I’ve worked 100% remotely for more than four years now. While I’ve worked from a variety of locations and I’ve moved several times, I’ve primarily spent my time working from a home office.
One of my first home offices was a small Toronto apartment where the location of my desk was a terrarium at the edge of the apartment and if I looked to the right I could see my bed while I was working.
It was in that tiny apartment that I realized even though I had very little room, it was important for me to have physical separation from the spaces where I was working and the spaces where I was relaxing. This realization is why I developed a set of remote work rules for myself, to help maintain that separation between work and relaxation happening under the same roof.
These have worked really well for me over the years and I personally find routine and structure really good for my overall productivity and motivation.
I do, however, want to make it clear that I’m not saying these rules should apply to all people who work remotely. These are rules that I’ve created for myself because they work for me. They might not work for you, and that’s totally fine. I know plenty of people that these rules don’t work for.
I’m sharing my experience in case any of these can be of benefit to other remote workers or people who are newly transitioning to remote work and still figuring out their system.
1. Work from designated workspaces
I never work from bed and I’ve rarely worked from the kitchen or the living room. I do this to keep a physical separation between the places where I’m working and the places where I’m relaxing.
I have my office set up so that I have a second place to sit that is not my desk while I work so if I’m feeling restless I’ll change to my other chair or I’ll go for a walk.
People have told me that even if they aren’t able to have a dedicated office in their home, they choose a side of their dining room table that is for work, and another side for eating and that separation works for them.
2. Default to not answering the door
If it looks like there’s a solicitor at the door I don’t go downstairs. It was hard to break the habit of going to answer the door every time the doorbell rang but since I’m at work and we used to get a lot of solicitors in our old neigbourhood, it became necessary.
We have a security camera on our front door so I’ll check the camera to see if a delivery worker is waiting around for me to sign for a package and that’s pretty much the only reason I’ll answer the door. If I’m in a call when the doorbell rings or in really focused work, I don’t worry about this at all.
3. Limit times for doing house chores
Being at home doesn’t mean I can spend all of my time cleaning my house or working on house projects. This is a common misconception I hear from people who haven’t worked from home before and assume it must be great for getting housework done. 😅
In all honesty, it would be very difficult to spend a ton of time on house projects and work projects at the same time.
The main priority for me on weekdays is making sure the kitchen is clean so that it isn’t distracting when I go downstairs multiple times a day to refill on tea and water. The kitchen cleaning generally gets done the night before after dinner or in the morning before work.
If there is something in the kitchen or elsewhere that really needs to be dealt with, I’ll do it on my lunch break and not interrupt the blocks of time that I have for work.
Of course, some things are unavoidable. I work with a lot of pets around me and unfortunately, I’ve had to clean up vomit in the middle of the day. But that’s not predictable so I keep focused on what I can control, which is keeping the kitchen distraction-free.
4. Set boundaries around work times
This has become easier since I’ve started living with someone who has a traditional job where he leaves home every day to go to work.
I try to start my day when my husband leaves the house, take my lunch break when he comes home, and end my day when he comes home. (This last one doesn’t always work out because he sometimes gets off of work much earlier than me.)
My regular hours end up being between 8:30 am and 6:00 pm. Sometimes, I start a little later in the day or end a little earlier, but those are generally the times I stick to.
This has been a huge help for me as people who work remotely know it can be difficult to have hard stop times. It’s much easier with another person to help keep me accountable.
5. Get dressed every day
A lot of people make jokes that because I work from home I must be in pajamas all day, and while I’m definitely not sitting at home in business clothes, I’m also not in PJs.
I wear almost the same thing every day. A set of ADAY pants that I’ve had for years and are extremely comfortable, and a Buffer t-shirt. For meetings and video calls, I have an array of blouses and nicer shirts that I’ll change into sometimes.
The consistency of getting dressed every day helps me because even though I’m working in very comfy clothes, these aren’t the same clothes that I slept in. So there’s that routine of getting up and getting dressed.
6. No TV during the day
I know some people like to have TV and movies on while they work and to each their own. That would definitely not work for me because I’d get distracted by the movie or TV show (even if I’ve seen it before) and I’m such a creature of habit that once I started adding that to my routine I would need to do it all the time. I know this about myself and so I avoid doing things that I don’t want as a part of my routine.
That’s it for the rules I live by when it comes to working from home. I think most people have their own version of this if they work remotely, I’d love to hear yours! Leave a comment or send me a tweet.