How to work from home. About 4 years ago I asked my then Vice President of the company I work for to work from home, and I haven’t looked back since. Over the years I have learned many tips to successfully work from home which I will share with you in this post. In the past few weeks, more and more people have been forced or “voluntold” to work from home due to the Coronavirus outbreak (Listen to our Podcast about Coronavirus Insanity here). After providing guidance to many in my company on the tips and tricks, I’ve decided I’ll let you in on how to work from home, the Superior Men way.
Set up a Dedicated Work Area
This is the first and most crucial step in learning how to work from home. You need to have an area of your house that is as distraction-free as possible and will allow you to work no matter what is happening at home. Do you have a spare bedroom or an office? That’s the easiest setup, but many aren’t that lucky. Some bad suggestions are, the kitchen table, anywhere near a TV, the living room, a couch, Starbucks, etc. Even if you are able to set up a small table in your bedroom, that is a better idea.
You must have somewhere free of distractions that allow you to focus and complete your work. I cannot stress this enough, do not move on past this step until you have a dedicated, quiet work area.
Get the Right Equipment
After you have the right work area, the next step in learning how to work from home is getting the right equipment. This “right equipment” will vary wildly based on many factors. Things to consider are, how long will you be working from home? How much will your employer either provide you or pay for equipment? Since I work exclusively from home unless I am traveling the right way, it was important to me to have it done right, so here is my set up.
I have a cheap Ikea plain tabletop desk. Believe me its nothing special, but it does the job. However, I have a sit/stand desk on top. I’ve owned this for almost 2 years and it works fantastically. On top, I have three monitors, 2 of which were provided by my employer, all on a monitor tree. This set up allows me to sit or stand during the day with no issues. Speaking of sitting, I have used an exercise ball as a chair for just about 8 years. If you haven’t tried this, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Set a Consistent Work Schedule
This may be done for you already, however, make sure you pick or stick to the work hours assigned to you. This is “How to work from home 101” but it allows for consistency while learning how to work from home. If your workday starts, at 8, make sure you are logged on and working at 8. If you normally take your lunch for an hour from noon until 1, then log out and go to lunch for 1 hour. Keep up your routine. Don’t get lazy and start rolling out of bed at 8:15, making coffee, then logging into work when you feel like it. Laziness begets more laziness.
If you need more info on scheduling, check out our article on Schedule every minute.
Schedule your Breaks
This goes along with a consistent work schedule, however, the benefits of frequent breaks are quite important. In addition to scheduling deep work sessions which are completely distraction-free, and light work sessions, where I check email or do meetings, etc, I also take frequent short breaks. I follow the 20-20-20 rule while working on the computer. Every 20 minutes I look at something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds. This helps with eye strain from looking at a damn screen all the time. The other kind of break is a mental one. Every hour of work I get up and walk away from the computer for 5-10 minutes and do something else.
In our “Men of Action” Article I talk about the 5-minute rule, and it perfectly applies here.
A Superior Man must get shit done but you can’t just go around doing mindless busy work to keep yourself occupied. You must have a balance between completing tasks and keeping occupied. I came up with a 5-Minute rule. Simply stated: If you aren’t currently busy and you run across something that needs to be done and it takes less than 5 minutes to do, Do It Right Now. Don’t think about it, don’t equivocate, just get it done and check it off your list.
This is true multitasking here – It gives you a short mental break from work, and allows you to accomplish tasks around your house, you know, like a boss.
Manage Your Work Hours for Productivity
If you are hourly or salary your employer may have different expectations of you, however as a general rule it is very easy when you first learn how to work from home to work many more hours than you did before. There is a work-home balance that you need to bring to an equilibrium. On the flip side, there is much more flexibility when working from home. For example, my day tends to start between 530-630 in the morning, and yes this is by choice. I work best first thing in the morning, and when the children come home after school it is more difficult to focus on work tasks.
If you are able to adjust your work hours slightly it can mean significant benefits. Additionally, you want to make it clear when you are available with your direct manager. However, I’ll discuss that shortly.
What causes your mind to wander? What items really bugged you when you worked in the office? Chances are you will now have a completely different list while working at home. I work very well with music playing in the background, however many people may not. If you find yourself becoming distracted, take a short break, and eliminate that distraction to the best of your ability.
Availability to Your Manager
I directly manage eleven employees who work from home just as I do. I can tell you the biggest key to keeping your manager out of your business is to communicate with him or her. Let your manager know what you are working on, and your general availability for the day or week.
Many managers are not used to having to supervise folks who are at home. And they feel a bit out of sorts. Just as you need to learn how to work from home, so does your manager. The more you are actually doing your job and communicating with your manager, the more they will trust your work, and let you have a longer leash. If you can prove you are doing your job well, this may be a great trial run for you to ask to permanently work from home.
Thrive at Home
If you, as I do, appreciate the autonomy, and independence of working from home, you paid attention to my steps and learned how to work from home, there is no reason why this couldn’t be more permanent. I know many people who in lieu of asking for a raise, asked to work from home during their next review period. You save time commuting, have a more flexible schedule, are more productive at work, and save money on gas and other work expenses.
Don’t just take my word, what are your thoughts?