For anyone who works in an office setting, working remotely may sound like a dream situation.
You can sit on the couch in your sweatpants, have Netflix on in the background and click away at your emails when you feel like it.
But, for those of us who don’t have a regular base for work, the reality is just a little different.
Okay, it's a lot different.
The truth is, it’s nigh impossible to focus when the TV is on and wearing sweatpants gets kind of depressing after a couple of days.
For all of us whose office is wherever our laptops rest, here are some tips to help keep you sane:
1. Get dressed. Every day.
Let’s address the sweatpants straight away. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll hardly find a bigger fan of this piece of clothing than I am, but how we dress should correspond with the mood we need to be in to work.
Sweatpants are for hanging out, bedtime and eating ice cream, not getting down to serious business.
I’m not suggesting it's necessary to put on a three-piece suit and a bow tie, but getting up at a reasonable hour, showering and putting on “real” clothes helps to keep you focused and put you in work mode.
2. Vary where you work.
Personally, I start to feel stir crazy after a day or two alone in my apartment. After a month or two into working remotely, I started to try out new places.
I discovered coffee shops aren’t great for me, but the public library is perfect. There is office space I can use occasionally and I try to go there once per week, especially if I really need to focus.
Finding a few different spots where you work well and having a rotation will really help cut back on the stir-crazy factor.
3. Give yourself breaks.
One of the more fun aspects of showing up to an office for a 9 to 5 can be water cooler chat, eating lunch with colleagues and taking coffee breaks every now and again.
When you work from home, it’s so easy to be in the zone and not realize you’ve gone nearly the whole day without getting up from your computer.
I like to set a little timer or calendar reminder that lets me know, “You should probably drink a glass of water,” or, “Take a walk around the block.”
Most importantly, it’s good to set aside some time to make sure you’re eating lunch. Trying to get a lot of work done when you’re really hungry is a recipe for disaster.
4. Set clear expectations around work hours.
When you don’t have an office to walk into every day, it can be hard to know when your workday starts and ends.
You roll out of bed at 7 am and check emails right away and by 7:30, you could easily be fully in work mode.
It’s also tempting to check emails late at night, before bed, when you wake up at 3 am thinking about work, etc.
I’d say it’s important for everyone, not just remote workers, to have clear expectations about when you’re on the clock and when you’re done for the day.
We all have to go the extra mile (or in this case, hour) sometimes, but in general, to make sure you aren’t getting overworked and burned out, it’s a good idea to stick to a daily schedule. Let anyone you work with know this is your general availability.
5. Make socializing outside of work a priority.
Frankly, I get a little lonely spending so much time on my own during weekdays. I’ve noticed that on days when I don’t have calls, I will suddenly realize I haven’t said anything out loud since the previous night.
For fear of turning into a socially maladapted recluse, I make sure I have a balanced social calendar where I spend time with friends.
This helps make up for time not spent around humanoid types during the day, and it makes me feel like I’m getting some space from work.