You are a scientist. You run experiments in the lab, but also spend a lot of time analyzing data, writing, doing literature searches, writing, reading and did I say writing?
The good news: You can do some of your work from home.
The bad news: You can do some of your work from home.
Working from home can be a blessing. You can multi-task when one of your kids is home sick, or stay home and avoid the commute for a day. But taking your work home can also mean that you never get a break from work or you might find yourself working less efficiently at home.
There are some things you can do to make sure working from home works for you.
Here are some of my tips:
1. Set Yourself up for Success
It might seem like a good idea to just flop down on the couch with your laptop on your legs. But that might just be a recipe for a nap.
If you are serious about working from home, you need to make yourself a workspace. If you don’t have a dedicated home office, you can quickly set one up:
- Choose an out-of-the way area that doesn’t see a lot of household traffic.
- Set up an uncluttered table that has ample space.
- Put everything you need for work within reach.
- Set the mood – make sure you have adequate lighting and some music if it gets you in the work groove.
- If you need an internet connection, plan ahead and get it hooked up.
2. When You Are Stuck, Shake It up
A lot of time when you are working from home you are writing (I think I mentioned that before). And we all know that sometimes the words just won’t come.
If you don’t need to be at your house for a particular reason, then try moving to a new location. Sometimes a change of venue will help you work through a writer’s block.
Local libraries are great places to work if you like a quiet environment. Alternatively, free Wi-Fi is available in tons of coffee shops and stores. So if you can focus with noise in the background, grab some java and set up your computer.
3. Don’t Forget Breaks
Sometimes when I am working at home my eyes get really tired and my back and neck get stiff and sore. This doesn’t happen as often when I am working on the computer in the lab. And I think I have figured out why.
No, it’s not the chair.
When I work in the lab there are natural distractions that make me stop and take breaks. A lab mate might pop by with a question or I might stop to go to a seminar.
Small breaks are good for the mind and body. They wake up your brain and get the blood flowing. Be aware of how long you spend in a chair when you are working from home. Every half hour or so stand up and stretch, take some big breaths and walk around a bit. Or, take full advantage of working from home and take Fido for a quick walk (he’ll thank you for it).
4. Be Aware of “Multi-tasking”
It’s tempting when you work from home to try and get some household tasks done. And let’s be honest, it is one of the perks to working from home. Instead of spending time commuting, you can catch up on the laundry.
But make sure that you maintain a good balance of work vs. housework. A good way to limit the housework is to keep it confined to your regularly scheduled breaks. You can multi-task your multi-tasking!
5. Set Some Boundaries
If you are working from home, then be clear about it. Be just as serious about your time working from home as you are about your time in the lab. Make sure your family and friends know your work time is not the time for you to be running errands or babysitting. My kids know that when the doors are closed to my work area that mommy is “at work” and they need to find daddy for help.
6. Be Aware of Isolation
Try not to become a recluse if you work from home for an extended amount of time. It’s easy to get out of touch with the lab if you are home writing for days at a time.
Make sure you attend important lab meetings and seminars, or pop in to the lab once in a while to reconnect. Keep in touch with your PI and update him/her on your progress.
If you are writing, talk about it with your lab mates. Bouncing ideas off of them will help your writing and refocus your thinking.