Recently, for approximately the 58th time in my life, I heard this comment upon telling an acquaintance that I work from home: "Oh, so you just get to chill all day?" Chill? What is this word? Out of all the things people who work from home want you to know, this might be the biggest: It's not one giant Gilmore Girls marathon while sitting in our underwear and eating potato chips
Yes, working from home is, in many ways, starkly different from a 9-to-5 desk job. I can work in my office, yes, but I can also work in my bed. I can dress how I want. Am I wearing a bra under this hoodie? Maybe. Maybe not. You'll never know.
When you work from home, you don't have a boss standing nearby, watching you, telling you what to do. You’re on our own. You are responsible for getting yourself up at a reasonable hour, putting in the hours until the job is complete, and resisting temptation anytime you get bored and think, "All right, I'm just going to check Instagram real quick."
Cristina Roman, a certified life coach and productivity consultant at Pique Coaching who has worked from home for seven years, says that, for some people, that lack of oversight can make working from home really difficult.
“Working from home isn’t one-size-fits-all,” Roman tells Bustle. “Some people swear by productivity tips that do nothing for me, and vice versa. I always tell my clients that if you search the internet enough, you can find every opinion under the sun. Instead of constantly collecting advice from experts, find tips and strategies that call to you, then try them out for at least 90 days.”
So what are some of those tips and strategies? Here’s what I found out.
1. You’re Constantly Reachable — Which Can Make For An Overwhelming Schedule
Working from home makes for a kind of wonderful convenience that you'd never get otherwise... but because you never physically "leave" the office, you're very often available to the all people you work for, no matter what time it is.
"It can be challenging to maintain communication boundaries — most all of my work goes through my personal email, and I'm generally keeping an eye on things through the evening," journalist Lauren Sloss, who has been working remotely for six years, tells Bustle. "But I do my best to maintain 'normal' work hours as much as I can. If I'm still working around 6 p.m., I'll try to take a step back [and ask] — can this wait until tomorrow?"
Sloss suggests doing something to mark the end of the work day, like pour a glass of wine, or make a mug of tea, and step away from your devices for a few minutes.
2. You Have To Define Work From Home Success For Yourself
Roman points out that so many lists like this one assume you want to be the most productive worker ever, even when you’re at home. But she suggests assessing how you feel about that.
“I recommend checking in with yourself — is that really your goal?” Roman says. “Start by defining work-from-home success for yourself, so you know what you’re working towards.
Ask yourself: Do you want to use your time working from home to knock out projects that require a lot of focus? Is it about proving to your boss that you can handle working from home long-term?
“Or — if you’re being honest — are you most interested in using this opportunity to do the bare minimum and be OK with that?” Roman says. “Whatever you decide, commit to it and like your decision. Don’t hold yourself to a standard that you don’t intend to meet and then beat yourself up.“
3. Decide Your Work From Home Parameters Ahead Of Time
Working from home comes with a whole new set of decisions — and it’s good to make them upfront.
“Sweats or no? Netflix midday or only after 6 p.m.? Yes or no to putting in a load of laundry during the day?” Roman says. “People love to give ‘one size fits all’ advice on this kind of thing, but I recommend that you generate your own decisions. And I give this advice while wearing workout clothes.”
4. Check In On Work From Home Expectations
When you work from home, it’s important to be super clear about what’s expected from you.
“Are you expected to keep normal working hours or do you have flexibility when you work from home?” Roman says. “Is there an expected turnaround time on communication? Ideally, find this out when you’re face-to-face in the office, so there’s less likelihood of miscommunication.”
5. Create A Work From Home Office, If You Need It
The one-size-fits all advice about working from home is that you should have a clear work space. And, for some people, that's really important! (Especially in the early days. Creating a space and a routine can make the transition much easier.) But not everyone needs to carve out an at-home "office."
"If creating a dedicated office space feels necessary, and important, I say go for it," Sloss says. "I, frankly, don't think too hard about my dedicated work space — for better or worse, whether I'm in my house, an Airbnb studio, or on a boat, I settle somewhere and start working. As long as I'm productive, I don't question it!"
6. It’s Important To Focus On What You Can Control
While it might feel like you have more control in general when you work from home, things will still come up. Roman suggests focusing on aspects of your day that you actually have some power over, rather than the ones you don’t.
“Who sends you emails and when, conferences being cancelled, and clients bailing on meetings are not in your control,” Roman says. “Focus your attention on what you can control instead — your routine, your focus, and your work ethic — and gracefully allow the rest to be out of your control. Spending time pissed off at your email inbox, the way someone else is acting, or the temptations you see all around you at home rarely propels you into productive action.”
7. Get Good At Multitasking
When you work in someone else's office, typical house and home responsibilities are out of the picture until you settle in at the end of the day. But when you work at home, you're responsible for everything all the time, especially if you have a partner or roomie who isn't home all day. So, if you're working and the AC repair guy comes and your fifth load of laundry needs to be put in the dryer and the dog pukes on your foot and the alarm keeps malfunctioning and going off (been there, done all that), it's on you, buddy! You have to be a pro at managing your time appropriately.
Adjusting to working from home takes some time, but once you get into the habit it’s just like anything else. Except, of course, you really don’t have to wear a bra under that hoodie.
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