Have you been asked to work from home for the first time? If so, this might be just the guide you need. Working from home can actually be a great experience and provide you extra freedom and flexibility.
But to continue to be successful working from home, you will need to develop some solid working practices so that you can avoid burnout, overwork, and a deterioration of your health.
1. Establish Do Not Disturb Rules
It is easy, if not completely natural, for your family members to think that because you are in the room upstairs that they can come and talk to you whenever they want. The fact is that when you are at work, in the office, or at home, you need time to get in the zone. In the “zone,” means you have entered that state of optimal creativity and productivity. You are churning out the work, and you have creative ideas. You may even simply be in conference calls.
Explain patiently to your family that when the office door is closed, it means do not disturb. And if they must disturb, they should knock quietly not to be heard on your conference call.
A lock on the door is also a serious bonus, so when they forget, they do not just burst in shouting, “Dad, what you want for dinner,” when you are presenting on an all-employee meeting conference call… err, did that really happen to me…maybe.
2. Establish Healthy Working Hours
I worked for many years leading a global team of people from Costa Rica and the USA to Australia and everywhere in between, so what do working hours really mean when your team is scattered around the globe. Well, it means striking a balance between what best meets your team’s needs and your own needs to meet your goals.
I, for example, scheduled my Australia meetings at 8 am Central European Time and my USA meetings from 2 pm through 6 pm. My European meetings occurred mid-morning to mid-afternoon. You have to be strategic about it.
Also, one of the great things about working from home is no commute time. That means you can save from one to two hours per day of your life. The problem is you inevitably spend that saved time by working more. I worked too many hours in the day; in fact, I could not even report my hours in the system because Germany has legal requirements on maximum hours of work, and if I reported them, I would have been breaking the law. So, I worked around it by taking unofficial time off when I needed to.
What is my point? You should try to create a normal working regime where you start and finish at a specific time and don’t do emails on your phone in bed while ignoring your partner, you loser.
3. Do Not Burn Yourself Out
I remember starting in the corporate world and seeing my manager or work co-workers still at the office late in the evening. I saw those very same people ending up in divorce or complaining that their children did not even know them anymore. Why, because they gave too much.
I always swore to myself not to be that person who loses their family because of work. But believe it or not, it is a trap that anyone can fall into.
The problem with doing a good job is that you get more work and more responsibility.
Why is that a problem? Well, if you are like I am, you enjoy it and take on more work, then at some point you are working long hours, and you might feel the weight of the world is on your shoulders.
But you want to keep your track record of high performance, so you keep on hammering away, taking more work, and sacrificing your personal time.
Eventually, you have people relying on you and so much work that you become overwhelmed; then, you may face burnout. Do not let that happen to you. I came close a few times, too close for comfort. If you have a very pressured work life, try reading this article on managing a crisis with integrity.
4. Take Breaks & Move Around
There are two types of workers.
- Type 1: Breakers – Sensible people who will work for 30 minutes and take a quick break, have a chat, and restart work fresh.
- Type 2: Immersers – People who, when immersed in the “zone,” are so deep that they can hold their attention span for hours to nail a topic completely.
I am a type 2. The problem with type 2 Immersers is that while it is gratifying and super creative to find that intellectual depth to a topic, it can be very negative physically.
If you have ever stood up after 2 hours of immersion and you feel like your feet are tight in your shoes or your bones ache, it means you are too focused. Take more breaks, people.
5. Exercise Regularly
If you wear a fitness tracker watch or use your phone to track your steps, you know your goal is usually 10,000 steps for the day, then you are successful. That is great for normal humans; most people can actually achieve that without thinking.
You get up, make breakfast, walk to your car, drive to work, walk around the office, walk to lunch, walk to meetings slowly, but surely you can, with a little effort, get to 10,000 steps.
As a telecommuter, this is not the case. You take 50 steps at the office; you do not walk to meetings, a big expedition for you to walk to the coffee machine in your kitchen.
This is a serious problem.
Ten thousand steps are not a target for fit people; it targets a human being not to rust up their joints.
If you telecommute, you need to exercise. But the joy of it is that whenever you have a gap in your agenda, you can jump into your shorts and go for a run for 30 minutes. Do 45 minutes of jogging, and you will hit 10,000 steps.
Need to clear your head go for a long walk, take your next meeting on skype on your phone with a Bluetooth headset whilst walking in the forest. It is all possible: technology is your friend.
6. Block Your Calendar For Important Personal Events
Because you are remote working, people assume that you are available through the working day, even in a different time-zone. You need to block out our calendar for important personal events.
What is important?
If you have children, it is there to cook and have dinner with them in the evening. If you have a pet, then walking the dog. What is important is up to you; the main thing is to get ahead of the game. It happened so often that I have a team meeting running in the afternoon, and it is my kids’ birthday party; hmmm… cancel the meeting.
Get birthdays and other critical family events on the calendar ahead of time.
7. Optimize Your Time Outside The House.
I have seen advice on the internet of people working from home and saying when you make an appointment to visit the doctor do it like a regular person and arrange the appointment after working hours. Frankly, I have never heard anything so crazy.
One of the great benefits of working from home is that you can also do everything outside the house at off-peak Times:
- Visiting the doctor with your child at 11 am means a 15 minute waiting time – at 5 pm, this is 90 minutes.
- Go Food Shopping at 10 am there is no queue, this means a 20-minute excursion – at 6 pm with long queues and crowds, it is 1 hour.
Literally, all appointments during the week are so efficient during working hours you can save months of wasted time, which you can make up earlier or later in the day.
8. Be Productive In The Morning
Just because you work from home does not mean you should lounge around in bed until 8.55 am and report to work at 9 am in your pajamas, having brushed your teeth with a cup of tea.
Be serious about your work ethic, and it will pay off. For example, you can see the kids off to school in the morning and still start work at 7:30 am. Others are still slogging their heart out on the highway, trying to get to work for 9 am, and you have already hammered out 90 minutes of work. By 15:30, your day is done already, and you do not even need to drive home. You could, of course, take a few hours out during the day to mow the lawn and run personal errands and still clock off at 5:30 pm to welcome the wife back home with a glass of Pino Grigio.
Get out of bed late, and it is all wasted.
9. Do Not Work Just Before Bedtime
Because your office is ten steps away, it is tempting to work all the hours’ god sends. One of the downsides is working into the dark hours. According to the Sleep Foundation, you need to have at least 30 minutes or more break from the computer screen before you go to be to ensure a good night’s sleep.
10. Deliver On Your Goals
If you are going to be trusted to work from home and even be considered for promotions and career development, you have to be clear on your goals and deliver those outcomes.
In my experience of Silicon Valley corporations, you are only able to work from home if you are senior enough, professional enough, and deliver on your targets. Most corporations do not care whether you work from home or in the office. If you are the one that delivers results, you can literally work where the hell you like.
And if you deliver the results, you are usually going places.