Tips for Working From Home

Tips from Working From Home

When I started working at Heller Consulting in 2001, time management was very simple. Every day I was booked onsite for a full day with a local client here in the Bay Area. I dealt with emails and phone calls in the available spaces in mornings, middays and evenings. Pretty simple, right?

Fast forward a few years and technology has made it possible for us to do more work remotely. Now it is very common for our (much larger) team to work productively from offices, co-working spaces, and home offices around the country. We’ve developed a philosophy and approach to remote work that supports our consultants and encourages teamwork. Here are some tips and tricks we’ve put together for ourselves over the years.

Planning

It is vitally important to begin each week with a plan for how your time is going to be spent. Without a plan, you will find yourself at 10:30 in the morning wondering if you should go start a load of laundry. For example, my weeks always consist of a mix of client work, product development work, and knowledge management work. I know the proportion of my week that should be spent on each area and I block out the time on my calendar.

Know whether you are a “Maker” or a “Manager”; or, like me, you have elements of both. This article has been influential in our thinking of how time should be scheduled. If you need to “make” something, it’s worth it to block out at least 3 hours without interruptions. I often plan my days in a 1-3-3-1 pattern, for example (one hour at the beginning and end of the day to deal with small tasks, and two 3-hour chunks where I can focus on a particular project or area).

Fine-Tuning

Figure out what your most productive time of day is and schedule your most challenging or important work for that time as much as you can. If you are a morning person, your day does not have to begin with email!

For those days when it’s just hard to stay in your seat, set a timer for 25 minutes (as in the Pomodoro technique), stick to it and see if you can get in the flow of what you are doing.

Maybe you don’t have to keep to a 9-5 schedule. This one is a double-edged sword; if you opt for flexibility during the day, you could find yourself working more than you meant to on evenings and weekends. What’s the best fit for you and your business?

Human Contact

There’s just no substitute for face-to-face interactions whenever possible, and we take that very seriously when planning our projects. However, when it’s not feasible, it’s still really important to seek out points of human contact.
It’s way more fun (and often faster) to call a colleague or client instead of typing yet another email, especially someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.

We’ve set up coworking spaces around the country for regional colleagues to frequently work face-to-face.
Video chat! Ahem, OK, I’m not exactly jumping on the bandwagon here, but I think 2014 will be the year we make video chats and meetings part of everyday business. Guess I’ll have to straighten up my office (or maybe get a folding screen!)

What are your tips for working remotely?

Tricia Fitzgerald

About Tricia Fitzgerald

In addition to her consulting work, Tricia manages the development of Heller’s services and the consulting team’s knowledge resources. Tricia has been working in development since 1996, serving in a development operations capacity in healthcare philanthropy before joining Heller Consulting in 2001. Tricia has a number of specialties, including needs analysis and software selection, designing training curricula and materials, and streamlining operations for Heller Consulting clients. She enjoys helping nonprofits find ways to improve reporting and financial reconciliation. Tricia earned her bachelor’s degree from UC Davis, and a certificate from ASTD in Designing Synchronous Learning.

8 comments

  1. Here’s another great take on working from home via Thrillist specifically on eating habits. I am definitely known to have a few spoonfuls of almond butter instead of a proper afternoon snack. http://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/shameful-eating-habits-working-from-home-foods-thrillist-nation

  2. Bryan Giese

    The to-do lists are key for me. I tend to multitask and having a check list helps me make sure I get them done. I like to mix up where I work and get lots of different environments, so I don’t worry about distractions so much, but I’m a slave to my lists. I’ll even put ‘Make Checklist’ on my todo list just for the joy of checking it off.

  3. +1 on the human contact – it keeps you grounded in reality! I’d also like to add the (obvious) remove distractions. What is a distraction? Could be different for each person, such as a dog or cat that might be soothing to some may drive others crazy. Background radio, TV, or even significant others can all add or detract – adjust accordingly!

  4. I second the standing desk. 🙂 I agree that having a dedicated space (even if just a corner) is useful. If I don’t have a single “space” then it is too easy to work at all hours of the day/night!

  5. Cynthia Coleman

    I love going into the coworking space we use in Austin. Its great to be around other people at least a couple of days a week.

    Another way I fine-tune my day when working from home is by setting alarms for myself and/or block time on my calendar to actually take snack, lunch and stretch breaks. Without those I tend to work all the way through the day without breaks which leaves me feeling exhausted!

  6. Sarah Gray

    On the days I don’t commute into our Oakland office, I go to a coworking spot a couple of miles from my home. It’s a great way for me to continue the feel of the office routine without the 1.5-2 hours commuting takes out of my work day.

  7. Great advice! I love the 1-3-3-1 model. I think I’ll try that myself.

  8. Great tips Tricia!

    I am definitely a planner and make daily and weekly to-do lists that help keep me on track and ahead of schedule.

    I would also add that having a dedicated work area is key when you work from home. I turned a corner of our apartment into my office and added a standing desk – which I would recommend to anyone who works at home (or in an office).

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