When people find out that I work from home, a typical response is something like, “I wish I could do that!”
Working from home is a highly desirable way to work, but doing so effectively takes some planning and thoughtfulness.
One especially important lesson to learn about working from home is the understanding that remote work isn’t a "perk" -- it’s a legitimate way to work, and one that should be taken seriously.
Whether you are running your own freelancing business, working from home as part of a contracting opportunity, or have the option of working from home in your job, these key elements are necessary for your success.
When it comes to setting yourself up for remote work success, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Consider your personal preferences for:
You might not want to be at home 100 percent of the time. Perhaps you would rather spend at least some of your time in a traditional office environment, at a coworking space, or in a casual remote work environment like a coffee shop or library.
To design the ideal work-from-home arrangement for you, talk to other people who work from home, or work with your manager and team. Their input will help you create a remote work system that truly works for you, and your employer.
The skills a person needs to successfully work from home can be -- and should be -- learned. Those include:
The last skill -- developing outside interests -- is important because, when you work from home every day, you can easily become a hermit who rarely ventures out of the house.
People who work from home are often more likely to work more hours and feel more burnout than their in-office counterparts, because the line between work and home life can blur until you’re working constantly. Outside interests help you maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Picture your home, and think about the possibilities for creating office spaces in different areas or rooms in the house. Your home office space should be comfortable yet professional, so that when you enter it, you feel like getting down to business.
Your space should be designated as "off limits" to other family members or roommates to keep the noise down and to enable you to work productively. This area also offers you a professional setting for work-related meetings with others.
Being able to design your own home office means that you can create a space that supports your productivity and effectiveness -- or one that hurts it.
Set aside space in your home specifically for your work.
Don’t be tempted to wing it and work from the kitchen table one day, the couch another. Choose home office equipment and furniture that will truly be useful to you. For example, some people enjoy working from a laptop, but others swear by having two large monitors.
Many people want to work from home to avoid common office interruptions, reduce their commute times, and generally have more control over their time. But once you’re actually working remotely, it can be tempting to pop into the kitchen every 10 minutes to grab a snack, or leave your desk to fold a few loads of laundry.
Learning to work independently, with almost total control over your time, is a skill you must master to work from home effectively. To-do lists, timers, and regular communication with your team can all go a long way to helping you stay on task and manage your time wisely.
Working from home shouldn’t mean working without staying in contact with your fellow colleagues or manager or your client if you are a freelancer.
If you are a freelancer, connect with other freelancers. You may find a mentor or be able to mentor someone else, learn how to handle different situations and aspects of the job, and improve your business and income. Look for organizations for your field or industry or freelancing/consulting in general. When you find these organizations, look for local meetings. Check MeetUp, LinkedIn, and Facebook for local groups that meet in person.
If you’re working from home, be sure to maintain regular communication with your teammates and boss or clients. Some remote teams are fully remote where everyone works from home, and others are distributed where some folks work in the office and some from home.
Be sure to ask questions and share information, making time for casual conversations and communication through a variety of methods.
The last thing you want is to be seen as a remote worker who feels “remote” from everyone else. The more in-communication you stay, the more you’ll be seen as a vital part of the team.
Most of the people I talk to who don’t enjoy working from home do so only occasionally, and without the proper support of a dedicated home office or the traits and skills needed to be effective.
To work from home effectively, develop your independent and communication skills, set up a comfortable home office, and be sure to maintain outside interests. Working from home is a rewarding experience, provided you set yourself up for success.
Brie Weiler Reynolds is the Senior Career Specialist and Career Coach at FlexJobs.com. FlexJobs is the award-winning site for telecommuting and flexible jobs, listing thousands of pre-screened, legitimate, and professional-level work-from-home, flexible schedule, part-time, and freelance jobs. Brie and her colleagues provide career coaching and resume reviews through the FlexJobs Career Coaching program. Find Brie on LinkedIn and follow @briewreynolds on Twitter.