Like many of today’s professionals, I work from home. A lot.
I do occasionally work remotely for my full-time job, but in most cases, I get in from the corporate office and walk right into my home office to start on side projects for my freelance clients.
Regardless of the tasks you’re doing, it takes a lot of discipline to get work done in your home, especially when the couch, the TV, the fridge, the laundry, the dog, etc. are all just a few steps away. You need to proactively create an environment that’s conducive to productivity, while drawing mental and physical boundaries between work and play.
While everyone’s ideal remote work conditions vary, here are a few general tips for making the most of your work-from-home time.
Create a space that’s just for work
Working from the couch or your bed may sound nice in theory, but in practice, these spaces are too “cozy” and relaxed to put you in the right mindset for productivity. I have a desk and office chair set up in the spare room of my apartment, and do my best to contain business-related tasks, calendars, notebooks, etc. to that space.
No space for a home office? Set up a small folding table in the living room and use it strictly for work, or work at the kitchen counter. Wherever you choose to set up shop, keep your “work” area clutter-free to minimize distractions (hello, dirty dishes and baskets of laundry).
You may also want to join a coworking space or head to a local coffee shop from time to time, just for a change of scenery.
Working from home equals working in your pajamas, right? Technically, yes, it could. But it’s not a good idea if you want to set boundaries between work time and lounge time.
Wearing comfortable clothes is a great perk when you’re home for the day, and there’s no need to dress in office attire. However, changing out of the clothes you wore to bed really does make a difference in how you approach your work (even if it’s just a pair of yoga pants and a different t-shirt).
Develop (and stick to) a schedule
When you don’t have a commute hanging over your head, you can justify starting your workday a little earlier or wrapping up a little later to accommodate any non-work things that pop up during the day. It’s fine to take a little time away from the “office” when you’re working from home — and you should, since people are generally more productive when they take frequent breaks. But make sure you set time limits for yourself and build these breaks into your daily schedule. If you don’t, you could end up stretching out your day without getting any real work accomplished.
Become a top-notch communicator
One of the biggest arguments against working from home is the idea that if you’re not physically in the office, the boss can’t keep tabs on you to make sure you’re actually doing your work. This isn’t necessarily true, and many managers have realized that trusting employees to complete their tasks no matter where they are creates a much more positive, productive work culture. However, that trust needs to be earned through your communication skills.
If you’re working from home for your employer, your boss should be able to get in touch with you during normal work hours, as they would if you were in an office. This could mean being available on an instant messaging platform, responding to emails quickly or checking your phone for calls and texts from co-workers. And don’t wait for your manager to hound you with messages — check in with them when you sign on and off for the day, or when you’re taking a break. No matter what method of communication you and your team agree upon, don’t let yourself become “out of sight, out of mind” when you work from home.
Working for yourself and setting your own hours? You should still be available for your clients when they try to reach you. While you don’t (and shouldn’t) have to be on-call 24/7, do your best to respond to emails, messages, and calls in a timely manner, and always communicate well ahead of time if you can’t meet an agreed-upon deadline. Your clients will appreciate it, and you’ll establish a reputation as a responsible, reliable freelancer.
A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.
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