How does working from home stack up with working from the office?
It is obvious to most that there is a stark difference when working from home as opposed to working from an office. The most obvious being how to turn personal space into a productive workspace. The office environment is designed to eliminate distractions, which is not necessarily the case at home. It’s set up for a completely different end, so a part of it will have to be repurposed into a structure that permits uninterrupted work. This often requires some creativity.
Not everyone lives in spacious quarters that allow for a home office in a dedicated room. That home office might have to be set up on the dining room table. At work, there could be a talkative co-worker or loud music nearby which may be a distraction, however at home there are distractions at every turn. It’s not so easy to eliminate those distractions—kids, comfy beds, laundry— but it’s possible.
There are many ways to work better from home, although every working from home job is unique, they share many of the same challenges. The following are some tips set out to assist with doing a better job with the limitations of having to be isolated and remaining socially distant.
Try and remain motivated, initially this may not be an issue, but given time and the monotony of doing the same thing day in day out within a space that you cannot move away from can become demoralizing. Sometimes motivation, creative thinking and innovation fall behind in a work from home environment. This can be due to a lack of routine or discipline. It can be hard to get out of bed when the office is just a few steps away. Therefore, have a home office that is as separated from where the sleeping quarters are located. It’s imperative that sleeping in does not become normal, wake up as though you are going to the office, and follow the normal morning routine. This puts you in the work frame of mind. A routine is a way to develop the discipline you need to stay motivated.
But, don’t forget to add breaks to your routine. Get up and take a walk. Don’t neglect to have lunch either. If you must, set up a rewards system, such as a treat between meals once you get a certain amount of work done.
Try and remain productive, it’s difficult for most to maintain productivity when you don’t have a manager or co-workers around. To solve this, don’t start your work in spurts. Set up a work schedule and start at the same time each day. Many people find it helpful to use time blocking in order to segment each day into different types of work.
Remain on task, avoid procrastinating and avoid getting distracted by the television or the refrigerator. Yes, that’s easier said than done. Therefore, to avoid procrastination give yourself a break after that work period to do something you like. It’ll recharge your batteries for the next long haul. Another way to stay on task is by making yourself to-do lists, such as what must be done by lunchtime and by the end of the day. This gives you goals and deadlines, which are also great remedies for keeping procrastination at bay.
Health should not be neglected either, time can get away from you when concentrating on a particular task. However, health is a major consideration in any job. But when you’re working from home that responsibility falls on your shoulders. We’ve talked about taking breaks and rewarding yourself, which covers mental health, but don’t forget that you’re in a body and that body was never intended to sit at a desk all day tapping away at a keyboard. Ergonomics help. If you use a laptop, get a separate keyboard. Then get a stand to elevate your screen to eye level. But these fixes only go so far. You can get yourself a nice chair, one that keeps you sitting in good posture, but even that will not save your back.
Get up, stretch and talk a walk—maybe during your lunch break. Even just getting up from your desk every half-hour to get a drink of water is helpful. Speaking of water, stay hydrated and eat healthy. Keep those empty calories at a distance.
Don’t burn yourself out, this is a danger lurking in every modern office, even if your office is your home. The dark side of motivation and productivity is that people overestimate their capacity and push themselves to the breaking point. Once that happens, it can take time to recover, so it’s important to set up protocols that stop you before the crash.
One way is to maintain your boundaries. That means when working, work, but when you’re off the clock don’t jump to answer that email or text from work. Knowing how you work and keeping boundaries will stop burnout from exhausting you. Are you a morning person? Then get your heavy lifting done then. If you find the afternoon is more productive, then do less mentally challenging tasks early.
There are some benefits to working from home, probably the number-one thing people complain is having to go into the office itself. In most metropolitan areas, commuting adds hours to the work day. People often decide where they’re going to live based on the commute. Working from home turns distance into an afterthought. While an office might be set up to facilitate work, your home has some major benefits for productivity too.
To some degree there should be fewer distractions when working from home, children and pets aside, if they are of a certain age, most of their day will be spent in school. It’s like your home is a cone of silence. You’re comfortable there and are likely to work longer and take fewer breaks.
Working from home is often used as an example of how corporations can mine talent outside their geographic footprint, but the same is true for the worker. A person working from home is able to work for anyone, anywhere. Smaller companies and start-ups that might not have the capital to invest in office space can funnel that funding into paying for skilled labor.
There is money to be saved, as businesses may not have to set you up an office. They might pay for your internet or even supply you with the equipment you need, but much of that will be online, saving them from costly installation. The extra money is going to help their bottom line and be shared among the staff, should the organization have this as an incentive.
There is also flexibility, as not all people who work from home have the luxury of setting their own hours, but even fewer who work in an office are able to do that. Some jobs will ask people working from home to schedule their time to match that of those working in the office. However, one of the perks of working from home is that, as long as the work gets done, many employers don’t care when you do it.
While business casual has become the norm in many industries, people are still not encouraged to go to work in their sleep attire. But, outside of a conference call, you can work in your robe if that’s comfortable. Not having to wear a suit and tie or high-heel shoes is very attractive to many people.
There are some challenges to working from home, while there are clearly many benefits to working remotely, there are also several challenges that can arise and cause problems with productivity and collaboration.
The social aspect of working from an office, the lack of social interaction is akin to a prison sentence. This, naturally, will depend on whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. There are ways around this; though most of them involve digital solutions. The next issue is technical. You are tethered to your office and co-workers through technology. If that technology is not delivering, then you’re going to get frustrated or worse.
Whether it’s a slow internet connection that makes a simple task take all day or it’s having poor tools that make it difficult to get your work done, you need to make sure that whoever is handling IT at your organization provides you with the right software solution.
With the invention of email and texting, the eight-hour day has mutated into a 24-hour work cycle. This modern problem is even worse for those who work from home. It can feel as if your day never ends. Always being on call can add to pressure and stress, be that a phone, text, chat or any of the other communication devices set up to keep you in touch with your manager and the team. It can be hard to ignore that notice that comes in after hours, which can make you feel as if you’re not home but always in the office.
The lack of structure can be depressing. As much as you might hate the alarm clock, showering and getting dressed for work, the commute, etc., these activities create a structure to your day. Structures are important. They are what hold us up and keep people productive. Without a structure being forced on us by office hours, it’s easy to slip into a twilight zone where work and home life merge to the point that both falter.
There are challenges for your employer, too. Working from home means that your manager must trust you, of course. But even with that in place, there must be a way to monitor and track progress. This can be difficult when you’re not in an office. You can’t as easily check in with your manager or get immediate feedback to keep your work moving forward.
Working from home has its challenges, but it fits a growing niche. Depending on the corporate culture where you work and your own temperament, working from home may not be ideal. But, it’s not going away.
If you find yourself either willingly or unwillingly working from home, there are still a few more considerations to be made;
- Spend five minutes each morning planning the day ahead and prioritizing your tasks.
- Respond to emails only at a specific time each day and allot only a certain amount of time to the work. These email management tools can help.
- Creative work, like drawing, music, etc., can be restorative, and you should allow yourself a period each day to just have fun.
- Daily stand-up meetings are a great way to start your day, meeting with your team and discussing what’s ahead and what everyone is working on. It’s good for work and helps teams bond.
- Exercise is important to your mental and physical well-being. Remember, exercising for only an hour is but four percent of your day. You can do it!
- Don’t let interruptions frustrate you. While you want to minimize them, they’re going to happen. Just accept the fact that you’ll be pulled away from your desk from time to time and enjoy it as a work break.
- Have lots of natural light in your work area and leave a window open, if you can, for the fresh air.
- Breathing exercises help reduce stress, such as square breathing (four seconds in, hold for four seconds, four seconds out and hold for four seconds, repeat).
- If you don’t use a white noise app, there’s always your record collection or streaming to create a productive soundtrack for your office.
- If you can regulate the temperature in your room to maximize your attention, do so. Some people work better in a cold room.
- Adopt a pet for companionship, and if you get a dog, walking them is an added bonus of exercise and fresh air. If you can’t get a pet, there are lots of cute animals to follow on Instagram.
- If your family or kids are home when you’re working, set guidelines for them, so they know when you can’t be disturbed.
There are more considerations, and although the current situation, as to why we have to work from home in the first place is less than ideal in the first place, it is up to us how we handle the situation, and make the most of what we have. Stay safe, remain productive and how that we have more of a choice, that is either working from home or the office very soon.