Like most people who are able to, I’m working from home for the foreseeable future. I’ve been working from home for 2 or 3 days per week for ten years or so so I have a nice setup (multiple screens, proper office chair, decent headset and webcam). Here are a few tips that I have for working from home.
Try to work “normal hours” and have a routine
It’s very easy (especially if you have a job that you enjoy) to spend too long “at work”. The daily commute is an opportunity to get ready for work and then wind down at the end of the day by listening to podcasts, the radio or reading if you’re using public transport. You don’t have this commute time and it is common for work to expand to fill the hours that you spend at your desk. Make sure that you take breaks and make time for ad-hoc chats with colleagues via VOIP calls, IM chats or phone.
Create ground rules for family and friends
It is common for family and friends to ring you if they know that you’re at home or if you have children for them to interrupt you when you’re working. Establish some ground rules to avoid interruptions if you can.
You’re going to be sitting down for most of the day, the walk to the kettle or fridge is likely to be less than the walk to the canteen or sandwich shop in the office. You won’t be walking to meeting rooms so make sure that you take breaks from time to time. Maybe aim for 5 minutes per hour away from your desk (or more if that suits you.)
Go out at least once per day
In the office, nobody thinks twice if you aren’t at your desk for 10 minutes or so and it’s easy to feel that you have to stay at your home desk all the time. Go out and get some fresh air even if you just go for a 5-minute walk.
Don’t mix work and pleasure
Make a separate space for working. If you’re fortunate to have a spare room that you can turn over to “office” use I’d recommend that you do it. This helps you to separate your work and home life. Keep distractions away from your working area and learn to separate work and home tasks.
Keep a separate phone number
If you have a work phone, keep it for work calls only and try not to use your personal phone for work calls. This helps you to switch between roles.
Consider using VOIP or Skype for work to keep your personal phone “personal”.
Make sure you are visible
It is easy for people in the office to forget that you’re around (although when everybody is working from home this is less of an issue). Stay busy and avoid distractions. When you’re working remotely it is important to make sure that people can see that you’re productive. Respond promptly to emails and especially instant messenger chats, even if it is just to say that you’re busy and that you’ll respond later.
You aren’t a hermit. Make time for calls (or better still video chats) with colleagues. Remind them that you’re there and available for work. This also helps to keep you informed about other goings-on at work and maintains team spirit.