5 must-have tips for working from home

I've been working from home since July and in a few short weeks I will return to the office, fingers crossed we get to keep some flexibility after working remote the past few months. As my time comes to a close working remote, I thought I would reflect and share my thoughts on the concept.

It took a few weeks to get in the mindset of working from home. I started off with big dreams of setting my own hours (relatively speaking) and immediately settling into a routine. That didn't happen. I was very much used to collaborating with my team members and was also in the midst of helping train my replacement into my old role when I was promoted in May. We couldn't always meet in person in the middle of the day so we have to rely on Skype meetings, conference calls, and Skype messaging (takes me back to my AIM days).

1. Get Dressed & Ready for Your Day
I am not a morning person, this shouldn't surprise ANYONE. I've gotten in the habit of rolling out of bed, throwing on yoga pants and a sweatshirt and sitting down at my computer. It's a bad habit, I still do it, but I try to shower and dressed every day like I'm still headed into the office – which means being ready to work before 8am. Several days out of the week I'm running into our temporary office or headed to site visits with clients, so I have to get dressed up anyways.

2. Dedicated Work Space But Don't Be Afraid to Get Out of the House (coffee shop, co-working)
I spent the first few weeks getting my home office decorated. I had every intention of painting the space but with the thought of working remotely from my home office surrounded by four beige walls, I knew it was time to make the space truly my own (see my home office here)! One thing I've struggled with is trying to stay organized. At the office I had a place for all my folders, papers, etc. I know, I know – I should try to be eco-friendly, less paper, less folders. It is possible, but with some of my projects, paper is simply inevitable. I invested in a few Poppin goodies to help organize my life. When working from my home office or kitchen counter just isn't cutting it, I simply leave my house. We have a temporary office set up, so you can often find me there or at one of my favorite coffee shops around our office or close to my house. They provide just enough background noise for me and help re-focus on the tasks at hand.

3. Take a Lunch Break But Beware of Snacking
Make sure you take time to actually have a lunch break or just a break in general. So often I make my lunch and sit back down at my computer. I've been trying to step away during the lunch hour to have a clear definition between work and life such as running errands, switching the laundry, or catching up on a episode of How to Get Away with Murder. And while taking an actual break during the day is important, beware of constant snacking! I swear I put on the 'work from home 15lb'. Try to keep healthy snacks such as fruits and veggies, or even try Poppin' Peas, a healthier alternative to potato chips, available at Hy-Vee if you live in the Midwest!

4. Background Noise
I'm a huge fan of background noise so you can usually find me listening to Pandora, Coffitvity (a website that loops background noise of your choosing), or a pod-cast if I'm doing busy work. Working by yourself, especially at home, can get lonely and at times, very distracting. There may be dirty dishes to be cleaned up or laundry to be folded, you have to be very dedicated to your to-do list and what needs to get done that day. If you ever find yourself getting distracted by your phone when you should be focused on something else – I use the app called Unplugged – it turns your phone on Airplane mode and keeps track of how long you don't touch your phone. It turns into a little game to see how long you can stay off of it.

5. Set Working Hours and STICK TO THEM
The last piece of advice is set firm working hours and stick to them. I may start work at 8am every day, but I often find myself working through lunch and past 5pm. This may not apply to everyone that works from home, but because I don't have kids and my dog is pretty low maintenance, I tend to ignore the clock vs. watching everyone get up from a desk at 5pm and head home. I take work-out classes in the evening, so on those nights, I know I have to shut off and switch gears. One thing I've learned is if you give people access to you past a certain time, especially clients, then learn to expect responses after 'working hours' or more immediately than if you firmly set your boundaries of when you will be accessible.

It's been a great experience and I've definitely had some days where I'm more than ready to be back in an office setting, but I hope, moving forward that our office allows us to keep some flexibility – some perks include missing on rush hour (both in the morning and evenings), being able to switch laundry or start the dishes in the middle of the day, meet and co-work with my team members, run to appointments from home instead of running around town. Did I mention spending every day with my dog? I don't know what I will do once I have to be in the office every day – do you think they would notice if I brought Lola in with me?!

Every experience has it's ups and downs, but I hope these 5 tips help you in the future if you ever have the opportunity to work from home!

Image by Cassandra Monroe for The Brunette One

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