Working From Home

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A few of my post-college jobs have allowed for me to work out of the office occasionally, and I’ve always thought I was pretty good at working from home. (I’m self-motivated, not distracted by the TV, try to keep regular working hours, etc.) But this is the first time that I simply don’t have an office to go to, even if I wanted to. Big difference! While there are a whole lot of perks, it can be extremely challenging in ways you might not think of. Over the last few weeks that I’ve been in Chicago, I’ve been figuring out what works best for me so I figured I’d share a few tips and tricks for my girls that work from home, too!

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1. Get moving! Kind of a long story here, but I’ve started taking a walk in the AM before I start work and it’s been so helpful. I’ve been kind of nutty about “getting in my steps” each day for the last year or two. My Jawbone band actually broke back in early May, which was right after the whole eviction notice thing. I got busy with the move and I guess I forgot to replace my band. Once I moved to Chicago in July, my new photographer, Melissa, was wearing the new Jawbone band and I decided to pick one up. I’m so glad that I did! I live in a pretty central location and haven’t bought a car yet, so I walk a lot. Or, at least I thought I was walking a lot! Once I got my new band, I realized I was rarely hitting my 11,000 step goal each day with my regular trips to the gym, grocery store, etc. With this revelation, I stumbled upon a little tip that’s been so beneficial with my productivity — go for a walk in the morning! When you’re commuting to an office, you either walk to public transportation, walk to work, or at the very least, walk to your car. Getting out of the house in the morning makes me feel so much more refreshed when I get back to my desk. If I had a dog to walk (wishful thinking), this would be a no brainer. And I actually make coffee at home, so coffee runs aren’t really an option for me in the morning either. So I’ve just started wandering in the morning once I get up! I usually take my coffee with me to go as I walk around and explore the neighborhood. The fresh air wakes me up, and I get in a good chunk of my steps for the day with my 20-30 minute walk each morning. Seriously, it’s a game changer! (Plus, it kind of forces you to change out of pajamas, which brings me to my next point…)

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2. Change out of the clothes you slept in! Even if you aren’t showering, and even if you’re putting on workout clothes, at least change out of your pajamas. When I’m working at home, I’m usually in comfortable jeans and a tee shirt. While I’m by no means dressed up, having real pants on makes me feel a little bit more put together than lululemon. 😉

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3. Have caffeine and your other beverages of choice on hand! When I worked at an office, there was an endless supply of bottled water, sparkling water, diet coke, coffee, and tea in the kitchen refrigerator. Sometimes you just need to step away from your desk for a few moments, and I’d always find myself wandering to the kitchen to get a drink. Not much has changed now that I’m working from home! I keep my refrigerator stocked with my favorite drinks at all times — Bottled Water, La Croix, and Green Juices. And rosé for when times get tough… Kidding, kind of. 😉 I also keep a variety of coffee and flavored teas on hand for a little caffeine boost. Right now, I’m loving the Café Bustelo Cool cans, that are already mixed with milk. When I’m out of those, though, I just make my own with Keurig K-Cups and almond milk. (FYI — I get my bottled water delivered so I don’t have to carry it from the store. It’s the same price. Total game changer! I started doing this in New York via Poland Spring and now the same company is called Ice Mountain in Chicago. I drink so much more water now, it’s so easy to just grab a bottle on the way out the door, and you’re basically guaranteed to not run out.)

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4. Take advantage of having different hours than most! The other day, I found myself at Whole Foods right around 6pm and quickly regretted it. If your employer allows you flexibility when it comes to the exact hours you’re at your computer, run your errands or hit the gym during the day. You’ll actually save time since you’re avoiding the crowds! I try to keep regular working hours and will still workout before or after work most days, but some days, I take my “lunch break” right in the middle of the day and get out of the house for a few hours. Whether it’s taking a spin class, running to the dry cleaner, or even popping in to J.Crew, it’s nice to not have to battle any crowds.

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5. Set up a dedicated work space! Right now, my work space is both my couch and my kitchen counter. You can see my old lucite desk from New York in the picture above, and you can see that it’s just covered in a pile of notebooks, folders, cameras, and computers. That “desk” is actually a console table and it’s just not big enough to actually work out. Maybe I’m just a messy worker and need more space, but it’s simply not working for me anymore. Now that I have the space, I ordered a nice big desk back in July, but naturally, it’s on backorder. (Cross your fingers that it comes soon!!) It’s so important to have a dedicated work space that both inspires and motivates you to get work done!

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6. Have a go-to spot when you just need to get out! Believe me, if anyone knows the feeling of needing to get out of your apartment, it’s this girl. Living and working from my 300-sq-ft-studio in New York for the last few months I was there was enough to make anyone claustrophobic. Sometimes you just need a change of scenery! In New York, I had plenty of cafés, coffee shops, and hotel lobbies that I loved to work from. I’m still trying to find my spots here in Chicago though. (If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments below!)

Café Bustelo is actually popping up in Chicago for a few days this weekend and I’m so looking forward to working from there later today and hopefully tomorrow, too. Including details below if you’re in the area! — Free coffee, free wifi, and a fun environment… Can’t beat it!

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7. Set up work dates or make plans after work! There have been some days where I am plugging away at my computer and realize that I haven’t talked to anyone besides my doorman in the last eight hours. Granted, those types of days are rare, as I usually have calls or meetings throughout the day, but they do happen! I’m lucky to have a few friends in Chicago that also primarily work from home and depending on the week, we will work from one of our apartments or a café if we can swing it. It’s just so nice to have other humans to interact with! I know that sounds kind of crazy, and I wouldn’t say that I feel lonely working from home, but I just go kind of stir crazy and want to be social! Whether it’s meeting a girlfriend for a workout class, going on a date, or grabbing coffee or a drink with a friend, make plans after work if you won’t be seeing anyone all day. It makes a world of a difference! (Or if all else fails, call your mom. I think I talk to my mom on the phone probably 2-3 different times per day. Thanks for listening to me babble, Mom. xo)

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Any tips or tricks I’m missing?! Would love to hear your thoughts if you ever have to work from home!

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Created in partnership with Café Bustelo

Leave a Comment

34 Comments

  1. 9.10.15
    Natali commented:

    Great and constructive post! I loved all of the tips and am using most of them myself too.

    http://lartoffashion.com

  2. 9.10.15
    Preeti commented:

    i work from home and totally agree with these tips! i always try and change and have plenty of beverages on hand! i do know the struggle of not leaving the house for 3 straight days, though!

    xoxo, Preeti
    http://www.ninesto5.com

  3. 9.10.15
    Amanda Adam commented:

    These are great posts. One thing about working from home is that it is so easy to turn on the netflix and not realize what time it is. Changing your clothes helps, for sure. It tells your mind and body you are ready to take on the day.

    http://trailofsprinkles.blogspot.ca

  4. 9.10.15
    Jill commented:

    May I ask what sort of work you do from home? I would love to work from home but I know myself. The TV would be calling my name lol. So glad you are loving Chicago. Best city ever!

  5. 9.10.15
    Meagan commented:

    Thanks for the tips! I am terrible at working at home — I have to go to my office.
    -Meg
    http://www.smalltownsisters.blogspot.com

  6. 9.10.15
    Emily commented:

    Chicago’s tap water is so good I wouldn’t mess with buying water! I do love going for walks exploring the neighborhoods. I’m in Ukrainian Village and walking distance to West Loop so I do a lot of exploring and thanks to the grid, you can take so many different routes.

  7. 9.10.15
    Emily commented:

    I work from home occasionally and it is so nice to get some advice! I work from the couch and really need a dedicated work space! I seem to turn on the Today show and somehow never pull myself from the couch until it is over! I know changing clothes would help. Trying that when I tele-work soon!

    Emily
    http://www.deltachic.com

  8. 9.10.15
    Denise commented:

    I work from home and am currently going to school full time! I love these post, because I am the worst at time management! Ill have to try some of these!

  9. 9.10.15
    cassandra commented:

    Love this! I also sometimes can struggle staying productive when I work from home and I think your advice on taking a walk and keep regular work hours is what has been super helpful for me as well! Glad your enjoying Chicago! Oh, a bunch of my mastermind ladies are in that area + love SoHo House to work out of!

  10. 9.10.15
    Lacey commented:

    Great tips Jess! Having worked from home before, I can say it’s not as easy as it seems, but it can really pay off if you find a routine that works for you!

    xo Lacey
    http://www.myboringcloset.com

  11. 9.10.15
    Sarah Blodgett commented:

    Great advice!! One of my favorite parts of working from home is getting to run errands when places aren’t busy… when I don’t I always regret it too 🙂
    Kisses,
    Sarah
    EverydayStarlet

  12. 9.10.15
    Jessica commented:

    I work from home 2 days a week so this post is so helpful for me!

  13. 9.10.15
    Carrie commented:

    These are great tips! As a fellow work-from-home freelancers, I totally get it.

    One thing I’ve found – it’s very difficult for me to work at cafes and Starbucks, there are way too many distractions. I recently started going to the local library and it’s perfect. It’s quiet, there’s free wifi, and tons of resources if I need to do some research 😉

  14. 9.10.15

    A great post of even better tips! I love the getting up and taking a walk tip. I’m going to start doing that!

    Xx Taylor
    http://lightscameracatwalk.com/

  15. 9.10.15
    lauren commented:

    great post! i work from home too and i was wondering what type of chair you’re planning on purchasing once your desk arrives. i’m struggling with fashion vs function: i want it to look good in my apartment (since everyone will see it) but i also want to be comfortable (since i’m sitting in it for 8 hours everyday!).

  16. 9.10.15
    Jessica commented:

    I keep saying I’m going to start doing long morning walks and never do. I find some sort of reason to head straight to my desk to answer emails. I think they can wait 30 minutes!

    xo Jessica
    http://www.mystylevita.com

  17. 9.10.15
    Tai commented:

    It’s great to drink lots of water, but please consider using a reusable water bottle! Plastic ones are so incredibly wasteful, it’s hard to believe people still use them. Get a Brita and a cute water bottle (or a few!).

  18. 9.10.15

    Great tips! I’ve been working from home once a week for the past few years, and will soon be adding more days at home. I take advantage and am super lazy for my one day a week, but now I have to work on being more productive! I’ll definitely be keeping these in mind (also, great pictures by Hallie! Loved seeing “behind the scenes” on snapchat!)

  19. 9.10.15
    Lulu commented:

    Changing out of pajamas is so key. Without that it’s bed all day everyday! Thanks for such a real post! So helpful!

  20. 9.10.15

    Great tips! I just started working from home full time and find these very useful!

    Her Heartland Soul
    http://herheartlandsoul.com

  21. 9.10.15
    Sarah Lynn commented:

    Great tips Jess!
    Personally, I find working from home tough, I get so distracted by all the little things next thing I know I’ve accomplished nothing. For me, my favourite workplace is the library (nerd alert) but I find I get the most done there and makes me feel like a college kid again!
    Sarah Lynn
    http://www.wanderbeforewhat.com

  22. 9.10.15
    Sara commented:

    My two take- aways to offer are to be mindful of meals & snacking to avoid weight gain which can be so easy when working from home during Midwest winters.

    And if you work for an employer rather than your own business make sure to keep engaged regularly with your employer to
    keep top of mind with them either by meeting in person or via electronic means or by creating a weekly summary of accomplishments, challenges & overall workload since they don’t see you to know what you’re doing or how you are feeling about your work. AND don’t forget to turn everything off, computer, work phone etc at night otherwise you’ll find yourself working many more hours than if you worked in a traditional setting!

  23. 9.10.15
    Jessica commented:

    I spy and ABD mug! My fave! Thanks for these awesome tips!!

    Jessica
    http://www.wedressalright.com

  24. 9.10.15
    Bobbi commented:

    Love this post. I’ve worked from home for just over a year and have found all of the tips in your post to be effective keeping me productive.

    I also find it helpful to have music playing in the background instead of turning on the tv or sitting in complete silence. I can be distracted by tv and talk radio but streaming some zen spa-ish music is perfect.

    Thanks for the great post!

  25. 9.11.15
    Laura commented:

    this is super helpful! My job contract just ended and I’m on day 3 of being home and I’m kind of going crazy already!

  26. 9.12.15
    Debra commented:

    Your lovely, nice read! First I get up put on a mug of coffee, brush and out the door to walk w/friend 1 hr. Return SHOWER w/a bubbly scent by Philosophy,GET DRESSED comfy
    and start day NO TV,silence or music
    Phone collects messages. Break at 12 noon 1/2 hr. back again to work on computer till 4:30PM.Days I work for elder,this is same only head out then back to continue.M-F Sat stuff & sundays for ME & sleep in later.

  27. 9.15.15
    Kay commented:

    Coffee shops to try out:
    -Robust in River North (ontario and kingsbury)
    -City Grounds in Lincoln Park (Dickens and Lincoln)
    My two faves for getting sh*t done! City grounds has an upstairs that’s usually nice and quiet.

  28. 9.28.15
    Sella commented:

    Hi Jessica,
    your tips are great and they do cater to the single/young life style crowd. I am a 34 year old CPA that works from home. I have a kindergartner, and an 18 month old. I cook 3 times a day, and barely have time for anything else. What tips would you give to someone like me, in terms of getting all this done in style? 🙂 thanks.

    • 9.29.15
      Jessica Sturdy commented:

      Hi Sella, thanks for your comment! Yes, the things that work for me definitely cater to my lifestyle — single, no children, self-employed, and living an urban lifestyle. Honestly, I can’t relate to having two young children and balancing a career at the same time. So much respect! My haven’t-been-in-your-shoes advice would simply be to do the best that you can. Get dressed in a cute outfit that makes you feel confident each morning!