Working from home is very different from anything - especially from coworking. It is also amazingly hard to write about this topic for me as I feel, it is about home, a very personal matter. As a personal matter, it is entirely different for everyone. I am going to approach this with a mix of own experiences, as I am mainly working from home and not from coworking offices and I will also generalize the topic as I don’t think we are very much different at all. Treat this chapter with a grain of salt though and only apply the tips here, if you feel them personally working for you.
I am working from home since mid-2014. I tried coworking offices, and I still pay some regular visits to them, plus I only work from coworking offices when I am on the road. I hate to work from cafes and public spaces, they are not my thing, too much distraction and they are not tied to a working environment. Sure you can work from a library but what if you need to take a call with a client or coworker? Sure you can work from a café but what if the WiFi goes down and the noise is too much. I only work from a restaurant or public space if I have to and there are no other alternatives. I only work from a coworking office if I miss the office environment and want to meet new people. However, when it comes to deep, meaningful and focused work, I stick to my home.
So the critical challenge working from home is how to stay productive. Here are my tips on how to achieve and overcome this challenge.
The importance of a daily routine
Have a routine and stick to it. It depends on your schedule, your lifestyle or the work you do. If you are a morning person, do a fantastic job early in the morning, no one disturbs you. If you are a night owl, do the legwork after 9 pm. It is your schedule and your preferences, and you are at home, you have the freedom to stick to yours. Personally, this is my schedule: I wake up at 8 am, read emails and catch-up on what’s going on with my work until 10 am; meanwhile I have breakfast. I have a walk and spend some me-time until 11 am and start working. I work in 2-3 hour breaks because much of my tasks and work needs deep and focused attention. I have a minimal amount of small jobs and quick to-dos as I automate everything, plus I operate on a senior management level. I have a break from 6 pm to 9 pm or so and spend quality time with my family. My partner works in an office, so it is that time when she arrives home. I resume working at around 9 pm and work until late at night and go to bed at about 1 am. I repeat this sequence almost all days and try to work by this routine, even when I am not working from home. I also feel very irritated when something messes up this routine, and I have to break it. When I have to take care of things like going to the bank, do shopping on weekdays or have an offline meeting with someone, I always group these errands to the same day on the week. That day will be a day ‘outside’ for me because I already broke my routine, I want to broke the whole day and do minimal work on that day. I will compensate for the lost hours later. I rarely work on the weekends, but when I do, it is always a creative time. Most of my posts and written materials are done on the weekends. Have your routine, figure it out for yourself and stick to it, protect it and embrace it.
Work mode & home mode
Go to work mode on-demand but go to home mode if needed. When you work from home, the work-life balance becomes sort-of irrelevant, and it is under heavy pressure. There is only one great thing about commuting to an office: getting yourself ready to enter or exit from work mode. When your home is your office, this getting ready feeling comes instantly. To switch between modes, have a trigger. To me, there are two things. Space and tools. I have a separate room, a study, where I do most of my work. It is created and designed as an office. I have a whiteboard there, a proper desk and chair – if your home is your office, you can finally invest in office equipment that is great. When I enter that room, I am in work mode instantly. My brain knows when I am in that room, work will be done. Serious and focused work. I also have a living room with a comfy couch – when I am there and open up my tool, my workstation, which is my laptop, I am also in work mode. However, because my living room is used not just for work, I tend to do non-focused tasks there. Reading, emailing and sometimes I have my calls there. When I enter my study room, I am at work. When I open up my laptop, I am at semi-work. These are my triggers, but I think it is essential for everyone to establish a trigger system that tricks your brain when you are at home working or just at home living.
Invest in tools & equipment
Invest in tools and equipment. It is your home so you can do whatever you want. Buy the best and most reliable laptop or computer you can. Buy the best and most ergonomic chair you can. Buy a desk – I recommend an adjustable desk that can be converted to a standing desk if needed. Subscribe the most extensive internet connection you can get. Buy the best alternative mobile internet tools you can get, in case the cable is down. Have the proper tools for conference calls, a steady mic, and a great headphone. Seriously, you can optimize your workspace as you need, this is a luxury you won’t have in an office.
Have a hobby
Have a low-maintenance hobby, so when you need to step away for a few minutes, you can comfortably relax and recharge and get on your feet again. If you are doing the Pomodoro technique or you work with hourly short breaks, it is great to have a reliable hobby that you can do every time. The hobby should be non-pixelated as well when you are doing a 10-mins break, and you want to step away from the screen. I have bonsai trees and a dog. When I need a short break and don’t want to browse the net mindlessly, I take care of my trees or pet the dog. With the dog, I always get a right amount of walking three times a day, which is great for creativity.
Let everyone know your availability
Let everyone know about your schedule. Your coworkers will know but let your family and friends know too. It is easy to get distractions when others know you are at home. To this day, people still don’t think that working from home is working. Let your relatives know that they can’t just phone you up or ask some stuff to sort out, just because you are at home. When I am in my study, I am practically not at home. My study happens to be at my home, yes, but I am not available for anything, apart from working. I made this very clear from the beginning, so I don’t have to close my study’s door. It is shut virtually.
Enjoy your time! You are working from your home for God’s sake. You are pouring your coffee from your espresso machine – I love my espresso machine! You are listening to your music. You wear what you want, and if you want, you can live up to the stereotype and wear only pants at work. Enjoy your time, and you are at home. Save thousands of dollars on working from home. No need to spend on public transport or gasoline, no need to spend that much on lunches and snacks and not much to spend on your office look. Enjoy the reclaimed time, no need to commute and spend hour-long breaks for a meal. Enjoy the absence of pointless marathon meetings and small talks. Spend your freedom, time and money well with this newly found luxury setup.
Get social– not just on the net. It is the biggest challenge, at least for me. Since you are working from home, you are not spending time with others mandatory. You have to be proactive if you want to meet others. You can always go to a coworking space for a day if you need the noise and people. Do some team sport to meet non-work related people. Go to meetups based on your interests. I manage a Facebook Group for digital nomads in Budapest and organize monthly meetups with them. I also do kendo and spend time at the gym with my friends there. Plus I have friends who are a plus too lol. However, the truth is there still: I rarely spend time with people whom I have to spend time mandatorily. I am not closed into space with others, only if I wanted to be close to them. It is 100% under my decision, so I have to be proactive to make those decisions every time.
Working from home is amazing, and I don’t believe the statement that ‘it is not for everyone.’ If you do it right, you can enjoy the benefits and overcome the challenges, even if you thought ‘it is not your thing.’