Living the Dream? Here’s The Truth About Working from Home

Working from home. So many people dream about getting the opportunity to ditch the cubicle for the couch.

Are you one of them?

It may become your reality in the near future.

According to a Gallup survey, in 2012, 15% of employees worked remotely 100% of the time. Flash forward to 2016, 20% of employees are working remotely 100% of the time.

Source: Gallup

The survey findings also uncover the impact this demand has on leadership. “With a goal to enhance performance, many leaders want to offer flexibility, opportunities to work remotely and open floor plans that meet the demands of the modern workforce.”(1)

In fact, according to Gallup, 37% of employees say they would quit their job to take on a new job that allows them to work remote, even if just part time.

Sure, while you’re at home, you’re not dealing with your annoying desk neighbor, your boss creeping over your shoulder and a freezing office with the A/C on high. Instead, you’ll welcome a whole new buffet of struggles. You seem to notice all that dirty laundry, the dog poop to pick up and trying to figure what to do with your child who just stuck PlayDough under the spacebar on your MacBook.

Motivational speaker, comedian and writer, Jeff Wozer works from home on a regular basis. He says, “There’s a misnomer amongst 9-5 office folk who view working from home as occupation Shangri-la. They only focus on the benefits – no commuting; no contending with rush hour traffic; no wondering who stole your Greek yogurt out of the employee fridge; no having to feign interest listening to a co-worker talk about her evening spent shopping for wainscoting panels  – without ever considering the discipline working from home requires.”

So, how can you take advantage of this generous opportunity to work from home and actually get work done?

Whether you’re already working from home, about to start working from home or about to have a conversation with your boss about adding remote days to your schedule, here are some common work from home challenges and advice from myself, a current work-from-homer, and my work-from-homer colleagues on how to be successful.

When it comes to health…

Eat healthy. A healthy diet fuels both your body and mind. Having access to a fully-stocked kitchen (i.e. your kitchen) really means there should be no excuses for eating poorly. Your body and mind will appreciate this in the long run! Jeff Toister, Author of The Service Culture Handbook

Eat meals that have actual names, like breakfast, lunch and dinner. Don’t eat breakfast, second breakfast, brunch, lunch, linner, supper, snack, and dinner. Leslie O’Flahavan, owner of E-WRITE and co-author of Clear, Correct, Concise E-Mail: A Writing Workbook for Customer Service Agents

Block off 30 minutes on your calendar for a quick walk or lunch. If not, you’ll probably find yourself on back to back conference calls. Suddenly you’ll realize it’s 3 pm and you haven’t had lunch yet. Erica Marois, Content Manager at ICMI 

Jenny’s Thoughts: Meal prep the weekend before and have your lunches ready to go, just as you would if you were at the office. And, take your lunch break and eat away from your desk, ideally at the dining room table without your phone alerting you to emails arriving in your Inbox.

When it comes to scheduling…

Establish office hours for yourself. Without a commute, it’s so easy to get up and start working and then keep working well into the evening. Decide which hours work best for you and then stick to them! If you find yourself working too late, consider scheduling evening commitments like workout classes, happy hours, or dinner with friends. Erica Marois, Content Manager at ICMI 

Minimize working late, I used to put in extra time in the physical office and WFH is no different, just don’t let it become a habit. Patrick Russell, Sr. Manager of Product Marketing for NICE

Embrace flexibility! It took me awhile to get rid of the 9-5 mentality. Now, I plan my day around my life, not my work. So I might get up and spend a few hours writing, answer some emails, work on a project, then take off for a few hours in the afternoon to go on a hike or do some errands. I might be back at work in the evening if there’s still work to be done. The point is blending work and personal life is so much easier than trying to create a hard schedule. Jeff Toister, Author of The Service Culture Handbook

You also don’t want to fall into the trap of working 24/7 as you will be less productive, stick to your normal business hours. Reward your successes and track your failures or where you can improve. Working from home can be a challenge or a gift in disguise. Matthew Demaree, CEO of HTDNET

Jenny’s Thoughts: It’s so easy to say you’re going to log on for 5 minutes to check an email. An hour later, you’re neck deep in a customer situation and there’s no way out. Stick to the schedule you have created.

When it comes to distractions…

Friends and family won’t ever get it. If you were working in an office they would never call to chat or stop to visit.  Yet when working from home they harbor no second thoughts to disrupting your work day with phone calls or “quick” catch-up bull sessions. And what’s odd is that they will often preface their disruption with “I know you’re working so I won’t keep you” and yet then proceed to carry on as if you’re at a backyard social.  Jeff Wozer, motivational speaker, comedian and writer

Far too many people believe working from home is going to be less stress or even more productive. However if you allow yourself to be distracted by the countless disruptions you could have in a home setting, it won’t work out very well. Matthew Demaree, CEO of HTDNET

It can be really tempting to intersperse your work with housework etc… all very well until you realize you’ve spent all day tidying the house and haven’t got much work done at all. I tackle this with pomodoro technique – work during 25 minute blocks and use breaks to do house stuff. I find it’s good for my work quality to take lots of little breaks too, and it’s definitely good in terms of my productivity! Kaye Chapman, Content and Client Training Manager at Comm100 

Jenny’s Thoughts: Some of the distractions end up being on the computer or your phone. Without others around you to hold you accountable, you may find yourself browsing Facebook, Pinterest or texting with friends without even realizing that you’ve lost your place in that email you were writing to your boss.

When it comes to clothing…

Resist the temptation to wear your PJs or yoga pants every day. Dressing for the day helps me feel more productive. It also means I’m more likely to leave my home for a quick lunch break. I have casual Fridays. On those days, I embrace the yoga pants and hoodies. Erica Marois, Content Manager at ICMI 

Having a setup that gets you in a work mindset is very important to me too. For me, that means sitting at a desk, wearing proper clothes, starting my day at 8am. When I first started working from home I assumed that I’d have the time of my life starting work whenever I felt like it, working in my PJs, sitting on the sofa. But I quickly learned none of those things are conducive to actual good work! Setting is super important for getting in the right mindset, so do what you can to make sure your environment and your headspace are prepped for workKaye Chapman, Content and Client Training Manager at Comm100 

Jenny’s Thoughts: It’s incredible how putting on real day time clothes can increase my productivity. You may not want to wear a business suit while you’re working from home, but at least change out of your PJs into a pair of jeans.

When it comes to space…

Create a workspace. I’m lucky enough to have a dedicated office in my home. If you don’t have that room, create some space that’s your “work” space. It helps mentally transition to work time. It’s also better long-term to have a good ergonomic set up than to be slumped on your couch all day. Jeff Toister, Author of The Service Culture Handbook

No cheating, keep the TV off and stay in your “workspace” in a similar manner as you would at an office. Patrick Russell, Sr. Manager of Product Marketing for NICE

Buy yourself the equipment and supplies you need to do your job properly. Your home office IS your real office. Leslie O’Flahavan, owner of E-WRITE and co-author of Clear, Correct, Concise E-Mail: A Writing Workbook for Customer Service Agents

Jenny’s Thoughts: I reserve my desk for work and avoid working from the couch or bed, simply because it isn’t comfortable. Even at home, I still keep regular rhythms, such as Fresh Friday where I tidy and clean my desk once a week.

When it comes to connecting…

Working from home requires the mindset of a novelist. You can’t be unnerved by solitude. Jeff Wozer, motivational speaker, comedian and writer

Be extra vigilant in building rapport especially when you do visit the office or co-workers. Patrick Russell, Sr. Manager of Product Marketing for NICE

Find ways to network virtually. One of the downsides of working from home? It can feel isolating. Look for online forums, communities, and Twitter chats as a way to connect with industry peers. Erica Marois, Content Manager at ICMI 

Jenny’s Thoughts: If you can, try to talk about non-work stuff with your coworkers via Slack, Google Chat or however you communicate with your team. Get out of the house to meet friends or colleagues every so often for coworking at a coffee shop or to grab lunch. And, I love connecting with others in the customer service industry via the weekly #ICMIChat held every Tuesday on Twitter.

When it comes to pets…

I have a cat who’s really fond of meowing frantically at me if he doesn’t feel like he’s getting enough attention – which is all very well until you’re on a client call and sound like the maddest cat lady with constant meowing going on in the background. So make sure you mitigate for interruptions during important callsKaye Chapman, Content and Client Training Manager at Comm100 

Pets can’t discern work from playJeff Wozer, motivational speaker, comedian and writer

Don’t be embarrassed if the dog barks when you’re on a conference call. People in offices have dogs, too. Leslie O’Flahavan, owner of E-WRITE and co-author of Clear, Correct, Concise E-Mail: A Writing Workbook for Customer Service Agents

Jenny’s Thoughts: My cat keeps me on track with his very strict food schedule. If it’s time to eat, he’ll let me know. I then use that as a quick break to get up and stretch.

So, what’s your advice for working from home? Share in the comments or tell me on Twitter!

Jenny Dempsey is currently the the Social Media and Customer Experience Manager for NumberBarn.com. She has worked at tech startups since 2005. She's the co-founder and regular contributor over at CustomerServiceLife.com. She's a certified health coach, but not the kind that forces you to only eat cardboard and deprive yourself of ice cream. JennyDempseyWellness.com, the company she started, was designed to bring a new type of wellness into the workplace, one that gives you permission to look deeper into yourself, rather than just on the healthy snacks in the break room. She is the mother to a toothless rescue cat named Chompers. Avocados and veggie tacos are the way to her heart. She's also a Hanson fan for life.

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