I started my consulting firm in 2002, so I’ve been working from home for 15 years. My home office is the nicest I’ve ever had in my career.
When I was researching consulting as a profession, I asked consultants about their success strategies and biggest challenges. A couple of them talked about home offices. The first one told me as soon as I could get an office outside the home, I needed to do it because clients won’t take you seriously if you work from a home office. I didn’t follow that advice and I don’t regret it. The business world has changed a lot and most of my clients want me to visit their worksite (not the other way around.)
The second piece of advice I received was that it would take two years to learn how to effectively work at home. Yep, two years. And I must admit, it probably took me that long. Tim Sackett wrote a post on his blog titled, “Working From Home is One Big Lie” and it reminded me of the challenges people can have working at home. I know several consultants who chose to reenter the corporate world because they didn’t care for the isolationism that working from a home office can bring.
If you want to work from home, you should learn how to successfully do two things: control the distractions and embrace the freedom. On the surface, they might seem counterintuitive, but the key is to figure out the balance.
Learn How to Control the Distractions
Yes, it’s true that there are distractions in a corporate environment too. Sometimes you can tune your co-workers out by closing a door or putting on some headphones. When you work at home and you’re all by yourself…you are your own distraction. So, if you spend the afternoon playing Con Man, then you only have yourself to blame. If you want to overcome the self-imposed distractions, here are a few things to consider:
Figure out how you like to work. Self-awareness is a very powerful thing. Be honest with yourself about productivity. When are you most productive? When are you least productive?
Set up the best office space you can. Speaking of productive, your home office should allow you to be productive. Make it something that you will want to spend hours in. That includes making the space comfortable and healthy.
Designate time for home chores. Just because you’re at home, doesn’t mean that you need to do stuff around the house every day. Once you figure out your best work schedule, then you can figure out when to do the laundry, etc.
Embrace the Freedom that Comes from Working at Home
Many people want to work from home because of the flexibility it brings. And I’ll be the first to admit that it’s true – in terms of everything from time to clothing. Even when companies give employees flexible schedules, it’s not the same. But to rip-off a quote from Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility”. Enjoy all the benefits that working from home brings, but do it responsibly.
Practice self-discipline. If you want to visit a Starbucks to get out of the house, do it. Just remember that at some point, you must go back to work. Maybe set up a recurring appointment or reminder so you can get out.
Schedule errands and appointments during non-peak hours. A goal of working at home isn’t to work more hours. This allows you to get certain activities done faster, like doctor’s appointments and grocery shopping.
Find time to exercise and eat healthy. A huge challenge working from home is exercise. The good news is you can also visit the gym during off-peak times. And you can make healthy meals in your slow cooker while you work.
Working at home isn’t easy. There are many advantages like a lower dry cleaning bill and shorter wait times at the dentist. But there are challenges too – like exercise and self-discipline – that have to be addressed. Finding the balance that works for you takes time and honesty.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while wandering her neighborhood in South Florida