Over the last month, a lot of people here in the US have been asked to work from home. I bet many will never go back to working in an office. But as someone who's worked from home for years, I've been surprised at some of the problems my friends and family have brought up about working from home. Here's some advice based on the questions I've been asked.
Define Boundaries With Your Family
When you switch to working from home, you lose one set of coworkers (the office) and gain another set (your family or your roommates) unless you live alone. And the new set of coworkers isn't used to your work routine. Your kids might think that just because mommy and daddy are home all day means that you can play with them all day.
All the basic office etiquette rules like "headphones on = do not disturb" can work well at the home office too. You just need to make sure you enforce your boundaries.
And if you have dependents, that means splitting up care duties between you and your family. For example, my fiance and I have two dogs. My fiance tends to work better later in the day, whereas I'm more of a morning person. So I'm generally less involved in keeping an eye on the dogs in the morning unless there's a work call, and more involved as the day goes on.
Speaking of calls, make sure you share your work calendar with your home office. That helps keep your new coworkers informed of your schedule.
Wear Real Clothes
When you start working from home, it's tempting to spend all day in your pajamas. Nobody will notice, right? Wrong, you will notice. And, if you have kids, they'll notice too.
There's a reason why making your bed every morning is such a powerful habit: it sets the tone for the rest of the day. If you start your day cutting corners, you're putting yourself into a lazy mindset. And that means you'll be more likely to take shortcuts as the day goes on.
Take Control Over Your Routine
I've said it before and I'll say it again: if you're motivated and disciplined, working from home is the best setup for you. You now have full control over your time, free from the long commutes, endless distractions, and logistical challenges of office work.
For example, I always found I get my best work done in the mornings. I like to follow Mark Twain's advice and eat the live frog. So not only did commuting cut into my most productive hours, but it also limited my ability to go to the gym. Working out in the morning wasn't for me, working out at 6:30 messed with sleep, and working out at lunch meant extra logistics: bringing workout clothes in the morning and having a gym close to work. Working from home means I can go to my usual gym at noon after spending the morning coding.
Even The Oatmeal jokes that one of the worst parts of working from home is "loss of regimen" - not having a routine is a surefire way to avoid getting any benefit from working from home. Having a socially enforced work routine is one of the benefits of going to an office.
If you struggle to maintain a productive routine while working from home, think of this as an opportunity to level up your personal discipline. Being able to keep yourself on track even when nobody's watching is a skill that will benefit your career in the long run - no boss wants an employee that goes off the rails on their own.
To paraphrase the immortal words of Bluto, working from home could be the best thing to ever happen to you. You now have the opportunity to structure your life as you see fit. You can work from a coffee shop, a coworking space, or your dining room table depending on whether you have a lot to do or not. You can go to your local gym at off-peak hours to beat the crowds. You can choose who you spend time with - spend time with your most productive friends when you're looking to get work done, or hang out at home with your family when things are slow. The choice is yours!