Telecommuting (working from home) is becoming more popular every year, with companies embracing the cost savings that comes from lower overheads on equipment, rent, and lost time due to traffic keeping staff from arriving on time at the job-site. Working from home also serves as a great attraction and retention tool in hiring staff for positions which don’t need a physical presence in the office: Candidates welcome the opportunity to spend less time commuting or stuck in traffic, and enjoy spending the money they save on gas and car maintenance on other things.
While working from home has many benefits, it also has many pitfalls to work around. Here are our best tips on getting the most out of your “work from home” opportunities:
1) It’s 5PM and you’re still in your pajamas!
Time seems to pass differently when you work from home. Often one will sit down at your computer with a cup of coffee “just to skim my emails before I get started” and before you know it, you’re sucked in and next thing you know, the whole day has flown by and you haven’t brushed your teeth or changed out of your pajamas!
Get up, showered, dressed, and have breakfast *before* you sit down at your desk to begin your day.
2) There’s so much to do, I don’t know where to start!
Tons of emails to respond to, calls to return, reports to file – when you first sit down to work in the morning it can take quite a while to untangle everything that needs your attention and to prioritize things appropriately.
The end of each workday, take 5 minutes to make a list of what needs to be attended to first when you start work tomorrow. This will cut down on a lot of wasted time spent trying to remember and retrace your steps from the day before in order to know what to focus on first each day.
3) My technology hates me!
When you work from home, oftentimes you’ll be working on internet-based applications/software, or with voIP telephone systems. These options have revolutionized the way business is conducted around the world, and allows companies to be more connected to their customers and clients in real-time than ever before. But working with internet-based technology also has its limitations. Just because you’re working from home, doesn’t mean you want your customers to know that you are – and having poor voice quality on a phone line is a dead giveaway.
Make sure that whenever possible, you are connecting to the internet over an ethernet cable directly into the modem, rather than via a wi-fi connection. This will help stabilize your connection and avoid typical wi-fi signal issues such as signal interference. Also, choose a wired headset with a good one-directional microphone: this will help cut down on background noise on the call, and avoid issues of running out of battery-life on a Bluetooth device. If you do choose to use a wireless headset – spend a bit more money on one that has a longer battery life, and get into a good habit of charging the device anytime you walk away from your desk so you don’t run out of power when you’re talking to your customer!
4) My work is literally giving me a pain in the neck!
Two things come to mind when we hear this comment: A = Working at your kitchen island or from your couch is really horrible for your posture and can result in neck and back pain, and B= how do you keep your things organized? If you’re working from the couch or kitchen table, you have to know that as soon as your family or roommate comes home that your things are going to get moved out of the away or put in places you won’t be able to find them again tomorrow.
If at all possible, set up a designated work space and declare it a “do not disturb zone”. Ideally it has a door you can close for privacy. If this is not possible, make use of a backpack or banker box that you can store all your supplies in (headset, notepad, pens, pencils, files, etc.) once you’re finished for the day. This can then be stored out of the way and pulled out again tomorrow when you start your day. Choose a chair that is both supportive and the correct height for working at the table or desk you’ve selected. You want to avoid having to hunch your shoulders or squint and stretch your neck to see your screen properly.
Watch our Fit Tip Video on how to do a full body scan for people who work at a desk!
5) It’s so stuffy and dark in here that I can’t tell what time of day it is!
Since you have the option to step outside for a mini-break much more easily, make sure you make the most of that by taking a scheduled “fresh air break”, which is especially helpful in the mid afternoon when you’ve already had lunch, but there still a few hours to go before the end of the work day. Working in a dark room, or in an area with no windows is also very depressing and wreaks havoc on your body’s natural rhythms for sleep and digestion.
Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to periodically stand up, stretch, or step outside for a minute and breath some fresh air that isn’t recycled through air-conditioning. Consider placing some houseplants on or near your work area to help keep the air fresh and clean.
Set your work area near a window to make the most of natural light which is important for your body’s circadian rhythms and your overall sense of well-being. During the darker winter months, consider changing your regular light-bulbs to daylight balanced light. Lastly, turn your “out of office” message on when you finish for the day, and try not to constantly check your notifications and messages when you are outside of office hours.
6) I’ve done nothing but snack on junk food all day at my desk!
It’s way too easy to grab a quick-fix food like a candy bar or a bag of chips instead of making time for proper nutrition, but this can seriously affect your energy levels, mood and productivity as the day goes on.
Consider saving an extra portion of last night’s dinner for lunch the next day, or creating some easy-to-store meals on the weekend that you can keep in the freezer for week-day lunches. Healthy snacks like nuts, fruit, and chopped veggies can make excellent choices if you need a little something extra – without causing the same blood-sugar highs and crashes that come from grabbing the junk-food.
7) I’ll make a pot of coffee to drink throughout the day!
Working from home often leads to an increase in caffeine consumption. Drinking too much coffee or tea can create digestion upset, overuse of sugar and sweeteners, elevated heart rate and irritability, and disrupt your ability to get quality sleep at night.
Try using a thermos flask: this keeps your first coffee of the day piping hot: it will take you longer to drink it, thereby causing you to drink less by the end of the day. Also, keep a reusable drink bottle filled with water at your desk that you can sip from throughout the day. Staying hydrated helps you focus, think more clearly, and avoid headaches.
8) Put away your cellphone and turn off the TV!
It’s tempting to leave the tv on in the background while you’re working, but it is far too easy to get sucked into a talk-show or soap opera when it’s playing within earshot of your work space. Likewise, constantly hearing notification alerts from your cellphone will have your attention being pulled away from your work constantly.
Put your phone in another room or in a drawer. Turn off notification sounds for social media apps like Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. You can catch up on these on your lunch or after work. Turn the TV off completely. (Yes, even with the sound turned off, the visuals are a distraction). If your job doesn’t entail talking on the phone to customers, you can enjoy some music in the background, but we recommend choosing music without lyrics to avoid being distracted.
9) I have nobody to talk to!
Working from home is a lonely experience, it can lead to feelings of demotivation and isolation. It is also difficult to ask questions and it may feel like you’re not doing a very good job.
Try to build relationships with your trainer or fellow assignment employees, it will create a bond of friendship and trust and make it easier to share experiences and give and receive feedback. Also stay in touch with ABL, know who your staffing consultant is and stay in touch with them: we want you to succeed in the assignment, but also to be happy. If we can help in anyway or you want some professional advice don’t be shy, we are always happy to hear from you.