8 tips for working from home during the holidays

December 19, 2018 | Business Management
man working on computer

Don't let hectic holiday distractions get in the way of remote work.

I remember the first holiday season I spent working from home. My family hated it. People kept interrupting what I was doing. The days felt twice as long as usual, and I was getting half as much done. Distractions were everywhere. Travel was a nightmare.

As a kid, I never understood what could make Ebenezer Scrooge or the Grinch so curmudgeonly, so hostile against simple expressions of joy and togetherness. That first year as a self-employed adult, I identified with them. All that holiday cheer—the sleigh bells, the winter wonderlands, the chestnuts, the open fire, even the partridge in the pear tree—seemed like a cruel joke at my expense.

But I have to say it was better than the previous year—the year I got laid off a week before Christmas. That experience was what motivated me to set out on my own and become an independent contractor. I’d much rather spend the holidays working for myself than stressing over an uncertain financial future. And I imagine many agents in Liveops Nation who choose to work during this time of year feel the same way.

I now consider that first holiday season a pivotal learning experience. It helped me understand what does and doesn’t help minimize stress in the midst of an already chaotic time of year. In the interest of saving others from near-Grinchification, here are a few things I’ve learned about working from home during the holidays. Yes, my heart grew three sizes and yours can too!

8 secrets to staying focused during the holidays from your home office

1. Plan and shop in advance

The holidays are perhaps the worst time to wing the whole work-life balance thing. Don’t wait until the last minute to book flights, figure out accommodations, buy and wrap gifts, or arrange for child or pet care. I cannot overstate the utility of a to-do list—or several.

2. Communicate, negotiate and ask for what you need

However you plan to use the holiday season, whether you need more time with your family or more time at your desk, most people in your life are probably willing to support you—as long as they understand what you need. Share your schedule, goals, and intentions with your clients and supervisors, as well as your family, loved ones, and friends.

3. Take breaks more often than you might think you need to

Face it: working during the holidays is a little (or a lot) more difficult than usual. If you grew up in the United States or any culture that marks the end of December as its collective party season, you’ve been conditioned to expect some relaxation during this time of year. Don’t fight it too hard. Take frequent breaks, or your burned-out mind and body will take them for you.

4. Optimize your space—and close the door

The holidays bring families together, which is wonderful until it starts to interfere with your ability to work. If you’re hosting, your normal workspace may be cluttered, crowded, or unavailable. If you’re traveling, “home” could be an airport lounge, a train car, or your cousin’s guest room. In either case, make sure you have access to a quiet place with a wired internet connection and a door you can shut. 
As always, make sure you're space meets security best practices to avoid threats that could jeopardize your home business.

5. Take advantage of nights and mornings

Many people who take off during the holidays relish the chance to sleep in, giving the rest of us a valuable opportunity to get work done. The same holds true for nights and evenings when social gatherings draw others out of your space—and all that nog knocks them out early.

6. Celebrate on your own schedule

In contrast to most professions, which wind down during the holidays, customer service and support work only ramps up. That doesn’t mean you can never celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Thanksgiving, Diwali, New Year’s Day, or any of the other festivals, feasts, and traditions that traditionally take place between late October and early January. Just commemorate them before or after everyone else does. You may even save some money in the offseason. (Or, better yet, create your own holiday.)

7. Be flexible and ready for unexpected downtime

With the holidays can come blizzards and other severe weather that can causes delays and disruptions. And regardless of weather, social functions may last longer than expected, plans may change, and commitments may require extra time and energy. Some days, you might not be able to work when and for as long as you initially planned to. Try your best, go with the flow, and don’t sweat the small stuff. There’s always tomorrow.

8. Remember: You can choose which Scrooge you become

Ultimately, working for yourself is about learning how to be a good boss. Treat yourself the way you would treat an employee. Keep yourself engaged, happy, well-fed, and well-rested. If you’re feeling tired, overworked, or overwhelmed, give yourself some time off. When you feel like Scrooge or the Grinch, remind yourself of the kind, free, and open-hearted people they ended up becoming.

Are you working from home this holiday season? Share your tips and stories with our agent community!

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Matt Lurie

Matt Lurie is a freelance writer, editor, and designer. He has worked in industries such as retail, marketing, accounting, real estate, legal services, and technology, with a focus on helping pioneering and transformative brands tell their stories.