Woman working from home playing with her dog.

Tips for a Healthy Home Work Environment

Imagine a work day without traffic jams or parking problems. You don’t need to fill your gas tank, make a lunch or shower. (You probably should shower though.) Meetings take place from your home office, back porch, coffee shop, favorite recliner – anywhere you can find a solid internet connection.

Working from home can sound like a dream come true. And more people are doing it. In 2016, 43 percent of U.S. workers spent time working out of the office, according to a Gallup analysis. That’s up from 39 percent in 2012. Global Workplace Analytics, a consulting group that studies workplace trends, estimates telecommuting grew 115 percent in the past decade. Since 2010, 40 percent more U.S. employers offer flexible workplace options.

It sounds amazing but working at home is still work. It isn’t a free pass to stop paying for child care or binge on Netflix shows in the middle of the day. Even when a person is committed to “work time”, performing a day job at home can be rife with distractions. The carefully created wall that divides the professional from the personal parts of your life can come crashing down.

Working from home successfully requires boundaries and self-discipline. To help you establish a healthy home work environment, we’ve compiled a few tips. These should keep your productivity level on track and your personal life from going off the rails.

Define home-office etiquette and attire

While working in pajamas is tempting, it can lead to feeling disconnected, lonely and unkempt, experiences telecommuters say they have at times.

Work-from-home employees will likely find it easier to be productive and communicate well when they maintain a sense of professionalism. So – as mentioned – it’s a good idea to shower, dress and build a work-from-home morning routine. Dress doesn’t necessarily mean skirt or suit and tie. Putting on actual clothes is the key.

Designating a suitable spot for work that’s different from where you sleep also helps maintain professionalism. This also limits noise and other distractions.

Distinguish work time from home time

The work-life balance line can get blurry when your workspace is in your home. As a remote worker, you’re much more accessible to friends, children, spouses and other family members. Or, sometimes work-at-home employees find themselves “on” all the time, responding to emails late at night or toiling far past a normal eight-hour work day.

Create boundaries and stick with them. When you log off for the day, you’re now “out of office.” And make working hours clear to friends and family. Save interruptions for emergencies only.

Wirecutter, the advice and product recommendation website, offers suggestions for parents working remotely. For example, parents may want to use a workspace with a door and keep it shut during working hours. Or create rules like: Children may knock once and if their dad or mom doesn’t answer, he or she is in a meeting.

Stay in constant contact

Remote workers should embrace the technology that’s making it easier to work from afar and remain solidly connected.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan suggests several ways its telecommuting employees communicate often and effectively:

  • Embrace video conferencing (Yet another reason to shower and dress)
  • Purposefully engage with colleagues through chat and video services to maintain both professional and personal relationships
  • Take opportunities to have lunch with colleagues or schedule in-person meetings sometimes

Let your boss know what you’re working on often. Also, be mindful of online status updates that Skype and other tools use so colleagues can see if you’re available, away or another status.

Don’t turn into a slug

Take advantage of opportunities to be social and active. Work-from-anywhere writer, Kenneth Rosen, writes, “One of the blessings of working remotely is the opportunity to live a more active lifestyle instead of being deskbound, but it’s important to make activity a habit. Otherwise you’ll fall into the inertia of sitting at your desk all day and never leaving the house at night.”

Go for short walks or bike rides. Spend time chatting with neighbors or meet friends for lunch. Try switching locations in the afternoon and work from a coffee shop or library – unless you have a lot of meetings and don’t feel like whispering.

All of these activities boost productivity and creativity. Research suggests following the 90/20 rule for best results. It involves a person working intensely for 90 straight minutes and then taking about 20 minutes for rest, performing restorative activities like those mentioned above.

Your space, your choice

Ultimately, people work best in all sorts of ways and a great part of remote work is the flexibility it gives employees to find the best options for them.

One last point: Rosen, the writer, says make sure you appreciate that you can work from home. Play with a pet, walk around the block, finish the day on the couch and be grateful for the opportunity.

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Photo credit: Tempura

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