In the interest of transparency, I was more than skeptical when the opportunity to work from home was first proposed to me. As a designer, optimum productivity is fundamental and I couldn’t imagine a scenario where I could “bang out” work while surrounded by all of home’s creature comforts and distractions. When the time came to head east to begin my new life, I distinctly recall thinking, “I’ll be lucky if I still have this job next year.”
As luck would have it, I’m more dexterous than I’d given myself credit. Adapting to my home office wasn’t immediate; several months in, skepticism still prevailed. But with the help of today’s modern digital conveniences and a few small modifications to my routine, I was able to not only persevere, but nurture both my productivity and creativity. Now, nine years later, I can truly say that I’m a better designer for it, and I think my boss and coworkers would agree.
Tip #1: Carve it Out
Outfit a designated space that can accommodate anything and everything your profession requires – from ergonomic desk chair to finely sharpened X-ACTO knife – in a place that offers the most cushion from noise and other daily household distractions. A laptop at your kitchen table may keep you in working order but it is hardly conducive to maximum productivity. Forty-seven minutes in, you just may find yourself elbow-deep in a sink full of dirty breakfast dishes instead of skillfully kerning that type to perfection. Literally stepping into and, subsequently, out of a well-appointed office each day will help you transition from life space to work space and back again.
Tip #2: Keep it Real
Are your company’s hours from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.? Do you normally break for a lunch- or gym- or whatever-it-is-that-you-do-run at noon? Then your remote work schedule should be no different. This isn’t meant to be uncompromising, but I stand by it as a rule of thumb. At times household tasks can feel more pressing than business ones, and without anyone looking over your shoulder, it’s tempting to delay work until “later.” Access to a fully outfitted office day and night is convenient, but taking advantage of it too often has its costs. Staying focused and productive during regular business hours will allow you to rest easy come close of business, because your workday was truly a work day. Your coworkers and family will also appreciate you much more if they know when to find you!
Tip #3: Stay Connected
There is little doubt that working from home can offer the environment needed for deep thinking, but it can be a hindrance to communication. Some may consider it a disadvantage that you are no longer just a shoulder tap or “Hey, Jessica,” away, thus it is key you have the necessary tools in place to be (almost) as accessible as the next guy. Responding promptly to phone calls, emails and DMs, as well as being straightforward about any blips in your schedule, sends a clear message that you are also minding the daily grind, and that you are available to deliver in a pinch. Virtual meeting apps, as frustrating as the technology can be, are the most efficient alternatives to face-to-face communication and are imperative to reminding everyone that you are a viable member of the team.
Don’t forget how important connecting on a deeper level with your colleagues is. Scheduling regular office visits and occasionally sending someone a “how you doin’” DM can help foster those personal relationships.
Tip #4: Live a Little
As a self-diagnosed homebody and borderline recluse, I can attest to the fact that working from home can be isolating, and I really struggle with this one. No impromptu espresso chats, conference room brainstorming or Friday afternoon happy hour excursions happening here. Connecting outside your home regularly with friends, family, other professionals, any human for that matter, can help quash the silence. Look into attending industry-related meetups, classes or conferences nearby. Move your office to the coffeehouse for the day. Stream NPR. Play that funky music loud. Be open to shaking things up. Monotony is no friend to growth and creativity.
Give this girl a few pups, some good music, a glass of wine and a sunny day and you’ve got a happy Art Director. Dixie lives in the Chicago suburbs with her son and at least one dog at all times. Her design work is magic because she's chockful of Dixie dust.