Working from home is awesome. Greater autonomy and a flexible schedule are just the beginning. In the past, I spent at least an hour driving to work each day, and another hour driving home. That adds up to 520 hours (21 days) a year. Cutting out the commute also lowers my carbon footprint and saves me thousands of dollars a year in transportation costs.
Working from home is hard. More distractions and less supervision can zap your productivity if you're not careful. Sitting at home alone all day can also have negative effects on your physical and mental health.
During the past ten years, I've discovered several hacks to keep me on track and healthy while working from home. Whether you're a freelancer, telecommuter, or small business owner, these tools and strategies can help make your working-at-home experience more efficient and manageable.
"You need to create an environment for yourself that creates the sense that you’re leaving personal time and entering work time.” - Cris Sgrott-Wheedleton, a Virginia-based productivity consultant
"Your performance coincides with your workspace. When it’s organized and precise you have the mindset and motivation to work." - Jennie Dede, VP of Recruiting for Adecco.
Once it's clutter free, optimize your space further by adding air-filtering plants, a music player, or a dry erase board wall.
Avoid placing a refrigerator, snacks, or unhealthy drinks within easy reach. Weight gain is a serious problem for remote workers. Keep a liter bottle of water close by and refill it at least once, preferably twice each day.
If you work online, backup your work frequently and save files in the cloud whenever possible. Test all of your equipment weekly and learn how to do basic repairs and troubleshooting yourself. That way you can fix simple problems on the fly to get you through the day if there is a problem.
If your budget allows, have backup equipment and services, including:
Develop a schedule based on the types of work you do, and where your clients or coworkers are located. If you work for a company in your time zone, plan your work day around their business hours. On the other hand, if you are a freelancer working for clients in various time zones and countries, you may need to plan shorter blocks of times throughout the day rather than one large 8-hour chunk. Whenever possible, schedule some time that overlaps with your coworkers and clients on a daily or weekly basis.
Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, Professor of Psychology at Florida State University, found that the best performers typically work in uninterrupted blocks of time, for no more than 90 minutes at a time.
"Employees who take a break every 90 minutes report a 30 percent higher level of focus than those who take no breaks or just one during the day. They also report a nearly 50 percent greater capacity to think creatively and a 46 percent higher level of health and well-being." - Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project
In a recent episode of "The Meaningful Show," Dean Bokhari explored the importance of these "rituals of renewal" even further. Dean noted, "Whenever you can disconnect for a short period of time, it allows your mind to just kind rejuvenate and renew. When you can give yourself that and then come back to your dedicated focus time... you'll find that you're actually more productive."
Best App: GPS for the Soul This iOS app by The Huffington Post helps create a healthy balance between your daily life and work. You can create guides for yourself that include things like pictures of your loved ones, inspiring quotes, music, and breathing exercises to help restore harmony and balance.
Co-working spaces have become much more common (and nicer) in recent years, too. Services like Workbar, LiquidSpace, and ShareDesk can help you find available spaces near you, on a daily or longer-term basis.
Once you find your groove and you have established a routine you are happy with, don’t forget to keep in touch with your friends and colleagues. You have to make time for personal interactions by scheduling face-to-face meetings at least once a week along with lunches and other social outings. Fortunately for us we live in a time where the available technology makes it easy to stay in touch with others.
Remote working has changed the nature of the work environment, and as sociologist and businesses argue the pros and cons and the impact it is having on society and the business community, more individuals are opting to work from wherever they want, whenever they want. Forrester Research reported that, "34 million Americans work from home and that number is expected to reach a staggering 63 million—or 43% of the U.S. workforc—by 2016."
If you are one of those people, make your health (and sanity) a priority so that working from home can be the awesome experience we all know it can be.
Managing Editor at KillerStartups
Dawn is an American artist and journalist currently living in SE Asia. She is the Managing Editor at KillerStartups, an online publication which focuses on tech startups, website development, and entrepreneurship. Dawn is passionate about travel and committed to the location independent lifestyle. Follow her on Twitter @DawnEBowman.