Is working from home your ultimate dream job? Next to owning your own company or retiring early, working from home is held up as this mythical status that many strive for.
While it definitely has its advantages, many people find it's a lot harder than it looks once they get there, as the Oatmeal demonstrates in their short comic.
Making the switch from a traditional office environment to working from home is a big challenge.
If you're contemplating switching to a work-from-home job, here's how to avoid some of the most common pitfalls.
Designate a Work Space
You’ve probably seen hundreds of images of remote employees sitting cross-legged on the couch, happily working on their laptop.
It’s a lie! You won’t be productive that way, and you will hurt your legs and back, and you definitely won’t smile if your back hurts all day.
While mixing it up in a comfortable location is OK sometimes, you should have a designated workspace in your home.
You need an area where you can go away from everyone else and be free from distractions. Being surrounded by family members or even pets will lower your chances to stay focused and productive for longer than a few minutes.
If you decided to work outside your designated work zone, you might get distracted by the mountain of laundry or dishes that need to be done.
Combine that with working on mind-numbing tasks, and those dishes will seem like a fun activity all of a sudden.
The ideal solution is to have a home office if you have enough space for it. Somewhere you can go and shut the door is perfect.
If you're not lucky enough to live in a home where you can set up a designated home office, you might have to get creative.
You don’t need much - a good desk set up in a corner of a quiet room is usually enough to get started.
Invest in Technology and Software
If you're going to attempt to work successfully from home, going at it with old, out-of-date tech simply won't work. Having an old laptop is not enough, even if it still works.
Depending on what you do, you might have to invest in good dual monitors, an ergonomic keyboard, a computer with enough processing power, and the right software to help you be efficient with all the tasks.
More businesses are migrating their operations to cloud for a reason. Think automation software for daily busywork, digital planners with automatic reminders that will keep you on track with all the tasks (you can use them for personal things too), project management platforms to know exactly what you (and the rest of your team, if you have one) have to do, and a good communication platform like Slack or Skype.
Get in a Routine
One of the incorrect assumptions that people make about working from home is that they think they're going to have all the flexibility in the world.
Without the boss staring over your shoulder, or by being your own boss, you can work whenever you want, right?
If you want to work at 2 in the morning and sleep in, you could do that.
It’s not that simple - Without a routine, it's really hard to get anything done.
That doesn't mean that you never have any time flexibility when working from home. But the closer you can stick to work schedule, the more productive you'll be.
Try to find the best time to work throughout the day based on what's comfortable and also outside factors that affect when you can work.
For example, if you're supposed to be part of a team of other people, it's best to be available when they are working.
Plan ahead and see what tasks you have, and use a planner to organize your workday.
You may not be able to stick to that schedule exactly, but it will at least give you something to shoot for.
Then if you get off of your schedule during the day, you can always adjust it as you go.
Just Get it Done
If you're going to work from home, you have to adopt the attitude that you're going to get things done no matter what. Interruptions will happen at home.
The two biggest enemies of many freelancers out there are power and internet outages.
Don’t think for a second you’re off the hook because the power is out or your internet isn’t working and the ISP is taking their sweet time repairing the problem.
Instead of waiting for the problem to resolve, you should find good home office alternatives in such cases.
Working from home is not going to be as easy as you hoped, but with the right commitment and attitude, you can get it done. You'll be able to take advantage of the freedom to work your own hours, in the comfort of your own home.
Just be aware of the challenges that will inevitably show up at some point along the way, and be ready to tackle them head-on.