Thanks for all the great interest in our last post on the firestorm re: the new work policy implemented at Yahoo! The blog post reminded me of an Entrepreneur Magazine article by Alina Dizik on telecommuting I read recently that captures some of the “don’ts” of the practice.
In that spirit, I outlined some of my own tips that capture the pitfalls and guidelines of working from home. These can help keep the ball rolling as you transition into a one-in-the-same living AND working situation as many of my readers (and myself) do.
1) Be a wo/man with a plan. Have things laid out in front of you, a visible checklist so that you can focus on what you have to do and then knock out each item as the day goes on. I need to feel like things are in order (whether it looks like it to someone else or not). Having a to-do list is a way to hold yourself accountable and keep a grasp on things, both short-term and long.
2) Break-time! I’m someone that can’t often sit for hours on end without moving—it’s just not effective for me. If you’re one of THOSE that can work from sunrise to sunset with no break, that’s great! But if you’re not one of those prodigies, then I suggest taking breaks – you’ll be better at your job. I like to save errands and going to the gym for times when I’m working from home and need some oxygen and a stretch so I can come back refreshed and ready to get cracking.
3) Night Owl? Early Bird? Know when your prime-work-time is. I like to bang out emails, conference calls, pitching, catch up, etc. in the morning and leave myself time once it gets later in the afternoons to take meetings, follow up on media relations, and so on. Late at night is when I’m most creative and do a lot of strategy planning and brainstorming. But if you’re not like me, then maybe the key for you is to save your most productive work time for 6 am while getting other, more trivial tasks done later.
4) Distractions—do they help or hurt? Like all of these tips, it depends what works the best for you. When I’m working at home, I like a degree of background noise (usually a nice, low-volume CNN). Having no distractions can be a little distracting itself, so I need a few small ones – and that’s just the right balance for me. Only keep around the kinds of distractions that you know you can handle, and be honest with yourself about it. Set up parameters and boundaries for yourself – what’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander.
5) Where at home shall I work? If you are working from home, determine somewhere to be your workspace. It’s important to have a space completely dedicated to work that’s clean and organized where you can find your focus and have control. Initially, working from home often felt like a treat, a “sick day” from school. It’s important, however, to avoid that trap and make sure that you’re still being productive.
6) Mix it up. I often feel motivated in the mornings and start working immediately…some mornings, less so. This is when I know I need to get out and work from a less familiar space to keep me inline. If you’re like me, whenever you feel you’re getting unfocused, try heading to a local café or an alternative work environment. Choose a place that has the energy you want to feel inspired and ready to work. If you need to be creative that day, go somewhere with a creative, lively feel. If you need a dose of accountability, ask a focused friend to join you, rent a desk somewhere or get a membership to a shared working space like Affinity Lab where you can find like-minded people to feed off of. You can also read this Washington Post article that includes yours truly about working from cafés/lounges for different tasks at different times.
The key here is that people are diverse in their work styles. What works for one may not work for all – but hopefully you can take these tips, apply them to yourself and tailor you’re home-work or work-from-anywhere-but-the-office situation in the way that’s best for you. So what is that? Tell us on twitter, @SilverStrategy