After working at home for almost ten years, interacting with WAH colleagues and having direct reports that work remotely, I have some advice for you. Quit trying so hard to prove you are actually working in your home office and get some balance in your work day and your life. There is definitive data that indicates you work hard, unless of course you’re just a slacker by nature.
It’s mostly nonsense that people who work remotely aren’t really working. I can say from my own experience and from research studies, that tends to be the case. I know that many of the WAH crowd work long stretches of time without a stretch. Yes, I mean they don’t get up and move around unless a short scurry to the bathroom or the fridge counts. Many are so hunkered down in their confined little work world trying to be responsive and always available that they don’t notice how hard they are working nor the number of hours. I’ve share work at home tips before, but here are Your Office Mom’s tips to help you have find work-life balance when you work from home.
Get up and move
If you were at the office all day, you wouldn’t sit in your chair and go nowhere. You would get up and walk around. You might go to a conference room, stop by someone’s desk, go downstairs to another floor, grab a cold drink from the break room. But, many of the work at home crowd tend to stay in the same spot all day long. Just because you work at home doesn’t mean you should be tied to your desk or confined to the walls of your home office. Looking at the same four walls can be maddening, even if your place looks like something straight outta West Elm or Crate and Barrel. So get up and move around, often.
Add visual stimulation
Colleagues working in the office see people and watch things happen all day long. Why shouldn’t you? I’m not suggesting you watch binge-worthy shows on Netflix all day, nor try to keep up with a Law and Order plot, but you can have television on in the background. A channel of interest whether it’s a news outlet, Travel, HGTV, Discovery, or talk shows can provide much needed stimulation in your workday.
If TV is not your thing, then turn on some sounds. You know how you work and the conditions in which you work best, so choose accordingly. You may want tranquil spa-like sounds or white noise to drown out distractions of a noisy neighbor or road traffic. Personally, I turn on 70’s Disco music when writing or replying to emails. Music, tranquil or otherwise can be a blessing.
Have multiple work spaces
If you are part of the WAH crowd, you need a functional work space with a desk of some sort. I’m fortunate in that I have a big, nicely furnished, fully functional office with a view. But if you think I spend 10-12 hours in my dedicated office every day you are mistaken. My formal workspace is where I hang out during conference calls, online meetings or when I’m presenting or doing some really serious work.
I also stand and work so I can get the blood flowing. If you don't have the bucks for an elevated setup, use your kitchen bar, or get a plastic storage bin (10” high for average height professionals like me) and improvise. Beyond that, I take my laptop outside to the patio while I have morning coffee and do my daily planning. Weather permitting, I may be out there again, sans laptop for a mid-afternoon break. If it’s boring, mundane tasks (expense reports, or editing) I often work from the sofa and put my feet up.
In addition to your standard work space, you need the opportunity to move around, get a new perspective on things, or do specific types of work. So, stop a moment and think about your options. You likely have a sofa and coffee table, and a kitchen bar perfect for standing while you work. If you have an outdoor space in your apartment, condo or home, use it. Starting your day outside is the perfect way to appreciate nature, life, and be outside before the workday kicks in. Find your spaces and use them as your tasks warrant and your mood dictates.
Interact with humans
People who work from home often feel lonely or isolated from others, and it can affect performance, productivity, and overall job satisfaction. Whether it’s virtually or face-to-face, there are a few adjustments you can make to keep the loneliness at bay and feel more engaged with the world at large.
Obviously, reaching out to your peers online and touching base each morning is a good practice, but it’s not enough. If you can, grab a beverage at a nearby coffee shop and work awhile, or head over to the library. Make time for a weekly lunch with a friend or co-worker. Or, schedule a virtual lunch with WAH colleagues via Google Hangouts. You’re likely carrying a camera in your pocket, so FaceTime it to interact on a more personal level. The point is, there are many options to engage with others, so consider yours and schedule the time!
Set home office hours
Working at home can be exhausting. Before you know it, it is late afternoon, and you just want to finish up one little thing you’re doing. Next time you look up, it’s after 7:00 p.m. Or, you decide to check email before lights out, and then it’s 2 a.m. It’s easy to get caught up in that always on work mode when you work from home. Think about your work days and then make some new rules. Unless you’re on call 24/7 reconsider checking email at 10 pm. Unless you’re chasing a deadline periodically, give yourself a rest and power down at a reasonable hour. The point is set your work at home hours so you can rest, and have greater work-life balance in your life!
And, once you start following this advice, see what a difference it makes! A new outlook can be motivating. And, whether you are on the sofa, at a desk, or on a patio, let your results speak for themselves