This year, more people are working from home than ever before. Many companies are recognizing the value of allowing employees to work remotely. There are also more people opening up part-time entrepreneurial gigs as side hustles. Whether you’re starting up your own business or you’re getting ready to work as a remote contractor for an existing business, you may be wondering what to expect from your at-home venture. While not everyone is going to have the same experience, here are seven things I learned working from home in the first year.
1. Organization Is Essential, Not Optional
Getting organized isn’t just a nice thing to do. It’s essential if you’re going to work from home. In fact, it’s so essential that you should set aside at least a few days just to make sure you’re completely organized before you dive into your work. I’m not just talking about making sure your desk is tidy. I’m talking about types of organization you may not have ever done before, such as figuring out how you’ll create and send out invoices. You’ll also need to keep your finances in order or you could be dealing with a nightmare when tax season rolls around.
Other types of organization include efficient scheduling apps or techniques that will help you stay on task and on time with your various projects. You’ll also want to have a process in place for following up on unpaid invoices. Fortunately, there are paid programs out there that will do all this work for you. You’ll need to carefully consider whether or not you have the budget for these apps, which are considered essential to many people who work from home.
2. File Backups Should Be Taken Seriously
When you work for someone else, there is usually an IT person who makes sure everyone’s files are backed up. But when you work from home, the responsibility for file backup rests squarely on your shoulders. That might be alarming, but it’s easier than you’re probably thinking.
Start by going out and buying a quality hard drive. Don’t waste your time with one that doesn’t have at least 500GB. As a business owner, you’re going to need to back up a lot of professional files and you don’t want to run out of room. From there, you just follow the manufacturer’s directions for setting up your hard drive. You’ll need to plug it into your computer as well as a power source, then click and drag your desired files over to the drive.
Remember to clean your drive regularly and check it for duplicates. You can clean your drive by using compressed air to blow out any USB ports or fan vents. Regular cleanings will make sure your hard drive continues functioning optimally.
3. The Internet Beckons Very Convincingly
Anyone who works from home will tell you that distractions are rampant. During the first year of working from home, I discovered just how easy it is to get sucked into the vast expanses of the World Wide Web. One minute I would be deeply involved in tracking my business finances, and the next minute I would find myself binge-watching YouTube videos. It surprised me how easily I could be sent off-course with just a click of my mouse button.
The truth is, you have to be extremely vigilant about what you spend your time doing when you work from home. If you find yourself frequently getting distracted by videos or web pages when you should be working, it’s time to set some boundaries. Tell yourself you’ll only watch that funny video your friend sent to you after you finish the spreadsheet you’re working on. Or, you can set time limits for yourself. For example, for every hour of focused work you do, you earn 15 minutes of internet browsing time. Figure out what works for you and stick with it.
4. Self-Assigned Holidays Can Save Your Sanity
One of the nice things about working in a commercial office setting is that your boss is required to give you certain holidays off. When you work at home, you’re the one who has to make sure you take appropriate time off. If you fail to plan in advance and end up working through every holiday, you could quickly experience burnout (plus, your friends and family won’t be very happy).
Taking time off for holidays can save your sanity. To make sure you plan adequately so you don’t have to work through holidays, purchase a desk calendar. At the beginning of each month, mark down all national holidays, as well as any personal holidays you want to take. Then plan your work accordingly so you don’t have any projects that come due during your time off.
5. Staying in Your Pajamas Affects Your Motivation
When I first started working from home, I loved the fact that I could literally roll out of bed, plop myself in front of my computer and start working. Sleeping in felt incredible for the first little while. But then, I noticed that I was feeling less motivated to be efficient and productive. I would rather crawl back into my bed and sleep a little bit longer. I began to realize that wearing my pajamas all day was taking a toll on my overall motivation.
Though working in pajamas may sound nice in theory, it’s not a good plan for any serious professional. The way you look while you work has a huge impact on your confidence and drive. If you don’t believe me, conduct a little experiment of your own. Spend a couple of days working in your pajamas, then spend a couple of days getting dressed and ready for the day before you begin working. You’ll notice a difference, trust me.
It’s hard enough for the average person to consistently push himself or herself to work hard when there is no one else to answer to. If you want to be successful, do yourself a favor and treat your at-home job like an in-office job. You’d never dream of showing up to work in sweats with your hair matted to your head, so you shouldn’t show up to your home office like that.
6. Frequent Breaks Are Important for Your Health
It’s easy to ignore regular breaks when you don’t have someone else reminding you to take them. If you tend to get caught up in work projects and neglect your own need to stretch your legs or eat lunch, you need to work hard to change that habit.
Frequent breaks are not only important for your physical health, but they’ll also help reset and refresh your brain so you can come back to work with increased focus. Consider how often you get up and walk around in a typical job. If you’re like most people, you frequently get up to talk to co-workers, ship packages, go to meetings, etc. When you work from home you have to consistently remind yourself to get up and get your blood pumping.
To help you remember to take breaks, consider setting an alarm on your phone. You can set the alarm for every 15 minutes, every half hour, or every hour on the dot. Do whatever works best for you. Then get up and make sure you spend at least five minutes walking around, taking a drink or engaging in some type of movement. Your body and mind will thank you.
7. Being Social Is More Important Than Ever
Whether you’re a social butterfly or a bit of a recluse, you’re likely to feel lonely at some point during your work-from-home venture. It’s easy to take professional relationships for granted until you are no longer able to mosey over to your co-worker’s desk anytime you want.
Now that you work from home, it’s more important than ever to find opportunities to interact with others. Instead of emailing someone, consider doing a video call when the situation warrants one. Instead of sending a holiday gift card to a client, consider bringing them a plate of goodies in person.
You should also make time after work to develop personal relationships and hobbies. Reserve time to get outdoors with your family and schedule regular barbecues or dinner dates with friends. Now that your place of work is also your primary living space, it’s essential to get out whenever possible. Otherwise you may start to feel like you’re trapped within the walls of your own home.
Get More Work-From-Home Advice
Working from home can be challenging, but it also has so many great benefits. You can save money on gas, save time on your daily commute, and have more freedom over your hours and your time off. Once you get the hang of it, you can also be exceptionally productive when you work from a home office with minimal distractions. Take advice from the things I learned working from home in the first year.
For more advice about how to maximize your efficiency and enjoy your time working at home, take a look at the helpful blog posts right here at The Flexible Professional. We cover a wide range of subjects, from setting up your home work space to choosing the best notebook for your work.