I've worked from home successfully for nearly 10 years: Here's how I save time and money

Natalie Zfat
Natalie Zfat runs a six-figure social media business out of her home.
Courtesy Natalie Zfat

Don't confuse presence with productivity. As a social media consultant who works from home, it's a phrase I have lived by for nearly a decade. 

Many U.S. businesses are preparing themselves for the potential spread of the coronavirus. Big names in tech like Apple, Facebook, and Google have all encouraged their employees to work from home. Your company may be following suit.

The shift to remote work can feel a bit overwhelming, especially for people who are accustomed to solely working on site somewhere. But in my experience, having run a six-figure business from my home office for the last 10 years, there is a significant opportunity to save money and increase your productivity when you work from home.

Here's what helps me stay on top of things. 

I remember I get three extra days each month

The average commute time to work is 27 minutes each way, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In New York City, where I live, it's even longer: 36 minutes. Multiply that figure by two and you're talking about over an hour in the car a day, five hours in the car per week.

That's almost three full work days spent in your car at the end of the month. Working from home alleviates all of this by eliminating that commute time and the stress that comes with it.

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When you work for yourself, the best gift you can give yourself is the gift of time. With the extra time and money I save not getting ready or commuting in the morning, I plan. 

Working from home can mean your day starts as soon as you wake up. One of the first things I do when I sit at my desk each morning is type up my daily agenda, often broken up in hourly chunks, with each task on my list next to the corresponding time I'll be doing it. As my business coach Nancy Snell likes to say: "Nothing should ever go on your to-do list without a time and date to do it."

On the money side of things, the average cost of office space in New York City can range from $400/month for a roving desk at a co-working office to $5,000/month for a dedicated work space. With this money in my pocket, I can invest more in my business, from upgrading our conference call technology to bumping up employee bonuses at the end of the year.

And if you're structuring your business to operate without a physical office, allowing your employees to work from home can save your company money on things like utilities and office supplies, to the tune of $2,000 per employee.

I use breaks to increase productivity

One way I ensure productivity, and reduce stress, is by giving myself breaks.

It's no secret that breaks are good for business, but when you work from home, taking care of yourself, both physically and mentally, is crucial. I like to give myself a few 15-minute chunks each day to go for a walk, water my plants, call my grandma. I also sit down for lunch.

When you don't have to spend time getting ready in the morning, or hours sitting in the car or on public transit, it can be easier to have time for the breaks that let you be productive — and positive.

When you work from home, taking care of yourself, both physically and mentally, is crucial.
Natalie Zfat
Social media entrepreneur

A two-year study by Stanford University that was published in 2013 found that employees who work from home are 13% more productive than those who work from an office. And it makes sense: We've all sat in meetings that could have been emails, and gotten distracted by water cooler gossip about "The Bachelor."

The Stanford study also found that people who work from home often take fewer sick days, take shorter breaks, and require less vacation days than their in-office counterparts. Not to mention: Employees who work from home have a 50% less attrition rate.

I 'close the door' at the end of the day

It's true that with technology platforms like Zoom, Asana, and BlueJeans, great work and effective communication are now possible from anywhere in the world. Having a technology ecosystem and some decent lighting ensures maximum productivity, while looking as professional as you would in-house. But it can also make it feel like you are always on the clock. 

And if you've never worked from home before, feeling on call all the time can lead to burnout. I've found that there are three key strategies you can implement to stay productive and still carve out time for yourself. 

  1. Stick to a schedule. Start and end your day around the same time each day, and don't forget to build in 15-minute breaks to walk away from your desk, the way you would venture to the vending machine when you were in a traditional office.
  2. Create a dedicated work space. Ideally, this work space is one you can "close the door" on after a day's work. The last thing you want to do is see paperwork on your dining table, and start thinking about work, during a relaxing dinner.
  3. Build boundaries of when you will be, and won't be, working. When your home becomes your workplace, setting limits is essential.

It can be stressful to shift your work routine. But the coming weeks and months can serve as an opportunity to reimagine what is possible when we work from home, as many traditional, in-office workers experience remote work for the first time. I have a feeling we will all very quickly agree: We're not phoning it in.

Natalie Zfat is a social media entrepreneur and keynote speaker who has partnered with some of the most iconic brands in the world, including Facebook, Samsung, LinkedIn, and CNBC. Zfat's beloved social media community of 100K+ followers are dreamers, doers, and entrepreneurs, from college students to CEOs. This year, WeWork honored Zfat for having "cracked the code of the freelance economy."

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