I remember friends in grad school saying they dreamed about telecommuting full-time and working every day from their home offices. At the time, I lived in North Carolia and worked at the beautiful SAS campus, so the thought of working from a dimly lit home office with a particle board desk really didn't appeal to me that much. In short, I didn't share their dreams.
Yet, here I am. After multiple moves around the country, I have been working from my home office for more than ten years, and I've really come to enjoy it. But it does take a lot of discipline, and an introverted personality doesn't hurt.
With this bit of background, you can see why I was interested to read the SAS Users Group blog post, telecommuting tips for managers and telecommuters, that Waynette Tubbs wrote after attending a presentation on this topic at the North East SAS Users Group. After reading it and talking with a few colleagues who work from home, I was inspired to write my own list of tips for being productive in your own home office:
- Always shower and get dressed before work in the morning. Act as if you will be getting a video call every day.
- Remove distractions. For example, if knowing that you have dirty dishes in the sink will drive you crazy and keep you from focusing on work, do them before work.
- Keep healthy foods in the house. It’s very tempting to snack all day when you work from home, so keep fresh fruit and water handy. I keep a 2-gallon water dispenser in my office.
- Watch meeting notices. Make sure they include dial-in info and/or make sure the organizer knows to call you from the polycom.
- Find a healthy, job-related work distraction. I call Twitter my replacement for hallway conversation. You really do need that down-time of people stopping by your office once and awhile and chatting about their weekend. It helps recharge your mind for work. Twitter or your favorite business blog can do the same. Just remember to limit it to the length of a typical hallway conversation.
- Use the phone. We all have to make a conscious effort sometimes to stop the email back-and-forth and pick up the phone. This is especially true for remote workers, because you won’t be talking to that person later in the office. Pay close attention to when it makes more sense to talk instead of IM or email.
- Take your breaks! Get up and walk around. Since you’re not walking to meetings, you’ll find that you get stuck in your office chair sometimes for longer stretches of time than you probably should. Set a timer or some other indicator to get up and stretch or get more water. Try as much as possible not to skip lunch. I like to schedule lunch meetings with friends or plan for short runs on my lunch breaks so that I’m forced not to work right through lunch.
- Keep your weekly check-in meetings sacred. If you have weekly check-ins with managers or direct reports, attend them religiously and do not cancel when you think there is nothing new. If you’re working from home, there should always be something worth discussing or updating, because you’re not seeing your colleagues every day.
- Watch internal webcasts and read intranet articles. These internal resources really help you feel connected to what’s going on at your corporate headquarters.
- Untether yourself from your desk once and awhile. I have to force myself to do this, but it can really make for a great charge to your creativity to undock your laptop and work from the back porch or the local coffee shop once and awhile. Just check your calendar first and do it when you know you aren’t expected to be near your phone or dialed in to any meetings.
What would you add? If you work from home every day or just once and awhile, what helps with your productivity?