Well, I’m a little more than a year out from quitting my corporate 9-to-5 and running my business full time. I survived a full year!
It’s taken some time to figure out what works best for us, and I’m sure it will for you too. But I’ve put together a list of my tips for working from home to make your transition a little easier.
So whether you work remotely for a big company, homeschool your kiddos, or run your own business from home, hopefully, you’ll be able to plug these into your situation!
1. Set designated working hours
I like my sleep. A lot. If I let myself, I’d totally revert back to my college self and sleep until noon.
But you’ll never be successful working from home if you’re constantly negotiating with yourself on when you have to start working.
Set designated working hours and force yourself to follow them.
Sure, there will be times when you binge-watch Netflix until 2 am and the alarm gets pushed back a couple of hours (or is this just me?) but for the other 99% of the time, set your alarm and get up.
This advice applies equally to the end of your workday. Once you’re in a groove, it’s easy to answer one more email or finish up one last project. Suddenly it’s 8 pm and you haven’t had dinner yet and your family’s wondering if you’re still alive.
Setting a firm end time makes you accountable for getting all the work you need to get done in a day, and stops you from working into all hours of the night. It’s a win-win.
2. Get dressed.
This sucks. I know! Shouldn’t the perk of working from home be working in your pajamas?!
But I promise you. I speak from experience here. You will be 10 times more likely to have a more productive day when you’re presentable. Look good, feel good. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s true.
I have to be ready to answer the door for deliveries, go on supply runs, go to the post office, or answer an impromptu video call. I can’t hide out and be a creeper in my robe, peeking through the blinds all day.
Getting dressed makes me more productive and sociable whether it’s for work or for personal reasons. Not only does it put me in a more professional mindset, I’m ready to grab a movie or have dinner with a friend when I’ve taken the time to put on a bra, some clothes, and a little bit of makeup at the beginning of my day.
3. Have a before-work routine.
On that note, there’s tons of value in having a full morning routine before work.
If you were used to commuting to work your whole life, it’s tough to just slink out of bed 5 minutes before work and jump into immediate productivity.
Follow a morning routine that works for you. Wake up. Take a shower. Grab a coffee. Eat breakfast. Go for a walk. Get your mind in the zone! You can thank me later.
4. Have a designated workspace.
Your setup can’t be your couch and coffee table. Not only is it going to do heavy damage to your back, it’s also too close to the temptation of Netflix and last night’s Real Housewives on your DVR.
Whether you have a designated nook, a basement, or an entire room, have a place that’s separate from the rest of your house and only dedicated to work.
This helps your focus remain on work during work hours and life during your life hours.
5. Make your workspace fun.
When your work relies on creativity like mine does, I need to work in a room that inspires me.
Make your workspace the most fun room in your house if you can! If the room doesn’t make you happy, you’ll dread going in.
Light a candle, hang fun prints on the wall, have photos of your friends and family, play Christmas music during the holidays.
6. Focus on ergonomics.
I know buzzwords like “ergonomics” were supposed to be left behind at the corporate 9-to-5 job, but an improper work setup can take a serious toll on your body.
Whatever you do, don’t hunch over your laptop. This means making sure your chair and desk (or table) are set to a proper height. If you can, get an office chair with adjustable height. If that’s not an option, you can adjust the height of your chair with risers or cushions.
Your monitor or laptop screen should be just below eye level so that you don’t strain your next. You can either use a laptop stand or separate monitor set to the proper height.
I’ve been making my setup more and more ergonomic over time. Here are more working-from-home ergonomic tips from Boston University.
7. Keep your workspace organized.
Less face it, being in charge of your own livelihood is stressful enough. Why add to the stress with a chaotic office?
What this means for you will depend on the type of work you do. It could mean keeping your physical desk clean or keeping your digital desktop and inbox neat and tidy.
For us, this involves breaking down boxes when supplies come in, keeping paperwork and receipts filed neatly and correctly, putting everything in its place after supply runs, and keeping good inventory.
8. Meal plan and eat at the kitchen table.
When working from home, lunch can be tricky business. Especially if you’re freelance or self-employed.
Your time is money! Don’t waste your precious time figuring out what to cook or what drive-thru you can get to the quickest.
That’s why I plan out my lunches ahead of time. I mean this both in terms of what I’m going to eat and when I’m going to eat. I keep on top of my groceries and meal planning, including making my lunches the night before if I can.
I also block at least half an hour in my schedule for lunch to make sure I don’t skip a meal because of meetings.
And I’ll just be honest, if I ate lunch in front of my TV, it would turn into a Sex in the City marathon. If I ate lunch in my bedroom, it would turn into a nap.
When it’s time for lunch, eat at the kitchen table, put down your phone, and take a proper lunch break. When you’re finished, you can return back to your workspace. I’ve found that by doing this, I’m less likely to get distracted by anything else.
9. Set boundaries with your friends and family.
When I first found myself with the newfound freedom of working from home, it felt like summer break all the time. But I quickly realized I actually had to get something accomplished every day, so setting boundaries early on was a big help.
I needed my friends and family to know that just because I’m at home and I’m my own boss doesn’t mean I’m available for a Tuesday matinée. I wish!
Make sure your close circle has a good understanding of your work time and play time. This is another good reason to stick to a schedule. Commit to not taking personal calls or texts during work hours and ask your family to respect your
This is easier said than done if you have kids. But you’ll learn what works for you over time.
10. Enjoy the occasional change of scenery.
For the most part, I have to be in my home office. I can’t travel with all of my equipment. But if you have days when working from outside your house is an option – take advantage of it!
If our website needs a lot of work, or we are doing a holiday brainstorming session, Kat and I like to go offsite (I’m still using the ol’ corporate lingo!). It’s fairly easy to find a coffee shop or patio with free Wi-Fi. A lot of Starbucks have rooms you can reserve for free.
We love brainstorming new products and designs while enjoying a new restaurant we’ve been dying to try. Plus, you can write it off!
11. Allow yourself work perks (in moderation).
At the end of the day, you are your own boss. You’ve worked hard to get to where you are and you should be able to enjoy a perk or two for heaven’s sake!
We changed our summer schedule so that we worked late one night a week and took Fridays off. We were able to enjoy a few days by the pool and get some projects around the house done. Our holiday season starts picking up in September so it’s not really an option the remainder of the year.
Figure out realistic perks that work for you and your schedule and allow yourself to indulge every now and then.
This can even be as simple as taking a few minutes away to put the dishes away or to pop a load of laundry in. Don’t shackle yourself to your desk out of principle.
12. Socialize as much as possible.
Missing out on the social aspects of working in an office is the toughest part of working from home for most people.
It’s the biggest thing I miss about my corporate job—getting up, picking out a cute outfit, doing my hair, and socializing with actual human beings for 8 hours (while getting paid to do it!).
Working from home, you have to be super proactive about getting social time in. Instead of interacting solely with your coworkers or clients through email, pick up the phone to talk to people, or call them over video.
Schedule coffee and lunches with people in your network. One of my closest friends, Ashleigh, also runs a paper shop on Etsy. I love meeting up with her to pick her brain on what’s going on in her world.
Furthermore, let this expand outside of work as well. When a friend invites you to dinner, get out of the house and take them up on it. Better yet, how about you invite a friend to dinner! Don’t get caught in a rut where you’re not interacting with the outside world.
Be patient with yourself. You’ve got this!
I’ve only been working from home for a year, so I’m not an expert by any means. But I’ve gotten more and more into a groove as time goes on.
My concluding tip is to be patient with yourself. Nobody can be 100% productive working from home. Anyone that claims to be is just lying (I think). You’ll get a hang of it over time.
Fellow entrepreneurs, stay-at-home moms, and remote workers, what tips do you have? Teach me your ways in the comments!