The Dos and Don’ts of Working From Home
For the uninitiated, working from home can seem like an elusive utopia. A place where suits aren’t required, commutes consist of walking from the bedroom to the living room, and favorite reruns take the place of chatty co-workers. But while a home office has many perks, it can also have a few hazards. Turn on the TV midday and you could be setting yourself up for an afternoon on the couch watching the Lifetime Movie Network. Here, a few tips to staying on track—when no one’s watching.
Warning: Pajamas can be hazardous to your professional health.
There’s no way to say this besides the obvious: Pajamas are meant for sleeping. When you work from home you need to find a way to separate your personal life from your professional life, and changing clothes is a simple but important way to make this distinction. Ensuring that you’re showered and clothed will also mean that you’re ready for anything the working day throws at you—emergency stops at the office or unexpected visitors included.
Warning: Sleeping through your commute will cause accidents.
You wouldn’t fall asleep at the wheel and you shouldn’t fall asleep on the train, so carry this lesson over into your home office as well. Sleeping a little later may be a perk of the job, but getting to the desk for regular office hours should be the top priority. And if at all possible, your desk should be outside of your bedroom. Figure out which hours work for you and stick by them, or you risk alienating contacts and clients.
Warning: Just because you can order everything online doesn’t mean you should.
When you work from home it can be tempting to have everything delivered. Groceries brought to the door, books and DVDs left in the mailbox, and online friends to chat with from the laptop—does life get any better? Actually, yeah, it does. Don’t forget to schedule regular rendezvous with the real world. Fresh air is important, but so is the stimulation of meeting new people and going to new places. Even if “new” just means “new for today.”
Warning: Background noise is usually just noise.
Do you usually hear blaring televisions, the whirl of a blender, or the incessant beeping of videogames in an average office? No. And you shouldn’t in your home office either. It can be very easy to convince yourself that you need a little bit of background noise to break the monotony and get yourself on track, but what you really need is a break. Take some time away and come back to your desk ready to work without distractions.
Warning: Rules are made to be broken.
Every now and then it’s good to throw caution to the wind and ignore everyone’s advice about how best to work from home. Take in a movie matinee. Treat yourself to a morning manicure. One of the joys of having a flexible schedule is being able to take advantage of spontaneous fun. Just don’t forget that the flip side may well be staying up until 3 a.m. to meet that tight deadline. But hey, it’s your call—yet another bonus of being your own boss.