If you have the opportunity to telecommute regularly, or even work from home every now and again, the temptation can be strong to just put your feet up and forget about work unless you have to check in occasionally, clear out your inbox or dial into a meeting. Occasional slacking is fine, but there's no faster way to get your remote work privileges revoked than to keep that up. Here's how to resist the urge and stay motivated, even if there's no one looking over your shoulder.
Threaten Yourself And Remember How Lucky You Are
If you even have the ability to work from home, even on rare occasions, stop and remember that you're lucky to have the privilege -- and it's just that, a privilege. More and more companies are embracing telecommuting and remote work as a great benefit to their employees and a way to increase productivity. Keep this in mind when you work from home, especially if you're tempted to just sleep in an extra three hours and only put in two before you break for the day. There are plenty of people who would love to work from home and if you'd like to continue working from home, your best bet is to treat it like a regular workday.
Take Your Manager Into Consideration
I've had the opportunity to work from home for two different kinds of managers: one who never checked in with me unless it was an emergency, never emailed and honestly didn't care if you put in two or 10 hours of work when you worked from home. In return for his lenience, some of his team would thrive under the lack of oversight while others were nowhere to be found on their "working from home" days.
On the other hand, I've had managers for whom "working from home" meant that he expected you to not only put in a full eight-hour workday, but he wanted the time you would have spent commuting on either end. He would call and check in with you regularly and advise you set up video conferences and online meetings on your telecommuting days so you could still get some face time.
Think about which type of manager you have -- or will have if you continue working from home. In either case, your best bet is to avoid the temptation to sleep-in late and check out early. Your manager will appreciate your commitment and even if there's no love lost between you and your boss, you'll be able to work from home more often.
Dress The Part
We've mentioned this before, but one way to make sure you're in the right mindset for work and feel like it's time to get some work done is to dress as though you're headed to the office.
One of the most tempting perks of working from home is that you can toss on your PJs and sit at your computer, but after doing that once or twice, you'll find it's difficult to get out of the "home" mindset and into the "work" mindset. Plus, wearing business casual clothes makes it much more difficult to get up from your computer and go off to do non-work stuff around the house. After all, it's unlikely you'll decide you'd rather bake a cake if you're wearing slacks and button-down shirt.
Follow (Or Start) Your Daily Routine
Sure, part of the beauty of working from home is that you can drag yourself from your bed to your keyboard and get to work, but there's a lot to be said for getting yourself in the right frame of mind for work by performing your usual daily routine and settling in at your desk at home the same way you would if you were settling in to your desk at work.
Part of the benefit here is physical -- as we mentioned before, following your daily routine gives you the opportunity to dress as though you're headed to the office -- but part of the benefit is psychological as well. Following your normal routine serves as a mental reminder that it's time to work and separates your time at home from how you would feel on a weekend or holiday.
If you work from home regularly, you may also benefit from upgrading your daily routine, either by brewing your own coffee instead of stopping at the cafe near the office, making sure you eat a healthy breakfast before you sit down to work, or getting a little exercise before you hit the shower and put on your work clothes.
If you have a tendency to do anything but work when you're sitting at your home computer trying to work, you may benefit from our guide to avoiding distractions and forcing yourself to stay on task when you work from home. As we've mentioned before, you only have so much willpower to go around. You may also benefit from using an app like RescueTime to find those wasted hours and use them to get more done. In the end, part of your goal is to train your brain into recognising when it's time for work and when its time for play and giving yourself all of the cues and reminders you need to stay the course.
Take Naps And Breaks To Boost Productivity
Up to this point, we've talked a lot about how you can whip yourself into shape. That doesn't mean you can't enjoy the benefits of working from home, like strategic naps that can help you be more productive (including the caffeine nap, a tactic I can vouch for), taking real, work-free breaks to recharge your batteries, or get outside for a while to give your mind a boost. Working from home gives you the unparalleled power to get truly and completely away from work for a while when you want to nap or take a break. Enjoy it while you have it, be grateful for it and come back to your work recharged and full of energy.
It's OK if your first couple of days working from home are filled with a lot of television, snack foods and a laptop on the couch next to you while you fire up the Xbox 360 instead of you sitting (or standing) at your desk and actually focusing on your work. If you really can't resist the temptations of your home or apartment, you may consider heading back into the office.
However, if you really want to be successful working from home and overcoming the urge to slack off and lose focus, you need to do whatever it takes to consider your tele-work days as important as (or more important than) your days trapped in your office. With luck and some motivation, you'll be able to work from home more often with the blessing of your manager and company and you'll be more productive to boot.