how i work from home (and actually get work done)

Posted on Aug 16, 2012 in Career

Whenever I tell people I work from home a few days a week, I almost always get, “Wow! You are so lucky.” immediately followed by, “Now really, do you actually get work done at home?” I always laugh at that question because, of course I do! If I didn’t, I’m pretty sure my employer wouldn’t let me spend 20 hours a week putzing around in my house just for funsies. In fact, I actually think I’m much more productive and efficient at home versus in the office. Imagine how much more you could get done in a day if there was no water cooler talk, no meetings, no trips to the coffee pot and no need to go out to lunch. The office culture soaks up so much productivity time!

That being said, being productive at home does require a routine for me. I know some people think working from home means lounging on the couch in your jammies with a laptop, but for me, that method just doesn’t work. I need the same structure and rigidity of the work place to make sure I get things accomplished. Here are a few of the ways I’ve figured out to be productive at home.

Getting dressed.

I know, I know. Part of the stereotypical perk of working from home is staying in your jammies, but for me, it just doesn’t work. There is something about the act of getting dressed that actually switches my brain into productivity mode. Normally what I’ll do is check and answer my email for about an hour in the morning while drinking my coffee, but as soon as my coffee is done, it’s time to “get ready”. It’s not like I go and put on a party dress and stilettos, but I do put on some (slightly) more respectable clothes. Usually I just change out of my jammies, put on some lounge pants (black, because they’re classier, eh?), a real bra and a clean t-shirt. I’ll wash my face and brush my hair and teeth. It isn’t much of a visual difference, but it’s a huge mental difference. I’m ready to go once I’m in my work “uniform”.

Having an office.

I’m a big laptop girl, so I never understood why people had offices in their house. The couch is my office! But then I started working from home and quickly realized that you need that special space to really kick yourself into work mode. Not only does it help to get me in the right frame-of-mind in the morning, but it also helps me literally and figuratively close the door on the workday in the evening. Working from home is a really slippery slope when it comes to work/life balance, and I think having an actual office space helps me keep that balance.

Scheduling my time.

The fact that you can take a break and make lunch, put a load of laundry in the dryer or run a quick errand while working from home is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because I don’t have to worry if the cable guy comes closer to 8am or 6pm in the service window. I also don’t have to wait until the weekend to get all my errands and chores done. It’s a curse because it can be easy to let those tasks take away from your work productivity. I solve this by scheduling my time in my Google Calendar. I give myself breaks during the workday to do chores, eat food, and run errands, but I do it on a schedule. And I come “back to work” on a schedule, too.

Do you work from home? If not, do you think you could be productive from home if you did?

11 Comments

  1. I applied for a job a while back that was work from home. I didn’t get the job, but if I had my plan was to do pretty much exactly what you do. Make myself get dressed and ready for the day, have a specific work space, etc. I feel like that probably is the best way to really work from home effectively.

  2. Oh man! I could have totally written this post (except not as eloquently) :)

    I also recently started working from home – albeit only one day a week. But man – it is heaven! I too am I graphic designer (the only designer at my office) and find that my creativity really blossoms when I can blare my music in the background and not have my office mates breathing down my neck. They love to stop by my computer to see what I am working on. And things are not always pretty the first go around. :/

    My manager has even commented on how my designs have taken on a new life. I also find that I am waaaay more productive because I feel like I have to be more accountable and prove to everyone that I can in fact get sh*t done.

    And that whole line about throwing in a load of laundry and not having to worry about a service window. Yes, definite perk of the work from home job.

  3. These are all really great tips for people who work from home. This summer, I took summer classes for the first time and they were all online. I loved that they were online, but was worried that “life” would get in the way, since it wasn’t scheduled as rigidly as an in-person class would be.

    I actually ended up doing really well with the loose schedule, which shocked me. I’m definitely a “type A” planner, so I was sure that this would not work well for me. I got better grades in these classes this semester than I ever have before in college! Now I know that working from home really works for me, so I hope to be able to find a job that will allow me to do that in the future.

    I don’t really think I had any specific tips or tricks like you do. I was definitely a jammies girl this summer ;) Maybe it was just that I would say in my head, “Okay, it’s work time now. You will sit here for however long and do this work, and then when you’re done you can do other stuff.”

  4. What you say about getting dressed is really true – There have been studies done showing a very strong correlation bewteen how you dress vs. how you act and how you feel. If you dress professionally, you’re more apt to act that way :)

    Glad working from home works for you!

  5. I can definitely relate to this post! My husband has worked from home for YEARS. But, he gets SO much more done than he would going into the office. When he does go to the office (like once every 2 weeks)- he spend almost 3 hours roundtrip sitting in traffic. Here, he logs on by 7 am and works until 5.
    Since I quit my job, I’ve been working from home (well, studying is my full-time job now). I was NOT productive at first. I had to actually get dressed :) and make a schedule for each day. So far, so good! It also helped that I made a great home office for myself.
    I just need to buy a comfortable chair now. the $7 one I have from Ikea is not doing my back ANY good.

  6. I worked from home for a short while. I’m an RHIT and I took a job as a coder from home. Soon I began to miss being in the hospital and interacting with people so I went back into the hospital setting. My husband was so happy because I also turned into a slight hermit while I was working from home. I never wanted to go anywhere.

  7. Also, absolutely DO NOT turn on the TV. You tell yourself that it’s just noise in the background, but trust me, you WILL find yourself watching it.

  8. I work from home full time, and I do everything you do! I have an office and I use it. I get dressed in the mornings. I have a running list that I follow. My exception is that I have a lot of conference calls, and I walk around the house during those to get off my butt a little. It’s easy to NOT MOVE AT ALL when you work from home.

  9. How timely you are in my life! I recently started a home-based side business and it is tough…Unfortunately time spent on it is mostly evenings and “in between” times, so getting dressed was already accomplished hours ago. Anybody else have tips to get into “work mode” for a side gig? Need to get myself a desk…my current slouch on the couch can’t possibly be good long term!

  10. My job doesn’t really have the IT capability to work from home, though I would love it. At my prior job, we were told to work from home one day after a hurricane had come through and it wasn’t safe to drive in yet, but the danger, itself, had passed, and, like one of your other commenters, I found myself being more productive than usual just to show that I could be trusted to work away from the office.

  11. I do work from home while raising my children. You are spot on with your advice. I find that I let some of the housework take over on some days, and then I let some of my work take over on other days. And on ALL days, the kids find themselves in charge. :)

    For me, forcing myself to stay on schedule and get stuff done when and before it needs to be done has been the biggest lifesaver.

    Great post!

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