As a result of advancing technologies, more and more businesses are allowing their employees to work from home. At first glance, this may seem like a win-win for the employees who can enjoy the luxury of a more comfortable setting with no additional commuting hassles or expenses, stress from office dramas, or a micromanaging boss.
The top disadvantages of working from home include:
Access to a reliable computer hardware and internet connection.
Lack of an adequate work area.
Home life distractions and interruptions.
Poor time management of work activities.
Insufficient connection to work resources and people.
To work smarter from home, create a setting that will maximize your work efficiencies and state of well-being.
Start with these smart strategies…
Maintain a designated workspace.
If your home doesn’t have an office, create one in a private and secure area as a substitute. Have enough space to spread out your work and keep your work equipment at your disposal. Make sure that your setup is ergonomically sound with the proper chair, lighting, and desk configuration that will prevent you from straining your eyes, back, and neck. Use this as your primary workspace.
Use specialized technology to address your work needs.
Whatever equipment and supplies that are deemed important at work should be available at home. A reliable internet connection, technologies that meet your work needs, and a telephone line that is dedicated strictly for work are all musts. Speak to your company about helping you secure the essentials you require to perform your job well.
Set up a lifeline for troubleshooting.
For all the pluses that come with technology, expect the negative, including computer malfunction and faulty software. Whenever you have a serious problem with your equipment or accessing work-related resources, immediately connect with the appropriate personnel in your company for assistance. Notify your supervisor if you expect the problem to linger. A good way to reduce problems with technology is to have a separate system that is off limits for personal use.
Keep home and work activities separate.
Maintain clear and distinct boundaries between what you do for work and your domestic responsibilities. A blending of the two will, most likely, end up shortchanging one or both by disrupting your concentration and ability to fully complete incompatible tasks.
Establish ground rules with your household.
Working from home requires a change in mindset not only for you but for the members of your household. From the onset, sit down with the people who live with you to lay out your needs and expectations for working at home. Strategize together to come up with guidelines that are acceptable to all parties involved. Do not schedule service people to come to your house while you are on the job and make concessions, like sending your small children to daycare, if need be.
Plan out your daily work schedule.
To keep on track, establish a list of daily work goals and activities. Prioritize your activities, including scheduled conference calls and project deadlines. Estimate the time required to complete each activity with an extra amount of padding for the unexpected. Avoid becoming stressed and frustrated by keeping your daily work schedule realistic.
Reserve specific times to check emails and texts.
In the absence of face-to-face interactions, emails, texts, and phone calls will become the preferred mode of work-related communication. Do not disrupt your workflow by instantly reading and responding to them as they come in. Instead, reserve several times during your workday specifically for answering your electronic correspondence unless a message appears urgent or from someone of high importance.
Take time for breaks.
Taking short breaks from your work helps to improve your productivity, mental well-being, and overall work performance. If your company has a written policy on breaks, follow it at home. For a more flexible work schedule, get away from your workstation every 20 or 30 minutes to walk around and stretch. Additionally, you may want to try the 20-20-20 rule if you sit in front of a computer for too long. To reduce eye strain, every 20 minutes, gaze at a point that is 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Release your neck and back kinks with stretches.
Being stationary for an extended period at your desk can take a toll on your muscles. To reduce the pain and tension in your neck and back, there are some simple stretching exercises you can easily perform in an office setting throughout the day. For the best techniques to relieve your aches and pains, seek professional help or search for resources via the internet.
Keep track of your work time.
If your company is not using a tracking system for your worktime, start your own. Monitor how much time you put into your work each day. Not only does this offer accountability if asked by your supervisor, it will keep you on track for your billable work hours, including overtime.
Maintain ongoing communication with your co-workers and boss.
Working remotely can leave you feeling isolated, lonely, and disconnected from the people in your company. A significant amount of teamwork and camaraderie may be lost without daily in-person interactions. To maintain a sense of cohesiveness among colleagues working from home, companies have become creative by organizing activities such as virtual lunches and coffee breaks, company challenges, contests, an email question of the week, or in-person meet-ups or retreats. Slack, Skype, or Zoom are just a few chat sites that can help you stay connected with others either through your company or on your own.
Earmark the end of your workday.
Close out your workday with a routine that refocuses and rejuvenates you. Your routine might include having playtime with your children or pets, going to the gym, getting out into nature, or relaxing in a soothing bath of essentials oils. Whatever you choose, stop thinking about work.
The potential benefits of working from home can be short-lived unless you are willing and able to set yourself up for success. To avoid being sent back to work or, worse yet, fired from your job, create an office and attitude at home that mimics what traditionally occurs in your work environment.
And remember, working at home may not be right for you. Weigh out the pros and cons before plunging into a no-win situation.
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Written by: Patricia K. Flanigan, Smart Strategies for Successful Living
Patricia K. Flanigan has worked in higher education for over 28 years. She holds a doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership from the University of La Verne as well as a M.A. in Latin American Studies and B.A. in Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Before retiring and moving to Idaho in 2015, she served as the dean of online education and learning resources at Saddleback College, a large community college in Southern California. She currently consults in higher education, volunteers for AARP, writes for a local magazine, and serves as an Affiliate Faculty member at Boise State University and a contributing member to LEARN Idaho. Since February 2017, she has been the founding director for Smart Strategies for Successful Living, a community-based website designed to promote quality aging. As an educator, her focus is to inspire others to live and age well.
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