After more than 10 years of working from home on and off, I’ve learned that it’s not always as great as you think. It requires just as much discipline, dedication and focus as working at the office. Done right it can be very rewarding and productive.
Studies have shown that employees can be more effective at home if they practise some basic skills and routines. Here are some tips that have helped me which I trust may be useful to you.
- Prepare yourself each day as if you are going to work. Get up, get dressed and start on time as if you are going to work. Keep your routine going.
- Keep a schedule. Know when you are working and when you are not. Let those around you know what your schedule is – especially children/grandchildren who may be excited to have you home. Be mindful of your work time and your personal time – always ask yourself, what am I doing right now?
- Set aside a designated work space. If you can, dedicate a room, desk or space that is your place of work. Keep it clean and work focussed. Don’t let your space be distracted by TVs, radios, magazines etc.
- Stay connected. Use tools like Skype, Whatsapp, Google Hangouts etc to connect with colleagues throughout your day. Even if you don’t have a meeting scheduled, send a text to say hi. This collegiality will help make you feel like you are not alone.
- Get up and stretch regularly. Take a break. It is tempting to stay seated longer when you are home which quickly leads to cramping and lethargy. Get up for a coffee/tea/water. Talk to others in your home like you would in the hallway at work. Take a walk in your neighbourhood at lunch to clear your mind. Take time for lunch.
- Set goals for the day. It’s easy to lose focus or get distracted if you are on your own for too long. Review your progress regularly to make sure you are remaining productive. Keep connected with your supervisor to report on progress. Ensure you are accountable to someone for your productivity.
- Stay healthy. Eat well and take time to exercise each day. Read something other than work related things to give your mind a break. Enjoy others around you or get out of the house/home for a change of scenery.
- End your day. Make sure you have a sign off time (if you can). With no commute to deal with, it’s easy to over work. Shut things down and try not to respond to things that can wait for another day. Sometimes it’s best to leave something undone so you can get started easier the next day. Have someone remind you that it is now 5pm and time to quit.
Writer working at his home.
Dirk Booy is senior director for programme development, resource mobilisation and learning at BRAC.