Nine Ways to Make Sure Working at Home Works

Working at home might be a bit isolating, but the benefits are self-explanatory and may improve your health and extend your life.

Nine Ways to Make Sure Working at Home Works
Working at Home - Midjourney by Dan Pelland

Now, more than ever, people choose to working at home or a hybrid mode to begin a small business or to accommodate career necessities. says remote workers in the US save 60 million hours of commute time annually. Some hours we save by working at home cycle back into work time, but a good portion is devoted to leisure activities and sleep.

Remote work can make you feel like you're on an island alone. You may find communication more challenging than usual. Co-workers, busy with other things and outside their physical space, may not respond quickly or appropriately. At-home workers miss the coffee break chats, lunchtime camaraderie, and office jokes. That said, working at home might be a bit isolating, but the benefits are self-explanatory. Such a work arrangement may even improve your health and extend your life, according to recent reports.

Working at home isn't perfect

Home workers are under more pressure to produce since employers often feel working at home encourages slacking. Equifax recently fired 24 remote workers discovered holding down more than one job. Some workers wonder why that's their employer's business if the worker meets goals and job requirements. Almost certainly, home workers risk being over-supervised. Electronic monitoring and tracking devices abound, and many are intrusive or intimidating. The solution is for employers to establish goals and performance indicators that rely on work product, not hours worked.  

The question of contractor status vs employee status arises for remote workers, as well. Legal guidelines clearly define contractors. Some employers arbitrarily designate all home workers as exempt or contract workers, but the legal definitions are clear.  

For sure, going remote can be a daunting leap, requiring tons of motivation, direction, and tweaking. If you’re jumping off the corporate treadmill to start a business, or you just became a parent, or your boss says telecommuting is the way to go, look at these tips.  

  1. Stock the necessities. Even if you only work in your home office space part-time or occasionally, ensure you have what you need. Nothing is more annoying than spending five minutes searching for a paper clip, the stapler, or a postage stamp when you’re in the zone and getting things done. Make a list of everyday supplies and take an unhurried trip to the office supply store. Or find a source online and let your keyboard do the work. Talk to your employer about what the company can provide or pay for.
  2. Put your professional foot forward. Get a separate business phone line or a less expensive distinctive ring option. You could also designate a cell number for business calls. Some women answer the phone differently during business hours. Try just stating your name in a pleasant tone. Sometimes, employers are willing to provide a work phone. Depending on the job and the company, some offer computers to home workers.
  3. Make the best use of your computer equipment. It might be time to replace the old desktop computer with a newer laptop to conserve physical working space. Using up-to-date equipment gives a leg-up on productivity when working at home. Have a quality printer and good paper. Check out the all-in-one ink-jet printer/copier machines – some have a small footprint to save space. You won’t believe the efficiency of locating an all-in-one right on your desk. Most of them are equipped with a scanner, too, so you can save documents and email them to the office.
  4. Splurge on a fine-quality chair. Good ergonomics are essential, especially if you spend lots of time sitting. New chair tags tell you what body weight the chair is rated for and how many hours you can spend in it without your body becoming fatigued. The chair is the best investment you might ever make. Don’t scrimp.
  5. Beauty is in the eye of the remote worker. Be kind to yourself. Make your workspace appealing. If you’re lucky enough to claim an entire room for your office, fill it with things that inspire, relax, or uplift you. Choose colors you love. Fill the room with light, preferably natural light. If your office is carved out of a smaller space, even if it’s just a corner nook, soften and beautify it.
  6. Light up your life. Adequate task lighting differentiates between meeting a tight deadline or burning yourself out with eyestrain and a headache before the finish line. Choose lamps or lights that don’t glare or cast shadows. Avoid strong color casts and arrange your desk so light doesn’t reflect on your computer display.
  7. Create harmony between work and family. If you’re going to make it as a remote worker, teach your family that desk time is a serious time. Take frequent breaks to touch base with your partner, kids, or whoever is at home while you work. Try this trick with your first grader or older: Sit down to work and hand her paper and markers. Tell her you’ll meet her in 30 minutes. In the meantime, she can colorfully jot down anything that doesn’t involve blood, fire, or other extreme emergencies. If there is an emergency, it's ok to interrupt. Then she gets your full attention to review her notes at the appointed times. But take care of yourself, as well. Maybe make a one-hour lunch date with your best friend.
  8. Define work time. Make yourself unavailable to distractions when you’re working. Schedule your start, stop, and break times. Sign in if it helps. Ignore the following: personal phone calls that are bound to be long, housework, the doorbell, or anyone who attempts to lure you with coffee cake or a quick run to the mall.
  9. Vary your activity. We tend to stay glued to a chair for hours when we're busy and focused. But you’ll be more productive if you switch tasks occasionally. Work at your desk for an hour or two, then do 15 minutes of filing to change body position and clear your mind. Make a few phone contacts or catch up on relevant reading to break up the day. Do five minutes of stretches or jumping jacks. You’ll be healthier and more energetic.

Bottom line

If the lack of social interaction bothers you, balance work time with some business and personal phone calls, but make them short. You would do the same at the office, right? Be comfortable using your webcam for Zoom, Google meets, or Skype.  

It takes a unique personality and work style to carry off working-at-home gigs. Distractions abound — isolation grates on your nerves. But the rewards are enormous if you can, and these tips will help you. At the end of the day, you are the only person who can guarantee a successful mix of business and comfort at home.

Independent contractor defined: IRS

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