Is working from home working for you?
When it comes to working from home, people generally fall into a few camps: They either absolutely LOVE it, or they hate it (or they’ve never done it and they’re really, really jealous). When I realized about a year ago that I was going to have to move across the country, and it became clear that I’d be working from home on a daily basis, people had lots of thoughts and everyone had their own unique experience and tricks.
After about a year, I have to say I’ve really loved the experience, for the most part. As with anything, there are pros and cons:
You have a flexible schedule where you can use the hours in the day as you’d like (to a certain extent) as long as you produce good results—At first I was hesitant to run an errand or get up for coffee, but then I realized that if I were in an office I’d also take breaks, and it’s okay.
You have minimal interruptions and you get so much done—I actually didn’t realize how distracting the office was until I left it. Sure, it felt eerily quiet some days, but I was finding that I got through work at a pace that amazed me. I was able to take on so much more, and produce great results more efficiently.
You can switch up your location—It’s nice to work from different spots instead of being at the same exact desk every single day. Working from home gives you the opportunity to create a great home office or home desk, but then switch it up and work from a coffee shop, shared workspace, or anywhere with wireless when you need a change. The variety is great.
It gets a little lonely! When you sit amongst tons of people in an office, it fosters an environment where you can flip your chair around and bounce an idea off of someone, or ask how someone’s night was, or just take a walk to the kitchen to grab a water. Of course, working from home doesn’t give you that opportunity, and it can definitely feel a little lonely without that constant interaction.
It’s harder to collaborate—Technology has helped this “negative” a lot. Being able to constantly communicate through programs like Skype is game changing. However, as good as these tools are, it’s hard to feel like you’re really in the mix, constantly collaborating, if you’re just on a screen. Even if good intentions are there, it’s easy to miss out on those organic, unplanned collaborations in person. Of course, if your whole office works from home, it’s a different story!
You have no choice but to self-motivate—I happen to be good at this, but I definitely see how it can be challenging to self-motivate every single day when there aren’t others around you, watching and giving constant direction. If this is a strength of yours, it won’t be a big deal. If you find that you like to be more closely managed, it may not be ideal.
So here are my tips on how to make the best out of working from home:
Find an online communication tool that you like, and encourage those who you are working with to use it too—People who are in a big corporate office may not feel they need to be on Skype or Gchat all day, but if they know it will help them work with you more efficiently, they’ll probably be willing to give it a shot. It’s really nice when you can shoot someone a quick message that doesn’t come in the form of an email, or quickly video chat with them. I definitely felt closer to my co-workers this way.
Over-communicate what you’re up to—Don’t leave your manager or co-workers wondering what you’ve been working on all week. Whether it’s sending a recap each week, touching base over phone, or any other way, it’s great to be clear about what you’re working on, what you need help on, and anything else going on. Don’t assume people know. They probably don’t!
Change it up—Have a day without a lot of meetings or phone calls? Switch up your environment and work from somewhere new. Being in a new atmosphere has a way of spurring really productive days.
Find work-from-home buddies—There are probably lots of people in the same boat as you. Once I found my San Francisco work-from-home crew (through Local Levo) we found ways to work from the same place every so often. The interaction with others while working was so refreshing after a few days of being on my own.
Exercise—Sadly, I started to noticed how inactive I was relative to when I was working in an office. Those walks for the daily commute, coffee breaks, to meetings, and even to the bathroom (I know it sounds crazy) add up to a lot of movement that you just don’t get when you work at home. I can’t say I’ve been great about sticking to a regimen, but the months where I spend time running, and get out of the house to be active, makes a huge impact.