How to work from home, stay ultra productive and be super successful
Working remotely and working from home are two huge global trends. That’s no surprise, since they allow you to work from your favorite location, in the optimal working environment, far away from office drama and constant interruptions.
Not to mention how much time and money you can save if you don’t need to commute. But there are also a few huge downsides to working from home, so you shouldn’t idealize this type of work.
- Not every job can be done from home
- Working from home full-time (as a freelancer or remote team member)
- Office based work with occasional work from home
- Starting a part time job from home
- The 4 biggest advantages of working from home
- 1. Fewer distractions – if your brain is trained for the deep work
- 2. You can adjust the intensity of work to your biological prime time
- 3. Completely customizable working setup
- 4. No commute can save you time and money
- The 4 biggest enemies of working from home
- 1. Poor self-discipline with no time tracking
- 2. Isolation and getting overlooked
- 3. The refrigerator
- 4. Half working, half spending time with your family
- Here is the final formula for successfully working from home
Not every job can be done from home
Let’s start with the most obvious thing. Not every job or task can be done from home. Some vocations can be done fully from home with no office visits whatsoever.
Other jobs consist of only certain tasks that can be done from home. You can batch such tasks together and then work on them from home a few days a week.
That’s the most popular setup. In the same way, you can start a side hustle if you want to make some additional money and mix office and home work. Finally, some jobs just can’t be done from home. Various field jobs are a good example.
When we talk about working from home, it’s not only about different types of jobs. You must also keep in mind that working from home suits certain types of personalities more than others.
The most frequent characteristics of a good homeworker are:
- a knowledge or creative worker, very good with technology;
- (usually) an introverted person who loves to work alone;
- very responsible about work and meeting deadlines;
- can write and communicate well (also in emails, messages etc.);
- knows how to balance personal and work hours.
The best way to find out if working from home suits your personality is to try it. Experiment with this type of work. Simply work from home a few times and you will see the results fast.
But no matter the result, don’t think that things are set in stone:
- In some stages of life, working from home suits us better than in others.
- At the beginning, working from home might be more exciting.
- When you work from home for a longer period of time, it can get lonely or boring.
- You need the right location, working setup, home working buddies etc. to be a successful homeworker (it makes sense to experiment a little bit with what suits you best)
Now let’s look at the three best ways to work from home.
Working from home full-time (as a freelancer or remote team member)
The most appropriate jobs to do fully from home or from a remote location are the ones that are best performed in isolation, without any distractions. Tasks that require little dealing with people and a lot of focused work.
Usually these are creative, analytical, logical or administrative tasks, often somehow related to the field of technology.
Examples of best vocations to do from home full-time (here’s a nice list):
- Digital Marketer
- Bookkeeper / Tax advisor
- E-commerce Manager
- Online Coach
- Virtual Assistant
- Customer Service Provider
You can perform such work as a freelancer or as part of a remote team. If you want to work from home full-time you first need the right set of competences.
Luckily, these are often the competences that can be acquired with online courses or, in other words, they can be acquired by learning from home, which is another big and important trend.
And once you acquire new skills, you can find many websites with job postings looking for people who want to work from home.
Office based work with occasional work from home
The second option is that you work from home a few days in a week at your daily job. Many companies support this trend. Examples are Amazon, Dell, Apple, Kaplan, American Express, Xerox, Hilton, Accenture and many others.
Globally top performing companies that are in the war for talent often offer perks like flexible schedule, remote work, corporate wellness programs, talent development programs etc.
So, if you find a mixture of working from home and working from the office the right fit for you, do a little bit of research and then try to find a job at a company that is inclined towards remote workers.
With the right set of competences, it shouldn’t be too difficult. And if you already work at a company you love and there are no programs for remote workers, suggest such a program to them. Your bosses should cherish your proactivity.
Starting a part time job from home
There’s one more option if you are considering working from home. You can start a part time job that you can do from home. At first you do the daily job at the office, and you devote a bit of your free time to the side hustle.
Then you can do a slow transition from being an office clerk to being a freelancer or a home business owner. Starting a part time job can also be one of the best ways to develop a new set of competences and create a new income stream.
The 4 biggest advantages of working from home
1. Fewer distractions – if your brain is trained for the deep work
If you work from home, you can avoid many distractions such as unimportant meetings, office gossip, casual phone calls and interruptions from your bosses and coworkers.
When you work from home, you are far away from office drama and politics. Without these interruptions, you can work in peace for hours and really get things done.
Well, unless you let home based distractions affect your productivity. Personal calls, pets, household chores etc. can quickly replace typical distractions in the office.
Here is the main secret: if your brain is not used to focused work for a longer period of time, it will automatically seek distractions (such as a visit to the toilet or fridge, for example).
The solution, if you want to be a productive homeworker, is to train your brain for deep and focused work. Training you brain is no different than training your muscles. You try to keep focus for as long as possible, and when your attention starts to stray, you gently refocus yourself.
It’s not an easy thing to do, but that’s how you train your attention span. You refocus yourself as many times as needed, until the time for a real break kicks in.
The Pomodoro timer can be of great help when you’re trying to find the right balance between training your focus and not overstraining your brain (consequently suffering from fatigue).
2. You can adjust the intensity of work to your biological prime time
The next big advantage of working from home is having a slightly more flexible schedule. When you’re working, you have more room to adjust what type of work you perform at certain hours and when you take longer recovery breaks.
Working from home gives you the opportunity to not only manage your time, but also your energy; namely you can adjust the intensity and type of work to your current energy levels.
Here are some things you can do much more easily if you work from home – you can:
- wake up early and immediately start working on the most important task;
- take a short powernap if you don’t have the energy to work;
- exercise during breaks or at least stretch to recover faster;
- do the most demanding work during your biological prime time.
3. Completely customizable working setup
Business offices are definitely becoming friendlier and cosier nowadays, but there are still limitations to how much you can individualize your working environment.
At the end of the day, every company wants to maintain a general office design and to do that, desks, chairs and office equipment should be more or less the same. Personal decorations can ruin the uniform design.
On the other hand, you can adjust your home office completely as you like; especially if you don’t have any interactions with customers or business partners there.
Working in a space you really love can be a huge benefit. Namely, the working environment has a huge impact on your mood and productivity. Thus, if you decide to work from home full- or part‑time, you should invest in a home office you really love.
A few important pieces of advice when it comes to setting up your home office:
- Don’t work in the kitchen or living room. Instead organize a small study or office.
- Make sure you have enough light and air in the room.
- Make sure your office has a door to close, so you can work without distractions.
- Buy yourself a quality ergonomic chair, a big computer monitor, and maybe a standing desk.
- Decorate the home office in a way that will elevate your mood and motivation.
- Try to keep distractions to a minimum (television, refrigerator, landline phone etc.).
- Keep your desk (and your computer files) tidy and organized.
4. No commute can save you time and money
Commuting can take up a vast amount of time, energy and money. If you’re commuting with your own car for longer distances, it’s also bad for the environment.
You can save hundreds of hours, dollars and carbon footprint every year if you work from home. Even if you only work from home one or two days in a week, the savings do accumulate over time.
Nevertheless, you do have some additional costs when working from home, such as electricity, heating, amortization if you use your own equipment, and so on.
But these are the costs that your company saves, so many companies are prepared to reimburse additional costs that come with a home office. And for the time you save, you can do some additional work, or spend it on family, sport or hobbies.
With a simple cost benefit analysis you can quickly do the math and see if working from home is viable for you. For most people, it is!
The 4 biggest enemies of working from home
1. Poor self-discipline with no time tracking
In principle, working from home should make you more productive. But it can also be the worst business decision ever if you are not self-disciplined enough. Working from home simply isn’t for everyone.
Many first-time homeworkers are very surprised about how much harder it is to stay productive when you work completely alone with no supervision whatsoever. You can easily waste tons of time preparing meals, doing different chores and procrastinating in other ways.
In the long term, if you are less productive at home than in the office, working from home can backfire horribly. You may get fired or lose your clients. Thus, you must be really careful to stay disciplined when working from home.
Working from home should be a win-win situation for you and your employer. If you don’t deliver what you promised, you can quickly break trust and lose credit.
- Here is some indispensable advice for staying disciplined when working from home:
- Prepare a list of tasks you will perform in a day.
- Communicate your daily working plan with your supervisor and coworkers.
- Timebox in your calendar when you will work on a specific task.
- Check yourself in and out of the home office (make sure your boss sees the timesheets).
- Track the time spent on different tasks (make sure your boss sees the timesheets).
- Send the work done (all the documents or other outputs) to your boss or the team.
- Be available via chat apps or phone (but use the “do not disturb” mode when doing deep work).
- Make sure you have a “working environment” on your computer (bookmarks, shortcuts etc.), so that you don’t get distracted by games, social media, Netflix or other types of entertainment.
You can also help yourself with different tools to stay productive and report promptly to your supervisors. Examples of such tools are:
- All Hours – to check in and check out on your mobile phone
- My Hours – to maintain a detailed track of your time spent on different projects and tasks
- Slack – to communicate with your coworkers
- Zoom – for video conferencing, 1:1 calls and virtual team meetings
- Trello – Kanban board for project management
- Google Drive and Dropbox – to keep your files synchronized with the team
2. Isolation and getting overlooked
People are social beings, we can’t thrive without human interactions. Human interactions are what helps us grow, learn and feel valuable. Isolation is one of the top reasons for depression and lack of productivity.
Even more importantly, by working in teams we can achieve much more than by working alone. And teams need a consistent in‑person dynamic to function properly. On top of that, people can often forget about you at very important times if you only work from home.
Out of sight, out of interesting projects and promotions, we could probably say.
Here is what to do in order to not feel isolated or get overlooked:
- Make sure you always deliver and become an indispensable part of the team.
- Work from home only a few days a week or have at least have one day for meetings at the office.
- Regularly talk to your boss and coworkers (by phone or chat apps).
- Help your coworkers when needed, remember their birthdays, show that you care.
- Have video conferences with the team.
- Don’t miss your company’s teambuilding and other events.
- Don’t compensate for the lack of social interaction by using social media more.
3. The refrigerator
It might sound unbelievable, but one of the biggest distractions at home can be the refrigerator (or the kitchen in general). The fridge is not only a distraction, constantly trying to seduce you to take a break, it’s also packed with calories.
And too many calories mean gaining weight. Many people who work from home report having issues with curbing their appetite. During every break they take, they just go looking for a delicious snack in the kitchen.
That means working from home doesn’t only require discipline to get work done, but also means stopping yourself from over-eating (as I mentioned, working from home is no bed of roses).
There are a few tricks for how you can better manage your appetite when you work from home:
- Eat a healthy breakfast that will keep you fueled for long enough.
- Don’t snack while you work.
- Have typical break snacks that are not packed with too many calories (an apple, oatmeal etc.).
- Have as little unhealthy food at home as possible.
- Similarly, don’t work where you sleep (you might not be hungry all the time, but you could be sleepy instead).
4. Half working, half spending time with your family
In general, the line between the private and business life is getting more and more blurry. Constantly being available on the phone and working on tasks in the evening from home is not uncommon today.
But when working from home, this line between your private and business life can get even blurrier. Not setting clear boundaries in this regard can be extremely counterproductive. Instead of thriving at work and enjoying your family time, you underdeliver on both ends. It’s called half work, half family time.
Examples of half work, half family time would be:
- Working on your computer while your kids are playing close by (thinking you’re spending time with them because of physical proximity).
- Working in bed next to your partner while he or she reads, watches TV or works (thinking you’re spending quality time together).
- Working for a few minutes and then paying attention to family members, then working again, and so on, struggling with multitasking.
It might be hard to juggle everything in your business and personal life, but the most important rule is this: when you work you really work, and when you spend time with people, you are really present, without using your laptop, phone or being mentally absent.
Otherwise you give a signal to the people you love the most that work matters more than they do, and you can rarely do quality work if you are distracted by family members. Work hard, play hard. But do only one of those things at once.
Here is the final formula for successfully working from home
Let’s summarize how you can thrive as a homeworker. First, develop a set of competences that enable you to work from home; if not full-time, then at least part-time.
Next, you need a lot of intrinsic motivation to stay productive at home. So make sure you perform the work you really love when working from home.
Then build the perfect home working environment for yourself. Arrange a study with a big working desk, ergonomic chair, two big monitors and other office equipment that you like. Make the working room motivational and keep it tidy. Be proud of your home office.
Then make sure you do deep work at home, with zero distractions. To achieve that, you will have to properly train your brain, which might be hard at first. But when you do enough training, your productivity will skyrocket.
On top of that, if you adjust your working hours to your biological prime time, you will become unbeatable.
You should also help yourself stay productive with different tools, such as My Hours. If you track your time, you will definitely stay more disciplined. There are many neat tools that can do miracles for homeworkers.
And last but not least, don’t forget to communicate with your boss, coworkers and clients. Never neglect business relationships. If you properly nurture the relationships and always deliver what you promised, even if you work from home, people will never forget to include you in interesting projects and promotions.