7 Dos and Don’ts of Working From Home

Telecommuting opportunities are on the rise in Philly. We talked to a career specialist to determine the best strategies for productivity (and balance) when your living room doubles as an office.

iStock | FluxFactory

Pennsylvania ranks eighth nationwide for its amount of work-from-home job opportunities, according to FlexJobs, a site dedicated to helping people find remote work. The state’s decent standing is largely due to Philadelphia, where FlexJobs reports that 4.4 percent of workers choose to telecommute rather than travel to the office each day. While the percentage may seem small, it’s in line with the national average, and a 2016 Gallup poll shows that the number of people working from home is on the rise. Nearly 43 percent of employees reported working from home at least sometimes.

With more people working from home in Philadelphia, and with cold, commute complicating weather ahead of us, it’s time BizPhilly took a look at how to best maximize remote work opportunities. We reached out to Brie Reynolds, senior career specialist and coach at FlexJobs, to get the her top tips on how to be productive at home this season. Here are her biggest dos and don’ts:

Don’t Just Roll Out of Bed

When it comes to increasing productivity, it’s important to avoid the temptation to just roll out of bed and start work in your pajamas.

“Get ready for work just as if you’re working in an office. Don’t roll out of bed and head to your desk. Take time to wake up, prepare yourself, and get to your home office with a clear head, ready to work,” Reynolds said.

Do Section Off Space

Reynolds also recommends creating a separate office space, if possible, to increase productivity and help make the work-life distinction clearer.

“Have a dedicated home office if possible — some quiet space where you’re sure to have the distraction-free environment you need to be most productive,” she said.

Do Stick to a Routine

When it seems like you have the day to yourself, it can be easy to put off tasks until the last minute. Many people are natural procrastinators, and it can be tempting to put off work when there are so many things that can be done around the house, Reynolds said.

To avoid falling into a procrastination loop, it’s important to make sure your day has structure even while working from home. Set a routine to stay on task throughout the day.

“Create some sort of process for yourself so you know exactly what you need to be working on and when, even when your manager isn’t right around the corner,” Reynolds said.

Do Keep a To-Do List

A to-do list can help with that. Don’t underestimate the power of crossing things off a list. And the list doesn’t need to be fancy. “A great to-do list will help you stay on task throughout the day and know what you’re supposed to be working on,” she said.

Do Keep Hours

“Work a set schedule most days,” Reynolds said. Most remote workers work the same hours each day, generally, because it helps give their days structure. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advantage of your freedom as a remote worker to occasionally shift your hours for other fun weekday activities.

Stay in Touch

It’s important that you don’t isolate yourself from the outside world when working from home. Reynolds recommends using workplace communication tools to keep in touch with the office.

Some tools include Pivotal Tracker, Trello and Basecamp for project management, Slack and Yammer for collaboration, and GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, join.me, and Skype for screen sharing.

“Remote work can be isolating but regular communication with colleagues can help you stay focused and feel grounded,” she said. Employers should also communicate regularly with their remote workers.

Don’t Blur Boundaries

It can be difficult to keep the work world out of your personal life when your office is in your living room. People who work from home are nearly twice as likely to work more than 40 hours each week, according to Flexjobs.

To maintain your work-life balance, Reynolds recommends sticking to a set schedule that allows you to finish your tasks within the confines of a normal work day.

“Remote workers often wind up working longer hours because the line between work and home is blurred,” Reynolds said. “Be careful and structure your days so you can get your work done without stretching your working hours well beyond what’s required.”