Last week was my first week at my new gig. I work from home full time now. I always hear developers saying they would love to work from home. Granted, it does have its advantages but it isn’t always as great as it seems to be. It isn’t like taking a day off from the office to telecommute (usually I play xbox on these days). Working from home full time requires discipline. Not yet sure if I have it, but it seems to be going ok.
The following are a few tips I found that make things easier for me to work from home and stay disciplined.
Leave for work (Mentally)
When you work from home you have to separate your home life from work life. Even though your office/cubicle is now located in your home, you still have to check out of home mode when you start your shift. Kids, the wife and/or girlfriends should be made aware that even though you are physically accessible you should be treated as if you’re not actually there. It can be hard, but eventually they will get it.
On the flip side, you must also remember that even though the xbox is only a few feet away in the other room, you’re at work and not at home. The exception to this is the kitchen :D
Leave for work (Physically)
Working from home doesn’t have to mean working from home. I recommend renting a small office space somewhere so that it’s easier to separate home and work life. This is especially beneficial to those with small homes or potentially disruptive households.
I have a pretty big house so space isn’t an issue for me. If you are lucky enough to have a spare bedroom or a den or any room that you can go into and close the door, then move your desk and computer in there and make it your office. Being able to physically isolate yourself will help keep you on track and less distracted.
Additional benefit is if you have kids and you also have to communicate with clients and/or co-workers. You can have a quiet place to conduct business.
Make your space comfortable
Just because you have a space of your own doesn’t mean it’s comfortable. You have to be in that space for 8 hours a day. Personally, I painted my office “Billiard Green” (a nice dark green), setup some soft lighting and rearranged my desk so I could see the entire room (not facing a wall). I moved all of my clutter into the closet and out of the way. I like low light settings so painting the walls a dark color and adding soft light options made a huge difference. It makes the room a place I want to be in.
Get a nice chair, get a nice desk, get some pictures or art or some of those fancy motivational posters and make your work space a place you want to spend all day in.
Stay in one place
This goes along with my previous tip. Make sure your space is comfortable so that you’re not tempted to go and work in your cozy bed or on the big Lazy Boy recliner in the living room. Stay in your space and don’t wander. If you need to “get out of the office” then go down to Starbucks and work there for a bit.
WHAT?! Yeah, follow a dress code. Everyone jokes about working from home in their underwear. To help keep you focused and in the work mindset, dress like you would normally going into an office. I don’t allow shoes on the carpet, but I make an exception when I’m “at work”. I wear business casual clothes (or sometimes shorts), and I also wear my shoes. It’s really a mind trick. Make yourself feel comfortable, don’t wear a dress shirt and tie (unless you want to), but also don’t work in your boxers.
Keep a regular schedule
Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you can’t/shouldn’t take breaks. Be sure to take regular breaks. Maybe two 15 minute breaks and an hour lunch or come up with a schedule that works for you.
When working from home it can be quite easy to fall into the habit of working more than you should. Overtime is fine if you have to get something done, but you should start at a regular time and end at a regular time as if you were in an actual office. No reason to over do it.
Tools & Communication
Be sure you have to proper tools to do your job. If you need to fax then get a fax machine or a digital fax solution. You don’t want to disrupt your day because you have to run down to Staples to send a fax.
Unless you’re stuffing and licking envelopes, you probably will need to communicate via the internet. Make sure that you have quality service. I actually have been fighting with this. I got cable service when we moved in (don’t remember why). Since we only used it for web browsing and Netflix, if it went down it wasn’t a big deal. Well last week I had to work from Starbucks because it went down. It would also go down periodically throughout the day too. It makes for a very annoying work experience, especially since people need to communicate with me and it’s how I do my job. I called and ordered fiber internet and made sure it comes with a 99.99% up time. I also ordered phone service so that I had a land line. Cell service in my area is unreliable. I want to make sure I can do my job and get in touch with people when I need to.
Being in a house with other people who also like to use the internet can cause some problems when they’re eating all of the bandwidth. Most routers support some level of QoS (Quality of Service). QoS basically tells the router that packets going to a certain address are “more important” and they get a higher priority. On my router I give my xbox highest priority (online gaming, Netflix) followed by my workstation. That way my Skype call gets priority over someone else watching YouTube.
These are the tips I have. Basically it boils down to making yourself comfortable but professional, and distraction free. When you go to work, go to work and forget that you’re home.
What tips do you have? What helps you work from home?