It doesn’t matter if you have a remote job, are studying or are a digital nomad working from home can be great on so many levels but you can quickly develop bad habits if you don’t stay focused. Trying to manage work around your bad habits can turn it into a real slog. To make working from home workable over the long term it is important to set some boundaries and develop good habits right from the get-go. 

working from home
To make working from home workable over the long term it is important to set some boundaries and rules for yourself right from the get-go.

You need to slide yourself into some kind of routine that works for you. For most people, it takes time to figure out what really works for you (and your family) so don’t be in a hurry to set hard and fast rules. I know some people who get up super early work for two hours and then take an hour to get ready for the day. By lunchtime, they are done. I know others who are slow to get up and going and don’t start working until mid-morning. Everyone is different and part of the joy of working from home is you get to make your own schedule. 

There is no right or wrong way and no one can tell you what will work best for you. Take a few weeks to figure it out. Focus on what you are doing each day. Keep a log if you need to. Assess at the end of each day how productive you felt you were and why. After a few weeks, you should see patterns developing and be able to figure out what routine works for you. Like everything, it is a balancing act and some weeks it will be easier to say focused than others but keep in mind the big picture and make tweaks when you think you need to. 

Here are our top 5 tips for working from home to get you in the work zone and keeping you there. 

1. Get dressed

One of the perks of working from home is being able to keep your own schedule and manage your time as you like. That can often require more discipline than going into an office and spending the day at a traditional workplace. Getting dressed helps you find some of that discipline. You don’t necessarily have to pop right out of bed, shower, dress and get to work but you need to fit it into your schedule at some point (preferably in the morning). You might prefer to work for a couple of hours, then get showered and dressed.

Having a regular routine helps keep you actually working and on task. Just as you would have office routines in a traditional work environment you need office routines in your home environment. This helps you to separate out your work time from all your other time. Without some simple routines, you can end up feeling like you are working all the time even if in reality you are not. 

2. No drop-ins

Don’t let your friends and family stop by during your work time. If you don’t set boundaries you can very quickly end up with a very full dance card and a very empty time card! Meet people out of your workspace for lunch or a morning coffee. Getting out of the house helps break up your day. Most people in offices get out for a break at least once a day so there is no reason why you can’t too. 


3. Create an appealing workspace

A home office is obviously ideal but it is only going to work if you like the room and enjoy being there. There is no point setting up an office in a dark room at the back of the house that you don’t like being in. You don’t need a home office but you do need a space and some kind of setup that works for you. If you want to work on the dining room table then go for it but make sure you have a designated space to clear everything away to once you are done working. 

Create an appealing workspace

4. Enjoy your flexibility

Don’t feel confined to a rigid routine. Part of the appeal of working from home is flexibility and although for most people you do need a routine to be successful it doesn’t have to be set in stone. When you are figuring out what works best for you over a week, or a month, figure in some time to give you flexibility – allow for the odd personal appointment, mental health break, school concert, stroll on a beautiful day. 

Some people also mix it up a bit and when they need a change of scenery head to a shared working space to work. Shared or co-working spaces, as they are sometimes called, can be a great way to mix things up and change your routine a bit. They are available in most big cities but are now popping up in smaller cities and towns.


5. Stay out of the kitchen cupboards

Try not to snack when you are looking for a distraction or taking a break and definitely do not bring snacks or meals to your workspace. It is easy to wonder to the kitchen when you need a quick break or are thinking a few things over but don’t. It can quickly turn into a habit that is hard to break that will affect your productivity and your waistline. 

Working from home can be fantastic and more productive than going to an office every day. Work towards instilling a workable routine that will allow you to be as productive as possible.  Don’t be afraid to try out different ideas and schedules before you settle on what works best for you.

Rachel Nelson is a New Zealand expat who has lived and worked in the US, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the UAE, Qatar and Germany.