Here’s how to master the double-edged sword of remote work

You’ve put in good time with your company. They recognize your value and are willing to do what it takes to keep you around even if that means not keeping you around. 
For many, the opportunity to leave the occasionally not-so-friendly confines of an office and work from the comforts of home is the ultimate dream. It affords you the opportunity to live wherever you want, to enjoy the pleasures that your home provides, to be closer to your family and, perhaps best of all, to switch from a one-hour commute to a 10-second commute!
However, with great power comes great responsibility. The perks of working from home come with a few caveats that, if you’re not careful, can be detrimental to your productivity and career. I see this with remote employees every day. Heck, as someone who works from home, I personally see these risks. That’s what inspired my newest LinkedIn Learning course: Time Management: Working from Home.                                                                                                                

The freedom dilemma

The appeal of working from home comes down to one word: Freedom. You’re not tied down to a geographic location or, perhaps, a strict schedule. You’re free to “work in your underwear” and listen to music.
However, the freedom you have to make these choices can also produce less freedom. For example, your freedom from a commute means you are less free to communicate with your coworkers. The freedom to be closer to your family means you’re less free from distractions.
This is not to say you shouldn’t work from home. I’m a strong advocate for it. However, to be successful, you’ll need to develop new habits to keep you productive.

Crafting the home office

Your workspace will say a lot about how successful your remote career will be. If you have some idealistic dream of being productive with your laptop while sitting on your couch with a refreshing glass of lemonade, you are in for a rude awakening.
The truth is, even though you are leaving an office, your best bet for productivity is a home office. Optimally, this means creating a dedicated space for your work, one that gives you clear boundary lines. Where you work is different from where you live, even though they may be in the same building. You’ll want an actual desk and a swiveling office chair that will allow you to complete all necessary tasks. Working from a bed or a couch can create health problems and disrupt your workflow.
Your home office should have everything you need to optimize your productivity. That might mean you need to make a sizable investment to be productive. If you come from an office environment, your employer is the one that provides you with the necessary equipment. This might not be the case now that you are assigned a remote position.
Think of the technology you use as a time investment. Whether it’s an ergonomic keyboard, a color printer, or a gaming mouse, optimize your “battle station” to make each day at least 2% more productive. Why 2%? Because that tiny increase in productivity will yield you the equivalent of one extra workweek—every year.
One 2% solution I invested in was getting a high-quality ultra-widescreen monitor:

Habits of time

When you have freedom from managers reading over your shoulder, having fundamentally solid time management skills is essential. For now, let’s focus on what matters in remote employment situations.
The home, as wonderful as it is, can have many distractions. It’s easy access for friends, family, pets, and roommates to grab your attention away from your work. Once your work is finished, it’s easy to stop spending time with people and go back to work, even if you’re off the clock. That’s why, at the home office, your calendar becomes your best friend.
Rather than switching to and from work, schedule a starting line and a finishing line. Once your starting line (say, 8 am?) is selected, close the door and focus. As harsh as it sounds, you want a barrier separating your work life from your home life even though they more or less live together. Then, once you get to your finishing line (say, 5:30 pm?), let that be the end of your work day. You’ve won the race for the day; don’t go back for seconds.
This not only improves your work and makes you more productive, it allows you to turn off work at the end of your day and be more attentive to the ones you love.                                                              

Habits of humanity

You may think the freedom to work from home means you no longer have the freedom to collaborate and forge the bonds of fellowship with the people who work with you. In all honesty, it can be tough. Having immediate access to others for feedback and help is one of the benefits of working in an office. However, with the proper attention to detail, you can build lasting relationships even if you’re a million miles away.
Now that you’re working remotely, expect many more meetings to be held via video conferencing. Be sure to create buffer time in your schedule, because the first 10 minutes of those meetings almost always begin with a technical difficulty.
That said, be prepared. Be at full attention when others are presenting and, when it’s your turn to speak, have your documents and projects accessible to others so they can collaborate with you.
As you get better at these meetings, you’ll find it much easier to feel like a member of the team. You’ll build rapport, develop a few inside jokes, and develop a shorthand for communication. Just because you don’t share a geographic location doesn’t mean you can’t have culture.

Get to Work (from Home)!

Knowing what you know now, are you less likely to want to work from home, or more likely? For me, learning how to be productive at home has taught me more about my work habits and how to optimize my performance than I ever learned in an office setting.
If you work from home, or are just thinking about working from home, please check out my newest course, Time Management: Working From Home.
And, in the comments section below, please share the biggest obstacle you run into while working remotely and what you’ve done to maximize your productivity.
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