Set Boundaries For Work-From-Home Success
There are many romantic notions that come with the idea of working from home — spending more time with your pets, being able to put some check marks on that ever-growing to-do list, but most importantly, working in your pajamas!
Like anything else that has to do with work, it is work! I have been working remotely for the last five years, and it has allowed me to be very flexible with my living arrangements, from Bend, Oregon, to Missoula, Montana, and back to Oregon. This was a great time as I was in my mid-20s and single, but now that I am older and have more responsibilities I have found that daily structure with a home office is the key to success.
I am going to outline some of the procedures that I have put into place that allow me to be highly productive while enjoying the comforts of home!
Having a defined workspace has been key for me. I have worked from kitchen tables, living rooms, basements, bedrooms, you name it! These all worked fine for me, but they never felt productive or organized. I now have the luxury of a dedicated office. This room is for work and work only. The door remains closed during off-hours to deter me from sneaking in an extra hour here and there.
Having a defined workspace also helps you get into the work mindset, it removes daily distractions, whether that is chores, spouses, kids or animals. It is made for work.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but the technology that I use has evolved over the years and is important in my daily activities. My personal setup has seen many iterations and has also changed as my roles have changed, not to mention what is trending or where I am in life.
What my setup looks like now.
- Sit/stand desk
- Regular desk chair (prevents me from sitting while my desk is up)
- External monitor and laptop
- Bluetooth mouse and keyboard
- Bluetooth headphones
- Swinging desk lamp
I went many years without a number of these items, then I realized, in a typical work year, I will be spending 2,080 hours at my desk. That brings me to my next item: ergonomic office furniture.
I don’t want to tell you how much money I spent on my desk chair, because it gives me heartburn and a minor panic attack. This investment has not only helped with my back pain but is just a joy to sit in. Once again, think about how many hours you are going to use something and buy the best item you can afford.
Set Work Hours
Schedule. Schedule. Schedule. Your daily hours may be set by your employer or you may schedule your own day. Either way, find a system that works for you.
Previously, I used to spread my work hours out over the course of the day, an hour here, an hour there. This inevitably led to me thinking about work projects for 16 hours a day. Not ideal. I now work regular office hours, in the time zone of the Kinetic office, this actually ends up buying me an hour at the end of the day — the one-hour time difference.
A set schedule not only defines your working hours, but it is also important for interaction with my team and getting projects done in a timely manner. EOD can mean anything when you work from home unless you define your hours of operation.
Having proper office hours also has helped me to eliminate work creep — hopping on my computer to do “just one more thing” before wrapping up for the day.
Office hours supported by a dedicated workspace will allow you to clock in and clock out.
When Are You Most Productive?
Speaking of office hours, when are you most productive? Personally, I really enjoy working on high priority projects in the early afternoon. By this time, I have worked through a handful of small items, the to-do list is looking smaller and I can properly dedicate time and brainpower to longer-duration projects.
This will be different for everyone, so find your productive time and double down!
Yes, this means putting pants on.
This is the most important item for me. Lose the office job, lose the commute. I learned quickly that the morning commute was more than a frustrating drive. For me, it was time to prep for the day, drink my coffee and get into a good space before I got to the office. Now that my commute is 30 seconds, I don’t have that time in the morning to prepare… unless I intentionally carve it out.
Now without my morning routine, it feels like I woke up late and can’t find my keys. I prepare for the day just like I was going into the office. Morning showers are considered my first cup of coffee and then everything else just falls into place. Find a morning routine that works for you and stick to it!
I have transformed my morning commute into some light chores around the house and then reading up on industry news. This not only gets my brain firing on all cylinders but keeps me up to date on current trends. I also like to get started on lighter projects that don’t require a massive amount of brainpower… this goes back to knowing when I am most productive!
Switch It Up
It is easy to get bored with your surroundings when you are not interacting with your co-workers on a regular basis or moving around for different meetings. To reduce this fatigue I often deviate from home base (office) and roam my house (when no one is home) to work from different rooms, from the kitchen to the patio. Changing up the scenery can help boost your mental awareness and help get you into a flow state.
In my previous home, I had certain areas where I would work on certain tasks. Email — from the kitchen table. Meetings — from my stand-up desk. Email builds — in my office with a good podcast. The point is, if you are getting bored, move around. Don’t feel limited to your home. Coffee shops aren’t just for college kids and creatives. I have spent many hours at my local coffee shop. Some other great places I have enjoyed over the years are libraries, restaurants, museums and co-working spaces.
This one saves my bacon on a daily basis. I enjoy interacting with my colleagues and often find myself yearning for human interaction — the dog gets tired of my stories. Utilize video chat, if that is your thing, a quick five-minute chat can boost your energy to power through your next stint. This is also a great way to brainstorm with others on your team. At the Kinetic office, I will join in on whiteboard sessions and brainstorming activities to get the juices flowing for our next strategy.
It is a common misconception that, because you work from home, you have unlimited free time. It is hard for some people to understand that a job is a job, even if your manager can’t see you working. Set boundaries and expectations with those closest to you and let them know that you are working during work hours (remember setting those earlier?).
Sometimes it is not the other folks in your life, but you. Set boundaries and expectations of yourself. This was a struggle for me early on in my career and was a learning process over time. I often try to overbook myself knowing that I will not get everything done but will still make progress on my to-do list. There is always time tomorrow, not tonight, to finish the to-do list.
All in all, working from home can be a very productive and rewarding career choice. It can allow you to be flexible in life and to follow other passions, to see the world or to reduce commute anger! Some people thrive from structure and others want to knock walls down, whatever your preference, I hope that these tips help you as they have helped me.