures that there is no outside noise like barking or whining that my clients or colleagues will hear that could be distracting.
In my opinion, it’s nice to spend some money here as well. Invest in great “brain food” snacks. My go-to’s are almonds, avocado english muffins, trail mix (with M&M’s, obviously), and sometimes homemade popcorn.
Most days I prep my meals the night before (I’ve learned to do this the hard way). If I don’t prep my meal the night before I end up scrounging through the pantry or spending my entire lunchtime making a meal and cleaning up after it…no fun. Not to mention the potential extra calories you consume when you don’t plan.
Limit Your Distractions (w/ Some Exceptions, Again be Self-Aware)
I try not to work with the TV on. I typically listen to podcasts or nothing at all. However, I have friends that keep the news on all day at low volume or flip on the History channel as background noise and get so much done. Music is also a good background noise option that can be helpful when trying to concentrate. Also, don’t let social media or app notifications suck you in. Remember, it’s their job to distract you. Just go into your phone settings, find notifications and choose which apps are the most distracting and disable their notifications. You can also put your phone on airplane or sleep mode during times that need intense concentration.
Leave the House
Sometimes, it’s good just to get out of the house. I try to do this on days where I have little to no client calls. There are a few go-to coffee shops with great coffee, atmosphere, and most importantly, great WiFi in my neighborhood so I try to take advantage as much as I can.
Now that you read through some pros, cons, and tips for working from home, here are a few tools that I use regularly to either get organized, account for my time, or stay in touch with co-workers. There are many more options, so feel free to add them in the comments section.
- Slack – Slack is a collaboration hub where you and your team can work together to get things done.
- Calendars – Our office uses a shared calendar, and it’s wonderful for scheduling meetings.
- Google Hangouts – This is a really quick messaging option when you have a simple question for a colleague. You can also search your Gmail for past conversations – a really great tool.
- GoToMeeting – A must for me when scheduling client calls, presentations and screen shares
- Zoom – Another great video tool to use with clients.
- Basecamp – All of our company’s projects and tasks are stored here and it creates great transparency with clients. Other tools like Asana and Trello are good as well.
- Organize Your Email – I create labels and filters in Gmail. This helps me organize, store and keep my inbox clean. At the same time, important messages are easier to find.
- Keep Social Media at Bay – I keep social media accounts out of my bookmarks for easy access, but according to Fast Company, they also say you should log out of every account. If you don’t want to go that far, you can just work primarily in a private or “Incognito” browser window, so you are automatically not logged in.
- RescueTime – This is a great tool to understand better how you are spending your workday. I use this because I want to know how I’m spending my time (Lite Version is free).
- Harvest – Harvest tracks your time and I know a few friends who use this and really like it.
- Unsubscribe from Non-Value Email Lists – You can use services like UnRoll.me which helps remove emails that you don’t want or read in bulk.
According to a survey of 1,000 hiring managers, 55% agree that full-time remote work is more common now, and they expect up to 38% of their full-time workers will be working remotely in the next decade.
So, whether you love working from home or hate it, the fact is that it seems to be growing in popularity with both employees and employers. If you ever get the chance to work from home, I hope some of these tips and tricks help you work from home effectively.
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