Updated: Oct 3
There is no doubt that many of us are more productive and effective when we work from home. The advantages are huge, but there are also several challenges. Fortunately, it’s easy to be effective when working from home on a long-term basis, if you follow three golden rules.
Before I describe the three rules, let’s look at some of challenges faced by people who work from home:
The quality of your internet connection, VPN access or hardware related issues can all cause huge frustration, especially when you are isolated from the workplace and tech support (both formal and informal). This can be particularly challenging when you have a tight budget.
If we can allocate a designated space as our “home office” – great. However, for many of us this is simply not possible. Kitchen and dining room tables/chairs are not ideal, and background noise can be a real issue too.
If you are lucky, you will have your home to yourself while you are working, but in many cases we face issues such as:
Unwanted interruptions from others who do not fully understand that you are WORKING from home, not just at home
Childcare and home-schooling responsibilities
Difficulties finding reasonably private spaces to work from
Your own state of mind can be the biggest challenge of all:
Some of us struggle to focus and be productive at home for various reason (I’ve been here)
Others end up working longer hours than normal, sometimes to the detriment of our mental health (yup, done this too)
The lack of direct physical interaction with co-workers and customers can be difficult, and create a feeling of isolation from our co-workers
If you are unlucky, you will face all of these!
I have worked from home since 2012 and I have identified three golden rules, which if you follow, you’ll be happy and productive when working from home:
1. Separate work-life from home-life.
When I first worked from home, my wife and I lived is a 700 sq. ft, 1-bedroom apartment. I worked from our dining table and initially would leave my laptop and other work stuff out when I finished. I would sit watching TV in the evening and my work life stared back at me, the same at mealtimes. Some evenings I would find myself drawn back to my work, even when I had no urgent deliverables; it also annoyed my neat-freak wife!
So, I created a new routine where I would pack away ALL of my work stuff into a bag and box which I stored at the back of the closet until the next morning. This helped me create the separation and all I needed was a small space.
2. Establish and aggressively follow a formal schedule
I start and end work at set times every day, and I also take set breaks, which I spend away from my working space.
If you have conflicting demands on your time, work these into your schedule too. For example, formally schedule time to look after home-schooling into your day or to make the school run.
You may have to change your working hours to fit in childcare, homeschooling and other domestic commitments. You may decide to start work earlier or work into the evening or you may have to work a “split-shift” with 4 hours during the day and 4 in the evening - just make sure that you schedule your working time and stick to it.
I also create routines regarding what I do before work, how I dress and what I do to prepare each day. This is so much more important than when you go into the office.
3. Get Agreement from all those you live with about all of this
If you share your home with others, this is crucial. They all need to understand:
What hours you are working
Where you will be working
How to contact you during working hours
When you will be attending to other duties
Your requirements regarding background noise and privacy
How others can support your needs and how you will support theirs
After more than a decade of working from home, I don’t think that I could ever go back to the grind of the daily commute. It was tough at first, but by following the three golden rules I have come to love working from home and become far more productive than I ever was in the office.