After two years of working from home, I get asked frequently how it works for me, both personally and professionally. On one hand, it’s great. Wearing jeans equals dressing up, I get to hang out with my two boxers so they’re not cooped up all day, and having a more flexible schedule is super convenient. Most importantly, the commute rocks!

The Oatmeal: Why Working from Home is Both Awesome and Horrible
The Oatmeal: Why Working from Home is Both Awesome and Horrible

But flying solo as the only remote Sparksight employee until recently hasn’t been without its challenges. Now that the Sparksight Denver Office working-from-home rank has grown by one, I thought I’d share a few of my personal tips on being successful at the home office. If you freelance from home, telecommute for a company, or run your business out of the house, check out these 4 tips to increase productivity and happiness from the home office.

1. Establish a routine

If you’re transitioning from the typical 8-5 office grind, one of the first things you’ll miss is the structure that comes from having to be at the office between certain hours. You’re used to planning your day around your commute, meetings across town, and activities after work. To maintain a sense of normalcy, and, let’s face it, the motivation to jump out of bed and get to work, an established routine is a must.

I start the day by getting myself and the dogs ready, coffee made, and being at my desk by 8am when the rest of Sparksight is ramping up for the day. I’ll frequently take a lunch break to meet up with a friend, run errands, or tackle some chores. Then I spend a focused afternoon in the office before ending the day at a reasonable time. Using a time tracking app (Toggl) helps me stay productive and efficient and account for every minute of my day. Seeing how I’m spending my time motivates me to stay on track throughout the day and avoid distractions.

Everyone’s working routine is different, but we share a common goal: be successful at our job, not just when we’re feeling particularly inspired, but always while we’re on the clock. Regarding establishing habits for success, Seth Godin says “The strategy is simple, I think. The strategy is to have a practice, and what it means to have a practice is to regularly and reliably do the work in a habitual way.”

2. Separate your workspace

Like following a routine, having an office or another area of the house set aside specifically for your workspace will boost productivity while working from home. Sitting on the couch might tempt you to flip on the TV for some background noise only to get sucked to a House of Cards marathon. Or working from the kitchen table, you might feel the need to “just do the dishes real quick” which could lead down a slippery slope to a whole-house deep clean. Moving into a dedicated physical space helps you switch gears from your daily household activity to a heads-down work zone mentality.

On the flip side, you might be tempted to take your work “home” with you. It’s much easier to let your working life creep into your personal or family space when your workstation is always within arm’s reach. This can be damaging to relationships and your mental health. And if you’re inclined to do your work in bed, you could be interfering with “the mental association between your bedroom and sleep,” keeping you from getting a good night’s rest (Harvard’s Division of Sleep Medicine).

Houzz: 658 creative ways to divide a room
Houzz: 658 creative ways to divide a room

I have a separate room I use as my home office, but if your space doesn’t allow you to do this, there are plenty of great ideas out there to help you create a dedicated workspace. Bottom line, keeping your work separate from your living space will allow you to accomplish your daily goals faster and without distraction. This will allow you to move on to your after-work life and focus on family and fun at the end of the day.

3. Keep moving

Studies have shown that too much sedentary behavior can increase the risk of cancer and heart disease and can cause back pain, headaches and listlessness in those that sit all day. Working from home may encourage even more sedentary behavior than a regular desk job because you’re not getting up to chat with coworkers or bouncing between meetings. If your established routine includes maintaining standard business hours, you’re probably not spending a lot of time out and about or running errands.

Fortunately, there are a lot of creative ways to sneak some cardio in and get that heart rate up. Experts suggest supplementing regular exercise routines with one-minute breaks for squats, wall-sits, running in place, or other quick cardio activities and stretches. This article lists 33 fun “deskercises” to keep you on your toes throughout the day.

In addition to taking mini-breaks away from work, you can snag some accessories to keep you in motion without leaving your desk. A standing desk can certainly encourage you to move more than you would just by sitting, but you probably still have to do some work to see any real health benefits. I added a Vew-Do balance board to my setup which at the very least helps keep my core engaged to stay balanced.

PositiveHealthWellness showing some creative ways to stay active and productive!

Other products like stability balls and under-desk stair steppers also help keep the body in motion. Finally, taking a walk or run over lunch not only gives you the exercise you need, but breaks up the day with a change of pace and provides that oh-so-important Vitamin D you might be missing if you’re inside all day. Find even more workouts from PostiveHeathWellness here.

4. Stay social

It’s easy to get isolated when working at home. Not only are you not getting your daily dose of coworker interaction, but if you don’t make a point to do something away from the house, you may not leave all day long. This can be great for productivity but can negatively impact your emotional well-being, social skills, and even your lifespan.

Finding the right social interactions can take a little effort, but there are plenty of opportunities to positively impact both your work and personal social life. Making a phone or Skype call, even when an email would do, helps you stay connected. Reach out to a coworker just to chat, call a client to discuss a project, or touch base with vendors and partners. Channel your inner social butterfly and try to get out of the house at least once a day, whether it’s going to the grocery store or to dinner with friends. Attend some networking events — LinkedIn and Meetup are flush with groups of people who share your professional interests and personal hobbies and hold regular in-person events. Even taking your work to the local coffee shop can give you that interaction you’ve been missing, whether its chatting up the barista or making small talk with the guy at the next table.

Stay social while working from home

Having a variety of social outlets not only adds spice to your personal life by boosting confidence and improving social skills, but also builds work relationships to help you succeed as a remote employee.

Working from home is a great way to add a little flexibility to your life. Whether you’re a seasoned work-from-homer or just starting out on your own, I hope these tips help you pave the way to becoming happy, healthy, well-rounded and successful at home and at work. Have any tips to share? Leave us a note below!

One response to “4 Tips for Working from Home

  1. Great article. Thank you very much, Sharon! You mentioned two points I consider paramount: a separate and private(ish) working space and a time tracking software.

    For the first, the more isolated from “everyday life” things the better; my pick for that is the attic. About time tracking, I prefer the one by primaERP because it allows to track time in more detail (according to client, project, text and combinations of these) and with very useful pricing functions. The reports and bills it creates are pretty nice too.

    The suggestion I will take from your text will be the keep moving one. Cheers!

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