For those who have never experienced it, the phrase “work from home” may conjure up images of sleeping until noon, wearing pajamas with jelly stains and watching reruns of All My Children. That might be part of the reason why some companies, most notably Yahoo and Best Buy, have recently decided that the best way to keep employees motivated is to require their presence in the workplace.
But the truth is working from home can be just as demanding, if not more so, as being inside an office. There is a right way to do it, which includes creating an environment that is more “work” than “home” during the professional hours of the day. Here are some simple tips to create your space, stay professional, avoid distractions and communicate with work.
Create Office Space
If you’re sitting on your sofa with your laptop literally on top of your lap while trying to work, you probably need an office space upgrade. Namely, you need an actual space dedicated to work—not just a spot in front of the television. Even if your home is on the smaller side, devote a nook to work-only activities.
Invest in a chair. Find a chair that fits your home office and your posture. A decent one keeps your back straight will help you avoid slouching or feeling strained at your desk.
Keep references and important materials nearby. Don’t keep your dictionary and employee handbook in the laundry room if you don’t work there. All necessary materials should be within reach.
Alert the family that it’s your work zone. Tell family members to respect your workspace, and to keep the noise down.
People jokingly declare that one perk of working from home is being in sweatpants all day. But part of a standard workday is putting on a professional ensemble, and it can be worth your time and productivity to do so at home. You might not need to wear a suit, but you also shouldn’t wear a bathrobe. Have comfortable, yet professional, attire for the days you telecommute.
Keep a morning routine. Setting the alarm clock and keeping a regular schedule will help delineate when working hours have begun.
Learn how to quell the distractions that exist in your work environment.
Face away. Face your computer and work materials away from televisions, refrigerators and other distractions that may tempt you to wander away from your desk. If you’re lucky enough to have a window with an inspiring view, take advantage of the natural light in your workspace.
Monitor Internet and phone use. How will you work if you check Twitter for interesting articles every 20 minutes? Set and keep limits on your browsing. Also, resist the urge to reach out for a chat, and politely tell your callers that you are working and will phone them back later.
Give yourself regular breaks. It’s important to keep regular breaks throughout the day, even at home. That means lunch, as well as shorter breaks to stretch your legs, walk the dog and get fresh air. You’ll be more productive if you schedule yourself accordingly.
Communicate with Work
Your job might require “check ins” throughout the day, which you’ll have to adhere to. It’s also good to proactively speak to your supervisor or a colleague about what accomplishments the day brought to keep them in the loop.
Use Skype or another face-to-face interaction. Your colleagues will respect and appreciate the fact that you look just as professional in your home office as you do in the community office. Not to mention that face-to-face contact is often preferable.
Keep a daily task list–and check it off. Create a checklist of things you’d like to accomplish that morning, and keep yourself accountable by sharing it with your supervisor in either a virtual meeting or an email.
Working from home doesn’t mean a day at the beach. What the opportunity to telecommute does mean is valuable time to get things done and a chance to grow your business—if you do it the right way.