Working from home may sound like a dream scenario for many professionals, but here’s the reality: working from home is still work, and not everyone can do it well.
For those who really commit themselves to successful home-based work, though, the payoff includes everything from being more productive at work to feeling more satisfaction in your overall life.
Not to mention, reducing or eliminating that grinding daily commute--something 70% of people said would reduce their overall stress levels in the 2017 Super Survey on flexible and remote work. People also think working remotely would reduce interruptions from colleagues (76%), eliminate distractions (76%), and minimize their exposure to office politics (69%). It’s clear that professionals could reap a lot of benefits if they worked from home--but only if they do it well.
If you’re dreaming of working from your home office (either some of the time or all of the time), follow these nine steps to maximize your experience and make work-from-home jobs truly work for you.
1. Figure out your ideal work-from-home scenario.
One of the major aspects of remote work that not everyone realizes is this: It’s not an all-or-nothing scenario. In fact, 43% of the U.S. workforce works from home “occasionally,” compared to only 2.9% of the workforce that works from home all of the time (not including freelancers or the self-employed).
So, if you have some ability to control your work-from-home situation, consider what combination of in-office and at-home work would be best for you, your job, and your company.
Do you need to be on site to attend meetings, help clients, or even because you like the social aspects of the office? Or do you think you could work from home every day and still be a satisfied, productive worker whose value is recognized by colleagues and managers?
You’ll also need to take into consideration what companies are actually offering in terms of remote work. Of the currently available remote jobs posted on FlexJobs, 43% are mostly or completely work-from-home positions. The majority, 57%, offer “some” or “occasional” options to work from home.
To the extent possible, seek out or create a work-from-home arrangement that will maximize your abilities and that meets the needs of your personal and professional lives.
2. Set up your home office to maximize communication, wellness, and productivity.
If you’re going to be working from home, make sure your home office is equipped to be comfortable and to support your productivity.
Consider ergonomic best practices when choosing a desk, chair, keyboard, mouse, phone or headset, and other core pieces of your workspace. Standing desks have gained in popularity and have been shown to offer huge health benefits. Pay attention to natural lighting, air circulation, wall colors, artwork, and plant life in your home office space to maximize its wellness powers.
One of the clearest advantages of working from home is the ability to control your workspace, so take full advantage of that.
3. Make sure your roommates or live-in family members understand what your remote job means for them.
If you live with other people, your remote work days are going to impact them in ways small and large. Have conversations with your housemates (friends, family, roommates, etc.) about what working from home means for the household.
Some key points to broach:
How often you’ll be working from home and where your home office or workspace will be
What sort of noise level is acceptable when you’re working from home, or how you’ll alert them when you need quiet
When it’s okay for them to visit your home office or interrupt you during the workday (if ever)
This is especially important if you have children who will be home when you are (though you should always have child-care coverage when working from home! But that could be in-home childcare….). They need to know when mom or dad is free for a quick hug and when mom or dad needs to concentrate on work.
Having these conversations will help you avoid becoming a viral-sensation, like the professor who was being interviewed live on the BBC from his home office when his adorable children burst through the door for an unplanned cameo.
4. Have a rough schedule for each day.
Some remote jobs have strict schedules that require you to be working during certain hours, but many have flexible schedules where you can more or less set your own hours each day.
If you fall into the second category, set at least a rough schedule for yourself each day. It can certainly change (and working from home means you can take advantage of those last-minute scheduling changes), but instituting basic start and end times can give some structure to a largely unstructured way of working.
Better yet: Let your coworkers and boss know about your rough schedule so you have some outside accountability for showing up “on time” and being productive every day.
5. Find backup workspaces in case your home office isn’t usable one day.
Your power goes out. Your spouse’s whole family is in town and staying with you. The tub in the apartment upstairs springs a leak. The neighbors are chopping down their 100-foot-tall pine tree and the wood chipper is right next to your office window.
There are many, many unplanned mishaps that make working from your home office temporarily impossible. Before these happen to you, find two or three other places in your area where you can work remotely, such as coffee shops, coworking spaces, or the local library.
6. Have a few remedies for feelings of isolation or loneliness.
Especially if you’re working from home all of the time, occasional feelings of loneliness or isolation can take a bit of a toll on your productivity and satisfaction at work. But it’s easy enough to get your people fix!
Work from outside your office for a few hours, either at your company’s office building or anywhere you’ll be around other people — coffee shops and coworking spaces are great for replicating the “buzz” of an office. You can also make plans to meet friends or coworkers for lunch, take a midday exercise class, or pick up the phone and call a coworker instead of sending an email.
Even something as small and quick as a phone call can add a human element to your day.
7. Be proactively, regularly communicating your value to your coworkers and manager.
One of the fears of some remote workers is that they will be overlooked for raises, promotions, and general praise for a job well done.
But “out of sight, out of mind” doesn’t have to apply to remote workers. Take it upon yourself to be the one who starts conversations with your manager or your coworkers, rather than waiting for people to come to you.
Ask questions, suggest ideas, give praise, and talk about your accomplishments regularly to make sure the value you bring to the company each and every day is known. Make it impossible, in a good way, for the people you work with to forget about you.
8. Get up, get moving, and get out of the house every day.
When work and home happen in the same space, it’s all too easy to have your days blend together until you’re working long hours, sitting most of the day, and not really leaving the house.
Make it a point to get out of your seat regularly throughout the day, engage in moderate exercise, and leave your house each day (even if it’s just to take a walk around the block).
FlexJobs CEO Sara Sutton Fell was profiled as the Fairygodboss of the Week, and she said remote work helps her get outside and stay active: “I live in Boulder, Colorado, with my two boys, so when I’m not working, I love to get outside for some activity, either with them or for a little solo time. We mountain bike and hike, and I also love hot yoga.”
One of the best benefits of working remotely is that it can give you more free time every day (time you’d otherwise spend dropping the kids at daycare or school, commuting to work, etc.), but it’s up to you to spend that time in ways that improve your health and well-being, rather than degrading them.
9. Know how to find more work-from-home job opportunities.
We hope you find a work-from-home job that you can stay with forever, if that’s what you wish. But just in case the saying, “all good things must come to an end” is true, keep in mind that finding work-from-home jobs is more possible than ever before.
Use the best keywords. When searching online job boards, don’t use the phrases “work from home” or “work at home” because those are commonly used by scammers. There are about 70 scam jobs for every one legitimate, work-from-home job, so use phrases like “remote job,” “telecommuting job,” and “virtual job” to steer clear of scams and find real, professional opportunities.
Go to reputable job boards like FlexJobs and Remote.co to find pre-screened, legitimate, and professional-level remote jobs. Fairygodboss has a comprehensive list of 31 places to look for remote jobs.
Research companies that regularly offer remote work. Every year, FlexJobs releases a list of 100 companies that are hiring for the most remote jobs. These companies are leading the way when it comes to letting staffers work from home, and they’re worth checking out to start your search.
Remote work is more prevalent and more popular than ever before, which means you’ve likely got some opportunities to work flexibly. Make the most of your remote work experience by following these nine steps. You’ll be on your way to being a happier, healthier, and more successful professional as a result!
Brie Weiler Reynolds is the Senior Career Specialist at FlexJobs, the award-winning site for telecommuting, flexible schedule, and freelance job listings. She aims to provide practical information and resources to help people navigate the flexible job market to find jobs that fit their lives. With a background in human resources and career advising, Brie has 12 years experience working with job seekers and employers, and she offers career, hiring, and work-life balance advice through the FlexJobs Blog and media outlets like Fast Company, Forbes, and NBC News.