Working from home is a gift and a curse.
There are benefits we can assume and challenges that we will face.
Ultimately, after working from home for the past 4 years, I prefer the benefits of a work-from-home lifestyle rather than going into an office.
But I know that’s very different (and difficult) for some.
There certainly are times when I think that working from an office would be more productive.
Less distractions and temptations to get things done around the house.
But, ultimately, if we focus on a few key things, we can be really productive working from home while saving a ton of money and time.
The first super key thing to do is talk to your key stakeholders.
That’s your partner, spouse or roommate(s).
What you want to do is get on the same page with them. Especially if they are working from home, too.
Set a meeting and discuss a few things…
1. What times of day do you need to be 100 percent focused?
Let’s face it, even though we aim to be as productive as possible, there are negotiable times of interruption and non-negotiable times of interruption. Lay those out for your partner or roommate so they understand when they need to stay away or keep the dog quiet… or when they can knock on the door to bring you a snack. 🙂
It’s best here to try to establish a rhythm for your week (we’ll talk more about this later on in the post) because if your partner knows that every Monday morning you’re in staff meetings, they’ll be in the habit of scheduling their less important time during times when you are in the zone.
Try to ‘theme’ your days as much as possible to communicate effectively with your roommate(s) what is going on. And, when in doubt, just share your schedule.
2. Where are the designated work areas?
This is a huge one. When I lived at home with my parents for a short time a few years ago, I had to run my business from their kitchen table. It was only about 3 months, so not too terrible, but my brothers, my parents, their friends, the dogs were ALL in that location for the entire day. It was summertime, too, to boot.
It wasn’t until I shared my schedule with them (see above) and decided to make a designated work area that the distraction of my family began to decrease.
I made a small desk area in the kitchen and communicated to my family that if I am at that desk area, I’m in the zone and not to be bothered. When I’m on the couch or sitting at the kitchen table, it’s more of a free time to interject if needed. Likely because I used to get up and just answer email early in the morning and before bed. Not exactly an ‘in the zone’ activity.
Once I explained this, I was able to get almost double the work done because I had little to no distraction from the people I lived with during key times in my day.
Now, if you’re a parent or a pet owner (or both), the issue of care comes up when working from home.
While you may be in a position to feed your children lunch each day or take the dog out for a walk, it’s likely that you can’t spend all day caring for them if you’re working from home.
Especially if you have a young child or a needy pet.
Decide whether you are going to take shifts with your partner to provide care, invite someone (like a nanny or dog walker) into the home to provide support or send your children to daycare certain days/times of the week.
There’s nothing like the distraction of not closing the loop on care for someone you love.
Next, I’d like to chat equipment.
Too many new ‘work-from-homer’s’ don’t get the necessary equipment and they end up having a bad taste in their mouth.
There are a couple of things I recommend at a base-level and that (frankly) I take with me when I travel so I can work remotely from anywhere.
1. A reliable computer
I know this sounds like a given, but I can’t even tell you how many people have told me that their computer is ‘almost dead’ or ‘so old they can’t download the latest version of iTunes’. That’s just not going to work for a work-from-homer.
Do yourself a favor and get a new computer. I know that there are expensive options out there, but you can splurge to afford this luxury that will save you a ton of time and money in the long run. Plus, all the money you are saving on gas and coffee should come in handy here.
A solid choice is the Macbook Air (only $899). Especially if you’re not a graphic designer or video editor.
2. A good pair of headphones
There is nothing worse than being in a home environment or in a coffee shop with a ton of background noise and no headphones. It focuses your attention on the task at hand and it spares the others around you from needing to be involved in your conversation.
I personally use apple products, so I have my air pods on me always AND an extra pair of wired headphones for my Macbook pro just in case the battery dies.
3. Microphone. Please.
So under-rated, yet so important. When you’re in web conferences all day, you want to sound like an actual human being. So, get a mic that suits you.
I use (at my desk) a Yeti Stereo Microphone I got on Amazon ($120-130). Worth every penny.
On the go, I got this little lavalier job from pop voice that has been so handy. (LINK)
4. A solid internet connection
Yes, I mean those people who think they can get by with 100 MBPS. Working from home is a challenge in many ways and bandwidth is certainly one. Especially if you have multiple people working from the same place while the kids stream Peppa Pig in the other room.
I personally have 1000 MBPS so that I can feel comfortable opening Zoom and Facebook live at the same time. Most webinar and live-streaming platforms operate best on this bandwidth, so if you’re giving lots of presentations or going live on Facebook a lot, consider upgrading that connection.
I’ll just leave off my lengthy paragraph about how meetings are way less productive when you can only hear every other word someone says or they keep getting kicked out of the meeting. I’m sure you’ve experienced it, so just save everyone the trouble.
Finally, but certainly not least important, let’s chat about schedule.
I’ve seen so many people go into the office with a lengthy to-do list and be able to sit down, focus and assault that list with no distractions.
Working from home doesn’t always afford us that luxury.
Literally as I type, my husband has the power off in our entire home because he’s re-wiring something in the bathroom.
I have to adapt, so I figured why not write a blog.
Deciding on your schedule is difficult in the beginning, but once you’re over the hump it makes things so much easier in the long run.
Here are the main things you need to do when deciding your WFH schedule…
1. Theme your days
Or at least parts of your days.
For me, it’s helpful to know that my Monday’s for example are dedicated to clients. Sure, I have a to-do list, but I can mix and match what I feel like doing based on my current situation (remember, no power here).
I recommend listing out the buckets of items in which you have the most tasks, then theming them half or full days. For example, I work closely with my clients, so my Mondays and Thursdays are completely set for clients.
Now, some other things I do are create content and lead my team.
I don’t need a FULL day for either of those things each week, but I still slot them in as half days so that I’m focusing on them on a consistent basis and if I ever need more time to focus on a time-sensitive piece of content or a big team meeting, I already know which days to look at so that my whole week doesn’t run out of control.
2. Group your meetings together
Not many people do this, but I’ve personally had a lot of productive success grouping my meetings.
Let’s take clients for example.
I meet with all my clients on Thursday each week for 30 minutes each.
My meetings are all back-to-back or have a few minute break in-between so I can eat lunch.
There is nothing worse than having a meeting then only having 30 minutes to try to jump into some other activity. Before you know it, you have to leave what you were doing (probably less than half done) to hop into another meeting.
Another big benefit here is staying in the same mental space for long periods of time. This is also described as ‘deep work’ by many in our field.
If I know that I’m going to be writing blog posts all morning it’s likely that blog post number two or three will be better than blog post one simply because I’ve gotten my practice in for the day.
Same with meetings.
If I’m developing strategy with my clients and troubleshooting on calls for an entire day, it’s likely that I’ll get into that groove of deep work by the time I’m on call number two and three.
3. Give yourself some free space
I love not working on Fridays unless I want to.
It’s probably my favorite thing about the way I structure my week.
I don’t feel the pressure to work after I’ve already put in a hard week. Because, let’s face it, we all need a break sometimes.
I can decide what I do feel like doing. Maybe a new project I’m excited about or having coffee (virtually) with a colleague.
If I don’t finish things up Monday-Thursday, I have an entire day to either tie up those loose ends or get to something that will make my following week more productive.
I have strict rules not to schedule meetings on Fridays unless they are absolutely necessary.
For some, this could look different. Maybe it’s just Friday afternoon.
Maybe it’s every afternoon so that you can get your kids off the school bus or take the dog for a walk.
I have a client who takes her free day on Mondays because she likes to ease into the week.
Just remember to give yourself a built in break because things happen.
Hoping that if you implement just a few of these things, you’ll love working from home just as much as I do.