I’ve worked from home for the past several years in one capacity or another. From consulting to remote work to a coveted weekly work-from-home day. I consider working from home a discipline, a privilege and responsibility.
I ran into a fellow marketing exec the other day who said she much preferred to work in the office than at home, because, “I always end up finding things to do at home that is not work.” I hear stories like this all the time, so I figured I’d share with you the five rules I have in my daily work routine to ensure that I am maximizing my work and minimizing interruption.
1. Get Dressed for Work
That’s right. Get up, get dressed, put on your work clothes. Daily, I put on high heels, jewelry and makeup. The heels are important because I learned during my prep school days that uncomfortable shoes keep us from getting too comfy — and stiff shoes keep us on our toes (literally).
2. Keep the Desk a Work Space
I have always had my desk as a command center for work. However, it’s not the family command center. Homework to be signed and kids projects don’t belong on my desk. They can leave that stuff on the kitchen counter. Every day I come to my desk, turn the light, sit down and work. My kids know that if I’m at that desk, I am not to be interrupted. My kids have even texted me from the backyard to ask me a question about this or that — mommy is working and I require that respect and space to work.
3. Schedule breaks
It’s impossible in my experience to work from home without wanting to water the plants or grab the mail when you hear it drop in the slot. I schedule three breaks in the day, just like I do at work. The first one is mid-morning. I do household work for a bit (water the plants, throw a marinade on the skirt steak for dinner). The second break is the good one: I go out for lunch. Yes, go out for lunch. I grab lunch where other working people are out, too. I sit down, enjoy my break, check my personal email, make a call or two. Later in the afternoon, I take a break when my kids get home. Most days, they’re running off with our beloved nanny to this-or-that sport or activity, but a quick cuddle is all any of us need.
4. Respect your work day
If you are as blessed as I am, you’ve got family and friends that would love to stop by, hang out, grab a late afternoon glass of wine. Communicating your work-day boundaries only take one brief sentence: “I’d love to but I don’t get out of work until 6.” Or, “I have about 45 minutes for lunch on Tuesday.” Respecting your work day enough to set boundaries for others has always helped me be most efficient in my work-from-home environment. They’ll get it. And, when you do meet, you’ll not have the guilt that you should be working.
5. Closed-Ended Days
If you’ve done it right, you’ve put in eight-to-10 efficient hours of work, and you’re exhausted. You should be. Leave your work day with the same amount of ceremony you began it. I shut off my computer completely. I don’t answer unscheduled work calls after my day is done. I turn off the lamp at my desk. I organize papers and to-do lists for the next day. I clear off coffee cups and scratch paper. I am done.
It doesn’t take a certain “type” of person to work from home — it just takes parameters to work within that drive the most efficiency, produce the best work possible, and reap the benefits from calling the homefront your work HQ.