In recognition of the author’s 400th post on this blog, we are re-running select posts from time to time.
With Labor Day just past us, I am reminded that I have been working from home (WFH) for roughly five years. It definitely has its pros and cons (mostly pros). The flexibility in being able to work whatever hours you want is a plus. I’m not a big morning person, so I really enjoy being able to ease into the day. It’s also a real bonus not having to worry about commuting to work during the sometimes brutal winters we have here in the Upper Midwest.
But WFH does take a lot of self-discipline, which is still not always easy for me. For one thing, unlike a traditional office, you have the luxury of throwing in a load of laundry in between various work tasks, doing the dishes, and so on. This is good and bad: You get things done you wouldn’t normally until you got home from the office, but it’s easy to overdo it and not get enough for your “job” done.
For me, the biggest drawback when WFH is really hard is on a gorgeous day when I’d much rather be walking my dog or going for a bike ride. In such cases, you might go one better and just work outside that particular day. (See picture below right.)
One thing that helps regardless of the weather is to set “mini-goals” for yourself. For instance, tell yourself that you ARE going to get project X done today. Just make it something attainable or you’re just setting yourself up for a letdown. It doesn’t have to be a single project… in fact, it’s been my experience that sometimes it’s more realistic to set multiple goals for the same project; steps that you know you can accomplish in a given day, but which, when taken together, will keep you on track for getting the work done when you are supposed to have it completed. For instance, let’s say you’re working on a big proposal. Tell yourself on Monday you are going to have the first part written by the end of the day on Tuesday, and so on.
A detriment of WFH is definitely the lack of interaction with co-workers. Picking up the phone or emailing or texting can help, but it often isn’t the same thing. Most of us don’t handle isolation very well, so mix things up. If a big project keeps you chained to your computer on a given day, give yourself a break the next day and take an hour-long lunch at a local diner. Even better, invite a friend to join you!
However, if you are an extremely social person at work, chatting with everyone from the janitor and executive secretary to co-workers most of the day, I would NOT recommend WFH — at least not very often.
Many of us are working from home more than ever, and so while I hope these tips have helped, the truth is that you will probably have to experiment and find whatever schedule works best for you. A brief word of caution: Be prepared to explain a barking dog or meowing cat to an important client you are on the phone with! Good luck.