“How do you get any work done?” and “Don’t you get lonely?” are the first questions I’m asked after telling anyone that I work remotely. Telecommuters actually tend to be 15-55% more productive according to Global Workplace Analytics. And, of course, there are many other benefits to working from home: my morning commute is 10 seconds, my work attire primarily consists of sweatshirts and yoga pants, and I have access to a fully stocked kitchen (my growing waistline suggests this may be a con). However, it’s not all freedom and guiltless snacking, it can be lonely and requires a lot of discipline. Not everyone is hardwired to do it.
Here are some tips to help keep productivity high, while also not completely abandoning all social skills:
Create a daily work schedule.
When you’re at home you can’t just clock in and out. Since your home is your workspace, it never quite feels like you leave the “office.” During my first year at Consistent Image I’d answer emails at 10PM while watching [insert guilty pleasure here] because, why wouldn’t I? My laptop was right there. So even though working from home is considered more laid back, it can also feel like you’re always on the clock. It’s important to create a schedule in which you’ll remain available, but then unplug at a designated time to separate your work life from your home life. Your loved ones will thank you!
Some of my friends and family think that because I work from home, that automatically makes me available for a phone call or a visit. Don’t get me wrong, flexibility is arguably the best part of working from home, but you need to set some boundaries. Most of the time when I receive personal calls, I tell the other person I’ll catch up with them after business hours. It’s already easy to get side tracked without your boss looking over your shoulder, so best not to let others divert your focus. If you take your job seriously they will too.
Networking is an integral part of career success. We would all like to think we can excel simply by being great at our jobs, but let’s face it – who you know goes a long way. But how do you network from your living room? Luckily, we live in the communication age and have an abundance of online networking tools at our disposal. Spruce up your LinkedIn profile and become active in groups that relate to your field, alma mater, interests, etc., and share information with others to create an online presence. You’ll quickly find out how much you have in common with other professionals via LinkedIn, Twitter, blog sites, and numerous other platforms and will be surprised at the amount of new connections you make. And be sure to check out local professional networking events. Introducing yourself to groups of strangers while awkwardly sipping your one free cocktail can be uncomfortable at first, but trust me, it’s always worth it.
Be an extrovert.
Working remotely can inhibit you from meeting new people and building close relationships with your colleagues. There are no happy hours, going away parties, or opportunities to stuff your face with a co-workers birthday cake. Instead, be proactive and think outside of the box for ways to be social. Writer Belle Cooper spells out a few ways to feel more connected to your coworkers when you can’t have daily face-to-face interactions. Set up lunch or coffee dates with colleagues or even go by yourself. Last week I spent 20 minutes talking to a friendly barista who gave me a bunch of insider information about my new home, San Francisco. You won’t always make connections this way, but you have a 0% chance of making them if you sit at home.
Join a coworking space.
A coworking space is a shared working environment where those coworking are not all employed by the same organization.I recently joined one and it helps balance my work and social life. While in the office I have the chance to meet potential clients or partners, be surrounded by people in a similar industry, and make new friends. Being a member also comes with a variety of amenities and access to free networking events. However, many coworking spaces cater to diverse needs so it’s important to research a few different options before you choose. Here are a few things to do before selecting the one that’s right for you.
Disclaimer: I must admit I don’t always employ these best practices, but hey, nobody’s perfect.
By Alexandra Farella