Working from Home

I recently started working from home for 1 to 2 days per week. Having mastered the ability to be productive in just about any situation, being able to work from home was a double win for me. However, in all honesty, my life circumstances taught me how to be productive even in hectic circumstances. For example, my daughter was in middle school when I started law school, and I was juggling a few internships, law clerk jobs, exam prep, and school competitions all at the same time. I had to learn how to study and work any and everywhere. I had no choice but to figure out how to efficiently make all of these things work because I had someone very important depending on me to succeed and I had a lot of money invested in my education. If you too are able to keep someone or something important in mind when it is time to get work done, then your productivity really should not be limited regardless of whether you’re working out of a corporate office or at your dining table.

The list of corporations allowing employees to work from home continues to grow annually. This means better work-life balance for more employees, which also leads to better mental health. These are ultimate goals for professional women as  we continuously strive to “do it all”.  However, when I talk to some women about working from home, I frequently hear challenges sounding in not being able to focus to the point where the day will end with nothing to show for it. Whether you work for yourself or for someone else this is a non-starter. Therefore, it is necessary to turn that lack of focus into efficiency and productivity, which I define as making actual progress toward pre-determined goals. Here are some approaches and considerations to make your work at home days some of your most productive days.

  1. Goals. Set specific goals for your work at home days at the beginning of the week. Meaning, write down exactly what you need to accomplish and the tasks you need to do to accomplish it. For me, there are certain projects that are better done in office, and others that I can do just about anywhere. By planning ahead at the beginning of the week I can strategize which projects I will leave for the days that I work from home. It is less likely for you to spin your wheels all day when you have a list with specific goals waiting for your execution.
  2. Mileage, traffic and gas. Saving time and money in these 3 areas is always something to be happy about. I save about 4 hours of traffic time on the days that I work from home. The extra time I have in the day from already being home when I’m through working is usually put into getting some exercise done or doing overdue house chores that I would not normally feel like getting to after fighting rush hour traffic.
  3. Diet. Working at home can be a great opportunity for you to stick to a healthier diet. That is, if you heed advice about not keeping junk food at home. One of the hardest diet challenges I have had has been avoiding the great (but unhealthy) lunch spots around my office building. However, when I work from home, I simply go to the kitchen, make a quick salad or blend a shake, and get right back to work.
  4. Turn off or silence the devices. It is easier to get distracted by phone calls and text messages when you work from home. Inevitably, these calls and messages usually pull you in the opposite direction of where you planned or needed to be for the day. If you are not conscious about how much time you’re spending here, hours will go by, and you will have accomplished nothing at the end of the day. When my phone starts getting distracting, I put it on silent, turn on my Pandora contemporary jazz station, and commit not to look at the phone again until I get the task at hand done.
  5. Think entrepreneurial. Your work at home days can and should be your most productive days of the week, personally and professionally. These are the days when I am extra aware of waking up on time and exercising, instead of sleeping in. I’m usually set up at my table and ready to work between 8am-9am, and take a break about every 2 hours for about 15 minutes, which is usually enough time to get small house chores done. By the end of the day I am usually in a good mental space knowing that I got both my work and personal tasks out of the way.
  6. Change your environment. Although the focus of working at home is the convenience of actually being at home, sometimes you might just need to be in a new space and around different energy to become focused. If you can’t accomplish this in the office or at home, think about trying a new environment like a library, coffee shop, bookstore, or a park. I have been through periods of rotating through all these places to get my focus in order and usually one of them does the trick.