Virtual Office Featured Article

6 Tips for Working Remotely Around Family and Friends

October 20, 2015
By Drew Hendricks

Balancing work life and home life is a tricky business, especially if you work in your home. With more and more people choosing remote careers, this problem is becoming increasingly relevant. But even though fewer people are commuting to offices now, it’s still difficult for the friends and families of remote workers to figure out exactly what it means for loved ones once they go remote.

Even though remote working offers a lot of perks like travel flexibility, freedom to set your own schedule, and no commute, it still doesn’t mean you are free to hang out with your friends and family all day. You still have to, well, work. The following six tips can help you figure out this tricky balancing act to make the most of your remote career.

1. Make your boundaries clear.

Even distractions of just 3 seconds have been shown to double the error rate of performing certain tasks. Therefore, you really want to do everything you can to minimize distractions. If you are working from home, it helps to have a separate working space that you can tell kids especially not to enter when the door is shut.

Besides physical boundaries, you’ll want to make your work hours clear for those around you, who might not get that working remotely still means you actually have to work a full day. Neighbors might ask you to sign for packages and friends might ask you to pick up kids, but these favors can mount up even though they seem small. Agreeing to one tiny thing can snowball into a day full of chores for other people.

To avoid this, you’ll want to make your working hours clear to your family and friends as well. You might be able to take advantage of your lack of a commute to pick the neighborhood kids up from soccer practice at 5 pm, but feel free to say no to any favors asked that fall during your working hours. It also helps to avoid taking personal calls that might turn into favor requests.

2. Adjust your schedule.

It’s tempting to keep your traditional nine-to-five hours, even as you transition from an office to a home work environment. After all, that is when your clients, colleagues, and team members are hard at work and available.

However, the beauty of working from home is that you don’t have to be so restrictive with your working hours. Take some time to think about the best remote working practices for you personally, but don’t forget to factor your family in.

If you have young kids for example, you might get the bulk of your work done during the day while they are at school, take a break once they return home for the evening, and then finish up and remaining small tasks after bedtime at night. You don’t need your colleagues to be available every minute you are working, so don’t restrict yourself to their set schedule. In fact, you might find you are even more productive when coworkers are offline.

3. Avoid multitasking.

At best, multitasking is ineffective; at worst, it is dangerous. It may be tempting to fold your laundry or wash your dishes while you are listening in on a work conference call, but if you choose this path, you probably won’t remember much of what was said on the call.

The main key to successful remote work is keeping your work life and your home life separate. You probably shouldn’t multitask when it comes to projects at work, but you definitely shouldn’t work simultaneously on both work and home tasks. This will only blur the line between work and home, which you want to keep very clear if you are working remotely around family and friends.

4. Create a working space.

A great way to avoid multitasking is to create a separate work space in your home where you can focus on nothing but work and avoid distractions. There are a number of tricks out there for creating the best home office, but in the end, you just want to make a space that allows you to separate work from home. Ideally, this space should be far away from a TV and any loud children.

Once you’ve established your working space, there are a number of little things you can do to help you focus on work while you’re in there. Cover your wall space with business related accessories, like to-do lists, work calendars, and motivational posters. Also make sure to close the door so you’re not staring at the pile of laundry that needs to be done or the dishes that need to be washed.

5. Try getting out of the house.

Working remotely doesn’t have to mean working from home. In fact, many remote workers choose to work from coffee shops, co-working spaces, or even on the beach while traveling the world. It’s important to determine what kind of environment you work best in and choose where to go from there.

Not everyone has the flexibility to work from anywhere in the world, especially if you have family responsibilities, but the remote working force is becoming increasingly young and helping to create a generation of digital nomads: people who take advantage of remote work possibilities to travel the world. A lot of places in the world are relatively cheap for this kind of lifestyle, and it never hurts your moral to turn your desk chair into a hammock on the beach.

Even if you do enjoy primarily working from home, it doesn’t hurt to get a change of scenery every once in awhile. Save your important work calls for your home office, but feel free to explore coffee shop or public library options for tasks like answering emails, writing memos, or catching up on relevant news.

6. Make the most of your breaks.

Everyone needs to take a break during the work day, so make the most of yours while you are working remotely. Instead of heading to the water cooler for a fifteen minute chat like you would in an office, you can schedule coffee with a friend, have a catch-up chat with your spouse, or throw the ball around with your kids. If you avoid spending your breaks on social media sites like Facebook (News - Alert) and Twitter, you can make the most of your time with your friends and family, and give your brain a better rest.

Even if your breaks are just 5 or 10 minutes every few hours, spending those breaks with those who are around you will prevent them from bothering you in the middle of quality work flow or an important call. When you work from home, your family and friends who are around will want to see you (and that’s a good thing). Just make sure you control what the timing of that is so you can actually get your work done.

Balancing work and home life is never easy, but it gets even harder as more and more people are starting to work from home. The main takeaways from this article should be to establish boundaries by trying to keep work and home as separate as possible. If you can establish firm boundaries, you’re well on your way to a successful remote work career, surrounded by your friends and family.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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