Work From Home? Remember to Go Outside (And Other Bits of Advice)

Telecommuting breeds bad habits. It's a good idea to adopt a schedule replete with forays out into the sunlight, as work breaks boost productivity.

We cover telecommuting a lot here on the Ideafeed, partly because it's interesting how much it's grown in recent years, and partly because it's pretty much our lives here. Completing tasks, attending online meetings, managing time, remembering to eat lunch: These are all essential cogs to the work-from-home experience. Most important is discipline, something I — as well as plenty of others — wish I had more of.

It's nice not having a boss stalking through the office, enforcing the code, making sure you're there as soon as the work whistle rings. "But the downside is that it can seriously mess with your productivity," writes Devin Tomb in a nice piece republished at Time. Tomb's article offers several useful suggestions for telecommuters who want to boost their productivity. The common refrain sounds like advice from Carson Tate: Work smarter, not harder. Get yourself on a schedule replete with mood-boosting interludes.

Part of working smarter is knowing when you need a breather or two. When I worked a desk job, I could gauge when to take a walk or go grab a meal based on my surroundings. Are my co-workers all gone? It must be lunchtime. Is my boss creeping on the woman at the next desk again? Maybe it's time to get some air. Is it dark outside? Should probably pack up and go home.

Working from home can be like working on a casino floor. Suddenly you look at your watch and — holy crap — where did three hours (and my retirement) go?

So, among the other smart tidbits Tomb suggests, I think the most useful are these:

"1. Start your day outside.

Some people do their workouts at night in order to let off some steam after a long day at the office, but as a newly minted SAHW (Stay-at-Home Worker), I like knowing that I’ve already left the house before my workday starts.


3. Force yourself to take an afternoon walk.

My friend Cathy Caludis, who works from home as a business analyst, inspired me to do this one. Every day around 1 or 2 p.m., she takes her dog (dog optional!) for a 30-minute walk. 'It definitely helps keep me sane to get fresh air and stretch my legs!' she says. Done and done."

Set a schedule. Stick to it. Remember to smell the sunshine. Afterward, go out and be social.

The key to productivity is knowing when to come up for air. Pace yourself. If you find you're veering away from your work tasks to check Facebook, make like Ice Cube and check yourself. Throw on some sneakers. Go outside. Get refreshed. Get a recharge. Then come back and put your all into whatever you're doing.

Other useful tips:

-Don't work in your PJs: Of course, I'm a total hypocrite because I'm still wearing my sweatpants right now. That's only because I was intending to...

-Take a shower: Similar to the above, taking care of your appearance isn't just to appease your corporate overlords. Dressing up to work at home primes you for business. You're telling your body: "Okay, let's get serious." And for the love of hygiene, don't just roll out of bed into your work. It's not good practice. While we're on that topic...

-Don't work in bed: Beds are for sleeping, late-night reading, and certain extracurricular activities. Do not allow your brain to start associating the bed with screen time or spreadsheets. Finally...

-Enjoy yourself: Working from home is nice because the experience is what you make it. At a desk job, so many external factors can ruin your time: awful co-workers, Stalinist supervisors, office politics, etc. At home, as long as you impose discipline on yourself, feel free to embrace your creativity. 

One other important note: Work/life balance becomes a lot trickier when the line between the two becomes blurred. SAP CEO Bill McDermott (video below) recently visited Big Think to chat about how important it is to unblur those lines, and place a heightened focus on family. The best advice for telecommuters who share their office (read: home) with immediate family members is to remember to put the laptop down and enjoy what you've got while it's there.

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