For three years, I got to work in an awesome professional setting at Portent. Sure, the office space wasn’t as nice when I first started in the outskirts of Seattle as it is now downtown. But that didn’t change the fact that I became part of a close-knit community which thrives in the office environment we’ve built over the years. There’s definitely something to be said for being able to work in a space where you’re constantly pushed to do better and be made to feel like you’re an important part of the team. I know I always enjoyed it.
Last month, some big changes in my life resulted in me moving 1,500 miles away to Chicago. I was lucky enough to stay on as a member of Portent’s PPC team, but I lost the ability to physically experience, and benefit from, the work environment Portent provides in the office. I acquired permanent Work from Home (WFH) status.
After nearly a month of experiencing professional life in this new scenario, I’ve learned that working from home permanently is VERY different from going to the office. I realized it would be a change and I thought I knew what I was in for – after all, I’ve worked from home for a day or two at a time before. However, this new dynamic has quickly forced me to adapt to some new ways of operating as I started to see working from home constantly can go very wrong very quickly if you’re not prepared. In case you ever find yourself in a similar situation, here are a few lessons I’ve learned.
1. Set up an office
Having a designated work space in your home is vital to being able to work from home effectively. Set up a room in a way which is conducive to your working habits and stay there while you work. Don’t be tempted to try and lounge around on the living room couch or your super comfortable bed while still trying to get work done. You need a work space which is separate from your personal space.
Create your work space and do your best to keep it exclusively for work. Don’t try to double-purpose the room and don’t spend free time in it – this is your office and not part of your “home.” This will create a healthier atmosphere for professional life and subconsciously re-enforce that you’re there to work whenever you step through the door.
2. Keep a schedule
When working from home, there’s nobody looking over your shoulder and nobody there to notice if you start work late. There are mornings when your bed is far too comfortable and you try to convince yourself starting work a bit later and ending a bit later is no big deal. Occasionally, it’s not (depending on your company’s standards and policies).
However, the more often you use this type of an excuse to alter your schedule, the more habitual it becomes to not keep a set schedule at all. Such a lack of consistency can harm your work ethic and your professionalism. Plan out a weekly schedule, keep yourself accountable, and make sure you keep that form of consistency to help you maintain the professional environment at home.
3. Schedule breaks
Coming off that last point, it’s also important to schedule breaks in your work day. For some people, it is very easy to zone into what you’re doing and forget everything else that’s going on around you. Doing this in an office is no big deal because you’ll have interruptions built into your day whether you plan for it or not.
At home alone, that’s much less likely. For the sake of your sanity, make sure you have set breaks in your day to keep you from entering into a zombie-like state of prolonged solitude and monotony. Go take a walk outside, grab coffee with a friend, catch up on the day’s news – just be sure you remove yourself from your work space periodically throughout the day and focus on other things for short periods of time.
4. Dress appropriately
When working from home, it’s easy to just put on some sweatpants and a t-shirt and call it good. Doing this takes away from the professional mentality and can leave you feeling incredibly lazy and lethargic while attempting to work. Going through your usual morning routine and dressing as if you’re heading into the office helps put you in that work mentality. You’ll find yourself more ready to work and you’ll be more likely to work to your usual standards.
As a coffee-lover, I am a bit biased. Nonetheless, I consider this great advice: always have coffee available. Coffee is a magical drink given to us by the almighty so we could be functioning members of society. Use it wisely.
Working from home permanently is a convenient option that is afforded to some of us. Should you be so lucky, the onus is on you to maintain a professional atmosphere in which you can work effectively and efficiently. Do not fall into the trap of making excuses out of laziness to fuse your personal life and professional life together in unhealthy or unproductive ways. Take this advice, find out what works best for you, and commit to it.
I have begun to get used to my new work environment. The one thing I haven’t gotten used to – and probably never will – is the lack of people to talk to. Which brings me to an additional tip: when you find yourself carrying a conversation with nobody else around you, it’s time to get a dog.