Work From Home Tips to Keep You Sane

Posted by: on Jul 16, 2014 | One Comment

shutterstock_90912182Whenever I tell someone I work from home I always hear, “Oh you’re so lucky. I wish I could work at home. It sounds so easy.” And yeah, there are some extremely awesome features about working at home. No getting up an hour or more before heading to the office. No more worrying about traffic. Or worst of all, walking outside only to find I had to scrape off (yes “scrape” is the appropriate word) the snow or ice before getting moving. But working from home isn’t all naps and watching movies while “working”. Those are called sick days. And working from home is not just an extremely large collection of sick days. The Oatmeal does a really great job of summing up the awesome and horrible parts about working from home.

But just because there are awful parts doesn’t mean you can’t manage them. Below is a list of tips I’ve put together after working from home for a couple years now. They might not be helpful to everyone, but I’ve definitely found them to be really helpful when trying to manage my day to day tasks. Enjoy!

Close the Office During Non-Work Hours

Sounds simple, right? Well, if you’re anything like me, you can’t help but think of work whenever you’re near your office. You think, “Oh I’ll just check my email one more time.” By closing the door, you can cut off some of those immediate visual cues since a door, in and of itself, shouldn’t remind you of work unless, you know, you make doors or something like that. Which probably also shouldn’t be done at home. Or maybe it should. Who knows. Next!

Put Your Office Out of the Way of Living Habits

Similar to the first tip, try to keep your office out of your regular living flow. Having to walk through or past your office to go from the living room to the kitchen or to get to the back yard or the basement can make it hard to detach from work. If your home’s floor plan permits, keep your office out of the way of the rest of your home’s communal living space.

Have Calls, Chats, and Hangouts with Coworkers

Regular communication with your team members can have lots of great benefits. Whether your entire team is remote or just a few workers are, it’s important to keep company culture in balance. But communication via text shouldn’t be your soul source of coworker interaction. Too many times text alone can leave many things to be interpreted as tone is not so easily conveyed over text. Unless you have the world’s most amazing set of emoticons and can use gifs like no one’s business, think about incorporating phone calls and Google Hangouts into your communication mix. Also, be honest. If you don’t get some actual personal interaction every once in a while, you are going to go crazy. No doubt about that.

Set Boundaries with Family Members

This tip actually manifests itself in two parts: Physical Boundaries and Symbolic Boundaries.

Physical Boundaries

Your office is your office. It’s your place of work. It’s not the place for mail to be piled, holiday decorations to sit until their respective season, or anything else that doesn’t belong in a regular office. Basic rule of thumb, if it’s not done in a stereotypical office setting, it’s not done in your home office. Have a chat with your family members about what your office means to you and how you would like them to treat it.

Symbolic Boundaries

To family and friends, working from home probably means working on the couch under a blanket and doing about 3 hours worth of work while watching an embarrassingly large number of Family Feud episodes. Not us. This is the real deal. Every day is a full day getting everything done that needs to be. Working from home means that you might have a little bit of time to switch over the laundry throughout the day, but it does not mean that you’re going to clean the bathrooms, wax the floors, run to the grocery store and cook a 5 course meal by the end of the day. House chores are not what you’re getting paid for so your family should fully expect for you to not be doing those throughout the day.

It’s OK to Put the Pets Away

photoI’m a dog lover. I can’t imagine at any point in my life not having a dog around the house. But my current problem is that the two dogs I have aren’t normal. They don’t prefer to sit around and chew quietly on a toy by themselves. Oh no. They like to do one of two things: stare and intermittently bark at the wildlife outside my window or wrestle around making sounds that should only be found in Jurassic Park. As you can guess, these aren’t the two best behaviors for me trying to get my work done.

Just because you work at home and you’re able to keep your pets close to you all day, doesn’t mean you have to. It took me a while to get over the guilt I felt being just in the other room while our pups were crated. But it was good for me and they got over it. (Or at least they haven’t retaliated yet.) So if your pets drive you nuts on occasion like mine do, don’t be afraid to let them have some alone time for a bit during the day. It still beats being at home all day by themselves and let’s face it, they could probably use a nap anyway.

Work Outside the House Every Once in a While

Almost every blog post I read about creativity and efficiency says to change your scenery every once in a while. Whether it’s take a different route to work or work at a coffee shop, the principle is the same. Although your houses’ floor plan might not let you take a “different route” to work without going outside, the basic idea still holds true. Give yourself a new set of surroundings every once in a while to get your brain out of a rut.

Limit Working in Rooms Other Than Your Office

When you work in one place for long enough, you start to associate that place with work. Whether you intend to or not, you start to think about work when you’re there. If you work in your living room or at the dining room table too many times, you run the risk of associating that space with work rather than family life. Every once in a while, it’s OK to venture beyond the confines of the office, but try to keep it to a minimum or else you’ll start thinking about the report that’s due in a couple days over Christmas dinner.

There you have it! Hopefully one or more of these tips can help you stay sane and productive while working from home!

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