The Home Office: A guide to working from home and keeping your sanity
Before recently moving into a bigger apartment that allows me actual dedicated office space—Okay, so it may not be a corner office but at least I have a window—I began my business working from a 660 square-foot apartment with no air conditioning and an overly affectionate cat. My generous neighbor, Steven, allowed me to use his internet, but this required me to sit on the far corner of my bed to get any sort of signal. The first two months of opening my business, I spent quite literally working from a bed in an 86 degree apartment with a fuzzy gray cat as my only semi-human interaction most days. If Forbes Magazine featured a list for the career field of bedridden sweaty cat-ladies, I was sure to rank at least in the top 10 by this fall.
Luckily I found sanity working from home, abiding by a few standards I put in place for myself.
Shower and put on real pants every day—This may sound obvious, but believe me, when you first start working from home it’s easy to jump right on the computer and not bother getting ready like you were going into an office. While I may not do my make-up or wear skirts and dresses like I did at my old desk job, I still feel so much more professional and business-minded when I’m cleaned up and presentable.
Try and schedule a different appointment each day—This can range from a casual meeting over coffee, a conference call or a professional pitch to a client, but I give myself a reason to get out of the house and interact with the world each day. It also helps to provide more structure and gets me moving whether I feel like it or not.
Set regular work hours and stick to them—Working from home allows me a great deal of flexibility. I can run an errand, go for a walk or grab groceries whenever I choose and then work late into the night or early in the morning to make up for it. However, I’ve found this to be a trap and before I knew it, my evenings and weekends were non-existent. It’s much better to set regular work hours (it’s doesn’t have to be 9-5, but whatever works for you) and then stick to them. By structuring my day like a “real job” I reinforced the mindset that working from home is indeed a very real job. It also provides me with a predictable schedule that allows for me to be social with friends and family who are only able to do things during the evenings and weekends.
And during these work hours, only focus on business work—Working from home makes it tempting to do laundry, clean and organize (not to mention nap) when I should be focusing on client work. While a little multi-tasking can be productive, it’s also a great way to procrastinate. Throwing in a load of towels is easier than sitting down and writing that media pitch I’ve been putting off—so when I know I’m using these household chores to put off my real work, I nip it in the bud, close my office door and focus solely on Bennis Inc until my work hours are over.
Working from home certainly has its benefits—flexibility, no overhead cost for office space, comfort and freedom. But it takes discipline and dedication to make it successful and stay sane in the process. If there’s any other “home-workers” out there, I’d love to hear your own tips and tricks for how you made it work for you!