Work at home. It sounds perfect on the surface — answering emails in your jammies, taking calls from the hammock, solving a client issue with a mere swipe across your smart phone. But telecommuting, remote work, work at home, teleworking, whatever you’d like to call it, just isn’t that simple. But it can be a terrific alternative to a traditional office job if you take these five steps into consideration.
1. Get Dressed. Even if you think no one will see you all day, get dressed. Why is that so important? Enclothed Cognition is why. When you put on clothes it’s not only a symbolic act of what persona you want to project, it also gets your brain wired to the concept of what the clothes suggest. You could say it’s dress for success in more complicated terms. Think of a scientist putting on a lab coat or a police officer putting on a uniform. It identifies your role to the outside world and it helps you cross the bridge of at home you to at work you. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that getting dressed for work, even when you won’t be leaving the house, will help you transition into business mode.
2. Set Business Hours. If you work at home then you’re always at work. The Internet never sleeps, but you have to. You can easily be crushed by the nowness of your job. Set limits. Don’t feel guilty if you need to take your child to the doctor, or grab some groceries during lunchtime. If you worked from a different location, those things would still need to be done. Don’t take calls at 10 pm unless that’s part of your work time. Even though a 40 hour week is beginning to sound prehistoric (or maybe just a tad Neolithic), you need to be firm about acceptable times for calls and conferences. If a client or colleague thinks it’s ok “just because you’re at home” instruct them otherwise or just don’t answer the phone.
3. Beware the Zeigarnik Effect. Human nature has the desire to finish things. A To-Do list can help you focus on what needs to be done. A lengthy To-Do list will never give you closure because you’ll never finish it. And that’s how you’ll suffer from the Zeigarnik Effect– which is basically being haunted by thoughts of all the tasks you failed to complete. How can you avoid what seems to be the inevitable? Do the one thing you are dreading the most early on in your day. That will free up your day, and your mind, from just the very thought of it. And that will be a profound relief.
4. Claim Your Workspace. That doesn’t mean you have to go overboard redecorating (have you ever searched “home office” on Pinterest?), but you do need a localized place for the accoutrement of any job. Work from home requires commitment not just from you and your employer, but also from your family. Create a hands-off zone, especially if you have young children. Be able to lock your home office or put a basket of documents where little ones and four-legged ones can’t reach. You don’t want to have to tell your client that the dog ate your presentation. Talk to your significant other and make it clear that just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you’re not at work. The line between work life/home life balance is easily crossed.
5. Track Your Time. There are so many different ways to log your time or to remind you of a task, just choose one that works for you. I suggest HubStaff, RescueTime, TimeDoctor, GTasks, Keep, OneTask — try them all. These will help you maintain your work focus at home because; unlike in a workplace away from home, you’re surrounded by all your stuff. And you love your stuff. Don’t get distracted by it. You also need to track your time spent on projects/clients because you may find that you’re spending more hours on a job of lower importance. Spend your time on the projects/clients which are of greater importance or will make you more money. It’s just common sense.
It’s been predicted that by 2020, at least 70 million Americans will be freelancers/independent contractors/teleworkers. Your typical worker will most likely be an entrepreneur who is part of a global team. Working at home isn’t a scam. It’s not a thing of the future. It’s the new normal.
Does your dream lifestyle fit this “new normal?” If you are talented and self-motivated, and you love the idea of following these steps to successful teleworking, we might be looking for you. Ghost Tweeting hires and trains new writers and account managers several times each year. Get more info and apply here.