Having been a remote employee for five years and a small business owner for another five, I've worked from home for almost 10 years. And while it's not for everyone, the COVID-19 pandemic will change how we work for the foreseeable future, so let's set good habits now and learn from each other.
Here are five tips on working from home successfully:
1. Keep the lines of communication open.
Email is king in remote work, but success comes when you find systems and lines of communication that work best for your clients and team members. Whether it's by text, Slack, Trello, Google Chat, etc, set boundaries for when you're available, but communicate clearly about when you'll be out of the office or away from your desk during normal business hours.
2. Respect deadlines.
The people you're working with may have critical deadlines throughout the day and need your input to finish out their work too, so be cognizant of the need to reply to certain emails, messages, and calls in a timely manner. Say you want to learn how to become a life insurance agent; if you’re on contract with a company, running your own schedule still requires a hard deadline. Make it a habit to periodically check in with your teammates—they'll return the favor and be more likely to have your back when you're tackling challenging projects.
3. Face time still matters.
It helps to keep face-to-face interaction when distance and circumstances don't allow for in-person meetings, and they arguably can help keep those meetings more efficient. There's lots of good software for this—try Google Hangouts, Facetime, and Zoom, amongst others. Normal phone calls work, too.
4. Build in breaks and block out your time.
Taking short breaks can increase your productivity, so don't forget to stand up. Take a quick walk around the neighborhood. Get the mail. Or grab a cup of coffee, and get back to it.
Blocking out your time can also help make your day more efficient. Just like an in-person team might set your schedule in an office, you can create a rhythm that keeps things flowing for yourself. For example, set time to check email, set your priorities for the day, and then map out time for each project or issue that needs to be tackled. Try to schedule meetings during the same time each day—either in the morning, right after lunch, or at the end of the day so that you're not constantly interrupting your workflow.
For potential distractions that come with home life like dishes, laundry, or working out, it might make sense to build them into your day, but set specific times where you allow yourself to walk away from your work. Throw in a load of laundry at lunchtime or do an online yoga class in the morning to begin your workday. Building good habits from the start goes a long way in being successful.
5. Separate work from home life.
Find a workspace at home that you can separate from the rest of your daily activities. This isn't always possible, but it does help set healthy boundaries so that you can walk away at the end of the workday. Close the door on your new "office," if you can. When you set space aside for your work, you can also help eliminate visual distractions.
In addition, it's important to develop a routine and stick with it. This will help you manage your time more effectively and prevent you from feeling overwhelmed. If your workday usually starts at 9 and ends at 4, try to keep those hours and don't allow yourself to be distracted by other activities. Take breaks as needed, but when setting your hours, after work, you can break away from your computer screen and enjoy some time doing the things you love, guilt-free. Maybe that involves playing the guitar or learning how to use a loop pedal. It could even be something as simple as taking a few minutes to meditate or getting in your daily workout. The key is to separate your work and home life.
These tips are good for remote employees all the time, but also for entrepreneurs, small businesses, and startups, as workplaces and co-working spaces have shifted majorly in the last few years. The flexibility to build better work-life balance is a critical part of living a healthy life, so start implementing good habits now.
What have you found that works well for you and your daily remote workflow? Share in the comments below!
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