How To: Actually Work When You Work From Home

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I’m lucky enough to have a job that can be done from pretty much anywhere, as long as I’ve got Internet access and a full keyboard. Thanks to this and Maine’s affinity for ice blizzards, I often have to work from home.

In a lot of ways, working from home is easier than working from my office. I cut out two hours of commute time, and I don’t have to cram my weird-shaped body into the same work slacks I’ve been wearing for the past three days. Not to mention that I can freely microwave fish without fear of the entire building quietly plotting my murder.

But this freedom comes with a caveat, which is how tempting it can be to slug out on the sofa with your laptop balanced precariously on your lap, half-browsing emails while your eyes flick intermittently up to Friends reruns.

So how do you combat the allure of distractions and make the most of your work-from-home time? Here’s what Jess and I agree works best.

1. Wake Up on Time

It can seem like a good idea to cocoon yourself up in your comforter and ignore the rest of the outside world for as long as your morning commute usually takes, but waking up on time and running through your morning routine is a surefire way to put your mind on a productive track. Plus, you won’t be in a rush, and it doesn’t really matter if your eyeliner matches since you don’t have to see anyone today.

2. Get Dressed (in Real Clothes)

Don’t eschew an actual outfit for a pajama bottoms. You don’t have to go the full nine and squeeze into a pantsuit and heels, but definitely make an effort to clothe yourself as an actual, functioning contributor to society. I always put on just a little makeup, too, since it makes me feel better and a bit more like the HBIC, but I’m not about to go so far as to suggest you do that too. Just pulling on pants and a non-stained top is good. … Bra optional.

3. Resist the Urge to Flip on the TV

When I’m home alone, I usually turn on the TV just so I have some background noise. When I’m working from home, though, this is a guaranteed way to make my productivity take a nosedive, since I only have Netflix and Hulu and I have to actually choose the show I want to watch. That means that I usually get caught up in whatever’s happening, even if it’s something as mind-numbing and plotless as KUWTK. (I just can’t help but care a little about Kourtney explaining her earth mother preferences in her emotionless ‘I have been dead inside since my fourth birthday’ tone.)

Try background music instead. I go for quiet classical music since my job consists entirely of writing, and I find that if any of the music I’m listening to has lyrics, I tend to write the lyrics into whatever I’m doing. It wasn’t fun explaining to a colleague why my sales copy suddenly veered into a very sentimental detailing of some castle on a hill

4. Have a Designated Work Space 

Setting up a Productivity Spot is a smart way to keep yourself in the business headspace. A desk will work, though even just setting up shop at your dining table or an island is good. I make a point not to move my computer from that spot the entire time I’m working as a way to ensure I don’t wander off and get distracted by the entire Internet. I also keep a bottle of water, a notepad, and a few pens close at hand, just in case someone from work calls and I need to jot something down quickly. (This doesn’t happen often. I’m not very important at work, certainly not important enough to jot, but a girl can dream.)

5. Pray to Whichever God You Believe in that Your Internet Doesn’t Fail

This has happened to me before, and I live in the middle of the Stephen King backwoods of Maine. That means when my internet fails, I have no phone service, either. It’s obviously out of your control, so should it happen, don’t panic. Or at least try not to panic. You’ll probably panic a little. That’s okay. Take a shot of your secret, watered-down ‘work from home’ Maker’s Mark to soothe your nerves.

(Just kidding, don’t drink while you’re working from home. At least not until 4 p.m.)

6. Stay Off of Social Media

Social media newsfeeds are black holes where the constraints and rationality of time and space are meaningless and entire hours pass in what feels like mere minutes. The only excuses for getting on social media while you’re working from home are if it’s your job to manage social media or you’re posting a picture of your cat being cute on Instagram. If it’s the second one, please send me your Insta handle. I would like to follow you.

Also, if you really do have trouble ignoring the siren call of social media distraction, there are a few apps out there that will block your access for a certain amount of time. A quick google search pulled up SelfControl for Mac and Cold Turkey for Windows. Happy boring workday!

7. If You’re Watching a Kid While You Work from Home, Expect Distractions

This might be the time to finally invest in the entire collection of Pixar movies.

… Or the time to break out that Maker’s Mark again. I don’t know your parenting style.



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