With COVID-19 introducing many of us to working from home for the first time, we sought out advice from the lived experience of a long-time, home-based entrepreneur. Kimberly Lyall (Business Administration 1996) has owned and operated her own speaking and consulting business exclusively from home for seven years. She also can be found often on campus or in the community teaching courses on leadership, management and change management for Corporate and Continuing Education.
When she first transitioned from an office job to a home office, she was shocked at how much more efficient her work could be in the distraction-free setting of her house. But being in the zone takes effort, communication and scheduling.
Here are her top five tips for working successfully at home:
- Have a designated office space, if possible with a door, and use that space only for work. When the door to her home office closes, it’s a message to her spouse that she is at work and can’t be disturbed. Make sure the office has the equipment needed to work remotely, like a good headset for video conferencing. If she’s on social media or surfing the internet for fun, she does it outside of her workspace.
- Communicate with other members of the household what the work expectations are and ensure they respect your need to work. It can be especially helpful to break down your schedule so they understand how long you will be working, and when you will be available to them either on breaks, or when your workday is finished. For example: "You'll be able to talk to me at 2:30 when I take a 15-minute break."
- Take breaks and if you need reminders, schedule them into your calendar. Be purposeful. A quick walk outside can help you stay focused when you return to your desk. If you want to put in a load of laundry because you’re at home, that’s fine, but do it during your scheduled break and make sure you’re back at work when your 10 or 15 minutes is up. Scheduled breaks might also help you avoid the temptation of over-snacking from the convenience of your own kitchen.
- Figure out what it is that puts you in a work mindset and use that to stay motivated and on task every day. For Kimberly, it’s her dedicated office space. As soon as she’s in the room, she gets into work mode. For others, it might be getting dressed for work – your armour for the day. Whatever helps you get into a work mindset is what you should do.
- As much as you need to schedule purposeful work time, you also need to schedule non-work time. When working on a project, it can be tempting to just keep working all hours just to get it done. Maintain limits so your work doesn’t overtake your home life or vice versa.