In just a few months, the concept of working from home went from daydream to reality for millions of Americans. According to a Stanford professor of economics, 42% of US workers now contribute their daily work efforts from home, and 66% of the US economic output stems from remote work. For many professionals, working remotely was a wish-list item. Now, remote work is not only here, but here to stay, as mega-companies such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter share their plans to make the transition permanent.
You already know, as WFH newcomers are soon to learn, that remote work isn’t about sitting in your pajamas, eating cereal and filing reports. After getting a start at home and growing a small effort into a full-fledged business, you’re no stranger to the unique characteristics of this work situation. Success at home is a careful balancing act of pros and cons.
Here are some of the insights that established WFH professionals like you are providing to help fresh remote workers make the most of working from home.
Pro: You Have Total Control Over Your Work Environment
In most offices, you sit at an assigned desk until you receive a new assignment. You might be able to ornament your space with some personal items, but usually, there are rules. You might find yourself contending with an uncomfortable chair, a cramped work surface, or the need to come into work bundled up in a sweater in the middle of summer because the air conditioner places your cubicle above the Arctic Circle.
Working from home gives you back that missing control. You get to set the temperature as you like, sit outside while connected to WiFi, or light a candle to enjoy a pleasant scent while you work. Play music you enjoy or sit in silence to focus. Scientific research shows that all these factors, from temperature to air quality, impact productivity in the office. WFH veterans also know that it’s always worth the time investment to build and customize your own productive space.
Con: Distractions Are Everywhere
While you can control your environment at home, that freedom can also be a detriment. Working from home often comes with more flexibility, so the temptation to turn on the TV or check social media can prove too strong to resist. Household chores may beckon, too, putting you behind on critical milestones.
Better time management is crucial for successfully working from home—but this principle is not too different from working in the office. According to one survey by educational platform Udemy, nearly three-quarters of office workers report feeling distracted frequently at work. The difference at home? Those distractions are more plentiful and may last longer.
Brand-new remote workers often aren’t ready to face these distractions, but veterans have dealt with them day in and day out for years. How veterans reduce these intrusions: sticking to a set schedule every day, disconnecting from social media as necessary, and dressing up for the workday to stay in the right frame of mind and remain focused on work.
Pro: Plenty of Ways to Stay Connected
Videoconferencing software is enjoying newfound popularity as solutions such as Zoom make it easier to assemble large groups for simultaneous chats. Messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger, Slack, and Microsoft Teams create spaces for staying connected via instant messaging. Just remember to be mindful of your time: research suggests the average worker loses about 20 minutes of work time per distraction.
Con: Technology as a Foe
Working from home means managing the tools you use effectively, including your computer hardware and software. As any veteran home business owner can confirm, sometimes technology is your worst enemy. It may surprise WFH first-timers to learn their sleek laptop and its software are not always up to the task.
How do home entrepreneurs advise newcomers to make their home office as well-equipped as a real one? Better hardware ensures speed and accessibility, but better software can further refine the way you work. For example, when converting a Microsoft Word file to an engaging, screenshare-ready PDF suddenly takes only a few seconds with software, you realize how crucial it is to learn how to make technology work for you instead of against you.
Pro: You Can Boost Your Productivity with Focus
When you tune out all the distractions and find your “zone,” you can smash through barriers and knock out all your work faster than you thought possible. Although many workers worry they’ll be less productive at home, there is evidence to suggest the opposite.
In one case study, remote workers were 13.5% more productive than their in-office counterparts. When you don’t face micromanagement and constant interruptions from co-workers, achieving a more robust daily output is easy.
Con: Feeling out of the Loop
Although many professionals view remaining in their own space as a benefit, it has social downsides, including feeling less connected to co-workers. There is something to be said for water-cooler conversation and the informal chats around the office that help to spread new ideas and trigger innovations.
At times, new remote workers might find their experience is a lonelier one than they anticipated. Learning when to reach out and how to remain in tune with the company’s culture is essential. Keeping this connection is a challenge even for seasoned home workers, but there are plenty of ways to lift those feelings of isolation.
Organizing or participating in digital hangouts or other after-hours virtual events for fellow remote staffers is a strong way to dispel feelings of disconnection. While avoiding distractions during the workday is important, there are also significant benefits to allowing a shared chat, such as the company Slack channel, to occasionally serve as a virtual water cooler to indulge the latest in office scuttlebutt.
Welcome to the Virtual Neighborhood
While those new to working from home must learn how to set boundaries and manage their time, professionals who are used to WFH and managing a home business shouldn’t overlook opportunities to improve. From enhancing the software and hardware tools you use to do your job to tweaking your space for improved comfort and productivity, there’s always something to upgrade.
By doing what you can to minimize WFH disadvantages, you can amplify the freedom it lends to you and stay on top of your game.
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