Thanks to technology, working remotely is a possibility like never before. And now, employees are seeking companies that offer this perk, and even negotiating for it, as one would for a salary. While there are certainly benefits to setting up shop in your space, actually getting and staying on-task can be extra challenging. That's why it's important to learn how to work from home effectively, whether you're a current telecommuter or you're thinking of making the switch.
If you're itching for more flexibility, you're not alone. "According to a recent LinkedIn study, almost half of US professionals are getting their jobs done at home and 70 percent of companies now offer some type of remote work opportunities," says LinkedIn career expert Blair Decembrele. "We’ve also seen a 78 percent increase since 2016 in job listings mentioning the term 'workplace flexibility' on LinkedIn, so we know opportunities for remote work are vast."
Ahead, Decembrele, along with three telecommuting entrepreneurs, share their secrets for staying motivated and focused during a remote workday. From sticking to a schedule to minimizing distractions, these professionals share what works for them — and what doesn't. While the perks of working from home may be obvious, at the end of the day, the fact remains: You still have to get work done.
#1 - Be Present Whether You're On "Work Time" Or "Personal Time"
The change of scenery between your home and the office helps to shift your mindset to being on or off the clock. So without the commute, the lines can blurred, which can lead to a scattered workday and personal time that's preoccupied by what you should have accomplished.
According to Kelly Love, mom and co-founder of Branch Basics, which operates remotely and makes non-toxic cleaning products, the trick is to be completely present during both work and personal time. In other words, when it's time to work, the laundry and dishes can wait; likewise, during family time, the laptop stays off. "I’ve gotten so much better over the years about being present, even when I’m multitasking, because I know that there’s a limit to how much you can actually juggle at once," says Love. Her role includes being involved in the company's high-level business decisions as well as marketing and branding. "I do most of my work when my daughter is at school — I turn off when I pick her up — and then I turn back on later if I need to. That flexibility of working from home is what makes balancing motherhood and entrepreneurship a reality for me."
#2 - Minimize Distractions
One of the best ways to be present, especially for work tasks, is to identify your biggest distractions — and minimize them as much as possible. For many, it means turning a blind eye to what needs to be done around the house, at least during work hours. "While being in the office comes with its fair share of workplace distractions, 30 percent of working professionals say they get distracted at home by chores," says Decembrele. If the mess is diverting your focus, one simple solution is to head to a local coffee shop or cafe where it's out of sight, out of mind (at least for a little while). For those with an extra room, it's helpful to set up a home office where you can shut the door. Or, if you're short on space, you can create an office nook that you keep clutter-free.
For mom Allison Evans, who also co-founded Branch Basics and assists with high-level business decisions, PR, and social media, working while her children are home makes productivity nearly impossible. "When I need to devote a few hours to work, I know that I can’t do this without someone helping me with the kids or them being out of the house," she explains. "I tried this for a year, and the reality is I just can’t get anything done." And when the chores are calling? "I find it helpful to sit in an area where my dirty laundry and kitchen aren’t in plain site, tempting me to address them! Sometimes this means sitting on my bed, which is really my favorite place to work."
#3 - Initiate Human Interaction
While separating yourself from difficult bosses, conflicting co-workers, and demanding customers may sound like a dream come true, the truth is, all that solitude can take its toll. "Working from home can feel lonely and isolating at times," shares Love. "Video chats help, as do scheduled in-person meetings on a recurring basis so that you’re not alone with your computer."
Ashley Tibbits, a freelance writer and social media manager, staff writer for The Zoe Report, and founder and editor of Clever, says she's learned to build social time into her schedule. After transitioning from waitressing and part-time freelancing to working from home full-time, "I found myself really depressed and actually a little bit paranoid and disaster-phobic for awhile, and couldn't figure out why," she recalls. "In retrospect, I think it was just a complete lack of socialization. I live alone, so most work days I can easily go all day without speaking to anyone aloud or being face-to-face." So, when she begins feeling isolated, "I'll force myself out of the house as soon as my work shift is over. I'll schedule a workout class, walk to the market, go grocery shopping, or even take myself out to get a glass of wine!"
If you're considering working from home, it's important to gauge the amount of socialization you think you'll need to be your happiest; introverts may be content with occasional outings, while extroverts may crave interaction several times throughout the week. Notes Decembrele, "The inability to interact in person is something working professionals list as a drawback of working from home — from missing the stimulation of working with other people in person to feeling they aren’t able to get questions answered easily or run ideas past others."
#4 - Stick To A Schedule (That Works For You)
One of the biggest draws of working from home is that you're not confined to a 9-to-5 schedule. That said, it's essential to stick to a schedule that fits your lifestyle (recall how Love completes the majority of her tasks while her daughter is at school). "You absolutely, 100 percent must be someone who can manage their time well," says Tibbits. "No one is there to look over your shoulder or push you, so you have to be that motivation." However, she admits that beginning her work day in her PJ's is one of her favorite parts of telecommuting; but again, it's a matter of preference. "Some say that it helps to immediately wake up and get dressed, so you're instantly in the mindset of work, but I haven't gotten into that practice yet!" she says.
Either way, it's important to set limits for yourself: There's a time to work, and a time to unplug. "Start each day as though you’re going to the office, and end it that way too, putting away devices for personal time in the evening," advises Decembrele. "If your work day must extend beyond traditional working hours, be sure to set up boundaries for yourself and stick to them." She also warns that taking your job home can make it difficult to "clock out" for the day. "There’s a chance you’ll end up working too much when you don’t actually leave the office at the end of the day." It may take some trial and error — some work best in the morning, some in the evening, some need more frequent breaks, some hammer it out all at once — but overall, "The key is creating and sticking to a schedule or routine that works for you," Decembrele concludes.