Working from Home? Put Away the PJs

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| May 25, 2007

Many, if not most, freelance designers work from home to save on overhead costs. Even designers who work for agencies or larger companies may get the option to work remotely. If you tell someone you work from home, you typically get the response, “You get to hang out in your pajamas all day!” Or occasionally, “Wow, I could never be disciplined enough for that.”

Discipline can be tough when you’re working from home, but there are some ways you can make it a pleasant and productive experience. And it all starts with your pajamas…

1) Don’t stay in your PJs all day. Seriously. Tempting as it may be to wear your bunny slippers at your desk, you will have a far more productive day of work if you get up, shower, and get dressed in regular clothes. Why is this? I think it comes from the association between pajamas and relaxing. Picture it: Your boss calls you Monday morning and asks you to send him the logo you just finished. If you’re in your pajamas, you are much more likely to resent this request, to feel put off by it, than to just happily send the logo along like you would if you were in an office.

2) Work “regular” hours. You may get to set your own hours if you’re a freelancer, but if give yourself a set schedule, you’re a lot more likely to be productive. Give yourself a block of time to devote solely to work. Forget about the dishes in the sink and the laundry that needs folding—if you wouldn’t do it in an office, don’t do it in your work block. And don’t make your work blocks longer than a typical office day, unless it’s really crunch time on a project. This is another thing that can lead to resentment of your project or client. If you find yourself working far more hours than a typical office worker, rethink the projects that you’re taking on or how you’re approaching them.

3) Go out to lunch. During your block of work time, try to take a reasonable break in the middle to leave the house. Lunch is a great excuse, but if you’d rather just eat at your desk, find some other reason to leave the house every day for at least half an hour. Sit in the park and read the newspaper, run some errands… just do something that gets you out of your house.

4) Stay social. Without coworkers to talk to and bounce ideas off of, you may feel like a bit of a hermit, and it takes more than email and IMs to break that lonely feeling. In addition to the socializing you do outside of work, try to do some work-related mingling as well. Attend conferences or workshops, or even take (or teach) classes at a local school. In addition to making you feel good socially, it helps you stay on top of your game and build your resume.

5) Get ergonomic. Home workstations tend to be makeshift: an old kitchen chair, a desk made from filing cabinets… take the time and the money to get yourself an ergonomically-correct work area, and your body will thank you. You may feel fine now, but years of working at a poorly-configured workstation can and will take its toll. The CDC has some great tips for workstation ergonomics:

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