Editor’s note: This is the first part of a two-part series about working from home. The second part is published here.
It is 5 a.m. and the alarm is buzzing loudly. The room is dark, but birds are announcing dawn's arrival.
Just like that, you get into your morning routine: waking the house, making breakfast, getting ready for work or getting the kids ready for school. If timed right, you can even get in a full-hour workout at the gym.
Then the workday begins. For some people, that means driving to an office. For others, it means walking into the next room: their home office.
We asked two of sales team superstars how they make the best of a workday away from the traditional office. Here’s what they had to say.
Ignore the laundry.
“I try to make (working at home) a routine so I can keep myself organized,” says Sean Tyhurst, an integrated direct marketing specialist with the Life & Health Group of ALM, LifeHealthPro's parent company. “The challenge is always … the things that will kick you off of your routine.”
Ellen Malloy is in integrated media sales at ALM, and she agrees: “The huge myth about working from home is that you can just wander around doing household chores and checking your laptop from the kitchen,” she says. “You can’t do that. It is important to have structure to be successful.”
Malloy recommends having a designated office or at least an office area at home so you can concentrate. “No barking dogs (or) crying babies!”
Email vs. prospecting calls
Do you ignore your Inbox until 4 p.m. and instead call prospects all day? Or do you do both?
Tyhurst says that the first thing he does is check any emails that might have arrived the night before. Then, it’s all about preparing for calls with prospects, making calls and looking for new ways to grow the existing client base.
“Sometimes, I have calls until the end of the day … Then I’ll catch up (with email),” he says. If, however, there are gaps between prospecting calls, he’ll turn his attention to his email Inbox.
The do’s and don’ts of working at home
Shut yourself off or close the office door while you’re working.
Keep your office separate from the rest of the house.
Stay in your office during the work day; don’t wander into the kitchen unless it's time for lunch.
Treat your home office like a ‘real’ corporate office. Recreate that environment with your equipment (big monitors, work space, desk), and try to make the same mental shift, too.
Exercise: Take a walk or bike ride. Stand up and do some jumping jacks, or just look out the window and stretch for five minutes. You'll feel and work better afterwards.
Headphones can be a life-saver when there are other people in the house or distractions outside.
Turn on music without any lyrics or tune into the "concentration music" channels on YouTube. This can help keep any distractions at bay.
If you fall behind in your work, block out calendar time for each project that needs attention. Set deadlines and tangible time commitments to work with.
To avoid the temptation of snacking at home, eat protein for breakfast and keep wholesome snacks such as an apple or nuts near your desk. This will help you feel more awake, as opposed to snacking on junk food, which can zap your energy.
Keep separate records for all of your business expenses, and maintain them weekly.
Find work spaces outside your home where you can go if you're feeling lonely.
Let your routine slip for too long, which can quickly become a bad habit. Skipping your morning shower or dressing like a slob simply because you’re at home is a slippery slope.
Maintain balance. Don't let your work life bleed into your home life. "You'll end up resenting it, since 'work' is physically in your home. Learn how to manage that,” Malloy says.
Don't tell people who don't need to know that you're working from home. They might become jealous or take you less seriously.
Don't let people drop by simply because you’re “at home.” Technically, you're at work.
Don't get sloppy. Keep routine business hours. Be available to your co-workers or clients during those hours. Otherwise you may lose the privilege of working from home.
See also: 10 ways to be more productive
Where are you most productive?
It’s not hard to spot people who have retreated from their home office to the neighborhood coffee shop. Look for the laptops, headphones, smartphones and necessary electronic charging equipment set up nearby.
But do these caffeinated workers actually get much done? Maybe, unless their workday necessitates calling clients. Making client calls in public can be disruptive and irresponsible, from a client-safety perspective.
Both Tyhurst and Malloy agreed that they are more productive working from their home office than anywhere else.
“I’m far more productive when I’m in my home office than when I’m in a hotel or at a conference. I have dual monitors and a keyboard at home ... At a hotel, I’m working on a small laptop, which means that if I’m trying to make a report, it takes twice as long because I have to go back to another screen,” Tyhurst explained.
Malloy also noticed that her productivity tanks when working outside of her home office, thanks in part to the noise and endless chatter of public places.
“I do find that if it is a gorgeous morning, starting to answer emails from my front porch with a cup of coffee can be very productive and keeps me feeling positive and upbeat," she says. "So changing your location can be great and very helpful, but you have to find what works for you.”
Both emphasized that finding a the place and structure that works best for you, creating your own habits and sticking to them will help you be most successful and productive when working remotely.
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