When you're used to driving to the office every day, sitting through long meetings, and sharing a community microwave, working from home can sound pretty darn good.
It's a nice option to have, but working from home takes a special kind of discipline and flexibility. This is especially true if your spouse is also working from home or if your kids are out of school. If you're new to home-office life, here are a few tips to help it go smoothly.
Eat and drink—the right stuff at the right time
It's easy to get caught up in work and forget to eat or stay hydrated during the day. It's also easy to take too many trips to the kitchen for snacks and overdo it on the potato chips. Try to stick to your usual mealtimes, and stock up on healthy food to resist the temptation to snack all day.
Build in exercise
Working from home means you're out of your regular routine. You're not moving around your office or stopping at the gym on your way home. Make exercise a part of your new routine. Schedule it on your calendar or set a reminder on your phone. There are tons of ways to get in a workout from home—especially now, since a number of gyms and fitness experts have put their workouts online for free.
Be one with the mute button
It might be cute to hear the dog or kids in the background of a call—once, but don't make a habit of it. Even small noises, like ruffling papers, can be amplified over a cell phone. Get used to hitting mute when you're on calls from home to eliminate the background noise and embarrassing interruptions.
Designate a work-only space
This may be easier said than done. In some homes, there just isn't space for a dedicated home office or even a bedroom with a door you can close. Do what you can to find a private space you can make your own while you're working from home. It can increase productivity, and it also allows you to separate work from your personal life.
Make a schedule
"Set a schedule, and stick to it...most of the time," said PCMag. "Clear guidelines for when to work and when to call it a day helps many remote workers maintain work-life balance. That said, one of the benefits of remote work is flexibility, and sometimes you need to extend your day or start early to accommodate someone else's time zone. When you do, be sure to wrap up earlier than usual or sleep in a bit the next morning to make up for it."
Working from home can feel isolating, especially if you get energy from your regular workspace and colleagues. "One undeniable loss is the social, casual ‘water cooler' conversation that connects us to people," said NPR. "To fill the gap, some co-workers are scheduling online social time to have conversations with no agenda." Use chat and video apps if you miss real-time interaction.
"Mattress Money" and Mortgages
While it might not literally be stashed under your mattress, "mattress money" is a catchall term to describe money saved without a documented paper trail. The money could come from selling a car, a small inheritance, or an outright gift. One might assume that cash is cash, but when it comes to real estate transactions, it's important to understand that the way you save your money is nearly as important as having it in the first place.
One of the most important things lenders look at when evaluating a home loan application is how much money is available for the transaction. You need to be able to prove you'll be able to cover the down payment, closing costs, and cash reserve requirement. This verification is done by reviewing recent copies of bank statements, and if your savings account is short by $5,000, you can't simply deposit your mattress money into your bank account right then to cover the gap.
Lenders must be able to verify the source of the money you're using for the transaction, as they're on the lookout for money laundering and illegal activity. If you've been saving cash at home and you plan to use those funds to buy real estate in the future, move the cash out of the vault (or mattress) and into your bank account ahead of time. This will let the funds "season," i.e., sit in your bank account for a couple months, and the lender will not question where the funds came from. While there's no universal guideline, funds generally should be "sourced and seasoned" for at least 60 days or two bank statement cycles.