What a luxury it is to be able to work from home. Flexibility, autonomy, zero commute, and independence – are all perks of working remotely. We live in an age where working from home is becoming part of the norm, and when given a choice, most people would opt for a remote position any day.  In fact, 1 in 5 employees work from home – that’s 30 million people who choose to work from home.

Working from home is not just a perk being offered to employees.  It also benefits the employers.  According to Forbes Magazine, people who work from home are more productive and work harder and longer hours than those that work in a typical 9 to 5 office setting.

I’ve been working remotely for over a year now and I’ve learned a few ways to have self-discipline, effectively manage my time and tasks, stay connected and shutting down at the end of the day.  Here are a few tips for the remote worker.

      1. Self-discipline and setting personal boundaries

For some, it can take a huge amount of energy to have self-discipline while working from home and it is important to set personal boundaries or rules during the work day.   To begin with, people always ask me if I work in my pajamas and in truth I never do.  I set the tone for my work day with getting dressed. Although a simple step, it is important to remember that you are a professional and you need to treat yourself as such.

Working from home is usually never a 9 to 5 day.  In fact, most people who work from home tend to work evenings and weekends in addition to day time hours. The ability to create your own schedule can be a huge benefit, but it’s important to set parameters for how you want to get your work done throughout the day.  Taking breaks is an important strategy that helps me stay on track.  For example, I try to take a 10-minute break every 2 hours to take the dog for a quick walk, throw in a load of laundry or make a personal phone call.  It is best to schedule time during the work day to get these distractions taken care of so you do not lose focus.

     2. Begin your day with getting organized and prioritize your tasks

Start by sifting through your emails and task list to set your priorities and agenda for the day.  This will reduce you feeling overwhelmed and allows you stay focused.   I usually go in order of tasks that are time sensitive, creative or client based.  Personally, clients come first and then I choose 5 high priority tasks and number them by importance that I want to finish by the EOD.  By following these best practices, it will help you stay focused.  Creative tasks are always at the top of my list of to dos at the beginning of my day.  At the end of the day you can feel tired and spent and the creative juices just aren’t there.  I enjoy the satisfaction I get from crossing of tasks at the end of my day and if you didn’t finish some of the tasks, they go right to the top of the list for the next day.

       3.  Staying connected and building relationships

One of the pitfalls of working from home is the lack of contact with others.  In an office, we are constantly making connections, collaborating and building relationships.  While the need to connect with others isn’t as strong for some, I find it important to make time to reach out to my colleagues and connect.  I often pick up the phone and call my coworker just to discuss our plan for the day, what we are focusing on and to collaborate on a project and share ideas.  Personally, having those connections energizes me and gets me excited to work on projects and begin my day.  Just a quick chat satisfies that need to connect with others and helps me feel like part of a team.

It is also a good idea to get out of the house and work from another location.  I personally like the small coffee shop in town with free WIFI. Although I am not interacting with anyone most of the time, a change of scenery is sometimes all you need to regroup and restart your engines.

       4.  Shut down, sign out and unplug

It is easy to shut down when working in an office, you simply leave.  While it is important to stay, focused and be productive while working from home, it’s just as important to shut down and unplug when the work day ends.  You need to find the right balance between feeling as though you are always “on” and completely turning off. Part of that balance includes remembering why we chose to work from home to begin with.  For me, I remind myself that the schedule allows me to strike a more rewarding work life balance and to have more time to spend with my family, take care of my children, and enjoy life.  While it’s a good problem to have, if you love your job and value your employer, it can be challenging to step away and separate your work life and home life.  From personal experience this is hard for me to do, but I try to shut down outlook and silence my email notifications on my phone when my scheduled day is finished.

Working from home creates both challenges and freedom and by following some of these best practices we learn self-discipline by setting boundaries, being productive and staying focused, remain connected to others and finding that balance in our lives.

What are your best practices for working from home?

For more information on this topic or how to manage virtual teams please contact Ryen McGinn at ryen.mcginn@mcgpartners.com.

About the AuthorRyen McGinn, Client Project Manager

About MCG Partners

MCG Partners a woman-owned, Greater Boston-based consultancy specializing in executive coaching, leadership development, talent management, and organizational development solutions. We help businesses optimize success through the entire management life-cycle. MCG Partners is also a Predictive Index® (PI®) certified partner.

To learn more about MCG Partners’ services or The Predictive Index®, contact John Griffith at john.griffith@mcgpartners.com or visit mcgpartners.com.