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Lisa Armstrong
Lisa Armstrong

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I've Been Working from Home for Years, Here's Some Tips

Most of my career has been working from home / remotely. Overall, I love it, but it takes a while to adjust. It's a process, but here's what I figured out so far...

Know Yourself

The hardest thing is you're a manager to yourself -- and you can be a tricky employee. 😉
Seriously, just be aware of what kind of worker you are and start with that.

When are you most productive? What motivates you? How do you handle distractions, interruptions, boredom, being alone, stress?

Time to be honest with yourself about yourself. No need to be critical, just figure out what kind of environment and schedule works for you and build on that.

Boundaries Are Important!

The biggest danger of working from home is home life and work life can get mashed together. As a result, you can feel like you're working all the time -- and so does your family. Having good boundaries with yourself, your company and your family keeps everyone happy.

Figure out when and where you work. What are your hours? Make sure your work space feels separated from the rest of your home. Even if your desk is in the middle of it all, during office hours, make sure it's an office, not a kitchen table. When you're done work, put the computer away and turn it back into a place to live.

Good boundaries need to be clear and consistent and enforced-- especially to yourself -- that's the hard part!

When it's office hours, be at your 'desk' in work mode. When work is done, walk away and be your home self again.

When you're clear about office hours and location, it makes it easier for those around you to know when and how to approach you. Your employer can expect a response from you during these hours, your kids can expect a hug from you the rest of the time.

Communicate this to all concerned and make sure you stick with it!

It's also a healthier head space knowing you're done for the day. If you get an idea after work, great! Write it down, deal with it tomorrow at work. You're done for the day.

Routine is Good

Figure out a routine that works for you, and stay with it!

Have a routine for going to work. Figure out what works for you and do it every day. Do something that helps you shift to 'work mode'.

Routine at the end of the day is good too. Be strict about quitting time, have a routine at the end. Close the computer, turn off the light and go to the gym. This is a way of changing gears so you don't stay in work-mode.

I've found 'changing gears' is important, give yourself some time or routines to get in and out of work mode. In real life, it's the commute, you don't have that at home -- thankfully -- but do allow yourself some times to de-compress after a day at the office.

Exercise Keeps You Sane

Whether it's part of your morning or evening routine make sure you include exercise has part of your day. It's very easy to stay cooped up and not moving at all, and of course you know this isn't healthy.

Don't be afraid to schedule a 'sanity walk' or 'sanity workout' during the work day and make it a priority. Honestly, your productivity and mind-set will be better. This doesn't mean you're goofing off, take a walk and make some calls, mull over something you're working on. A good walk fixes a lot of problems!

Bonus points for getting out in nature. It's a fact, being around the good earth is good for us, so get some fresh air if you can.

Communication is Oxygen

The big fear your clients / reports have with you working at home, is you're goofing off. They need to know you're working and -- most importantly -- see what you're doing. This is why communication is so important with remote work -- like oxygen -- you die without it.

Start your day with a check-in. Tell your team you're in the office, what you're working on, goals and objectives for the day. When the day is over, report what you got done, issues etc. and what you'll be doing the next day.

This is also a good way to keep yourself focused on important taks and feeling like you've accomplished something.

I like to make my work available to clients when I can. They're welcome to have a look at a development site to see progress -- transparency is good.

Remember: It's not possible to over-communicate, so let the team know what you're doing all day.

Keeping Momentum

When you're done for the day, it's a good idea to jot down what you want to start with the next day. That way when you come in, you got something to start with. This keeps you focused on productive things.

Some days, well, you're just not into it, for whatever reason. That's ok, you can't be a super hero every day. Usually it's a good time to do the 'mindless task' and get caught up. If you're finding there's a lot of these days, time your manager self has a talk with your worker self. Maybe you need a change in routine? Need some incentives to get going again? Maybe it is time for a break.

The trick here is to be honest with yourself about it. Don't get side-tracked into house stuff, it will not help.

The other side of the equation is you're on a roll and want to keep working -- almost done, a couple of more hours! That's great, but it's also the highway to burn out. Sometimes pushing through makes sense, but mostly not. Write down what you want to do next, then shut it down for the day. This gives you something to look forward to tomorrow.

Be in the Real World

When your day is over, make it a point to spend time in the real world, Talk to a real person, look at something that isn't on the screen, play with the dog. You've been in your head all day, give it a rest and enjoy the physical world. It keeps our balanced.

Setting Up Your Office

It's easy to fuss around with chairs and gadgets when you're setting up. The important thing is make sure it works for you. If working at home is a long term thing, create an office space that can be separate from the rest of your home. Find a spot with natural light and a decent view -- good for the soul.

Spend money on a good chair, set up your office so you can change position and move around. I just put my monitor on an adjustable arm so I can move the screen -- life is better!

Also, if your can move your office outside, it's worth it. I like to work on the deck in the summer -- best corner office in the city IMHO.

As for equipment, make sure it works, you don't need to fight with tech issues when you're trying to get stuff done.

It's a Process

You won't get it right the first time, it's a process. Things change, you need to adapt, you'll figure it out. Even after all these years, I'm still working on it.

Anyone else have some tips for making working at home easier>

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