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How to Successfully Work from Home

Working from home or “telecommuting” has become more prevalent over the years as companies continue to recognize its value. With no geographic confines, companies are able to attract a larger pool of talent, retain employees by providing flexible scheduling, and save money on things like relocation expenses and utility bills. While most telecommuters enjoy this work- life balance, there are some challenges with working from home, which is why it’s so important to establish “rules” or guidelines for a symbiotic relationship between employee and employer.

Below are some tips for a successful work-from-home arrangement.

Eliminate distractions.

Children, pets and other family and friends must respect that during 9-5 you are working just as you would if you were on-site in an office building. This means children should either be in daycare or you should establish another method of childcare during your work hours.

The same goes for other family and friends. You wouldn’t be taking multiple personal calls if your coworkers were sitting in a cubicle next to you. That should also apply as a telecommuter.

Be sure to draw a line with your pets, too. Just because you are home all day, doesn’t mean you and your dog have an eight-hour play date. Keep your pets in an area that won’t distract you. That way, you’ll avoid the embarrassing dog bark while you’re on an important conference call with your client or boss.

And, while we’re talking about distractions, don’t turn on the TV. By keeping your TV off, you’ll avoid the temptation of getting sucked into Dr. Phil or watching your favorite DVR’d shows when you’re supposed to be working. Let’s face it, daytime television isn’t very good anyway.

Stay connected with colleagues.

Since you’re not able to see your coworkers face-to-face on a daily basis, it’s important to stay connected in other ways. Instant messaging, video conferencing, and phone calls are important for keeping the communication window open and nurturing your work relationships.

Take a lunch break.

It’s important to avoid falling into the workaholic trap. Be sure to manage your time as if you were working in an office. In other words, take the time to step away from your desk and grab some lunch.

Get out of the house.

You’re probably thinking, “Get out of the house? Isn’t this article about working from home?” What we mean by getting out of the house is this: Working solo can be a bit lonely at times, so it’s important to continue to maintain some form of human contact. This can mean heading into town to meet your friends for lunch or happy hour, joining a professional organization, attending a networking event, or simply being around other people at the gym. The point is it is easy to become a hermit being at home all of the time, so make a concerted effort to get out of the house once in a while.

Don’t become a workaholic.

With your home as your office, the line between personal and professional can become blurred. It’s important to disconnect after the work day is over to enjoy some leisure and spend time with your family and friends. Relationships can suffer if your attention is always on work, so be sure to set boundaries so your work mode switch isn’t always set to “on.”

There are many benefits to working from home.  As long as you’re able to focus on your work, manage your time, meet deadlines, and separate your work life from your home life, you’ll enjoy home office bliss!

Do you work from home and have advice on how to do so successfully? Share your tips in our comments section below!

Creating a Professional Home Office

Whether you are a telecommuter, freelancer or entrepreneur, if you primarily work out of your home, your workspace should be professional, comfortable and conducive to productivity. While working in your pajamas on the couch in front of the TV all day may sound tempting, it is important to draw a line in the sand and set up a professional space for working from home.

Below are some tips for creating a professional home office.

Establish your space.

If you are fortunate enough to have an entire room to dedicate as your office, consider yourself lucky. You’ll have more flexibility when it comes to furnishings and things of that nature. However, if you don’t have the square footage luxury, you can still make do. Declare your office space by sectioning off a room in your home with a screen or curtain to create a separation between your personal and professional space.

Furnish and decorate.

Furnishing and decorating your home office can be fun even if you’re on a limited budget. Often, you can use things that you already own, like that lamp that’s been in your attic for ten years or that old table you picked up at a garage sale but never use. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family if they have any furniture they’re willing to part with, or check out Craigslist or your local thrift shops for great items on a budget.

Remember: Comfort is key. You’re going to be spending a lot of time in your office, and will need furniture that is comfortable and isn’t going to cause any strain or health issues. It is worth it to invest in a nice office chair, gelled wrist support pads and other ergonomic equipment.

And, if you work for a company, be sure to ask if you can expense your furniture and equipment!

Get the requisite office supplies and equipment.

Make a list of items that you’d normally find in an office, and start with the basics. You may not need a fancy three-hole punch machine, but you will likely need things like post-it notes, pens, notebooks, a calculator, paper clips, and a stapler.  Once you’re telecommuting for a while, you’ll be able to determine if you need to pick up additional items.

When I first started working from home, I started with the basics, going without some of the luxuries found in my previous office jobs like a printer/scanner and an additional monitor to create that “dual” monitor, multi-screen work station. That didn’t last long once I realized that I’d have to snail mail my onboarding documents to our human resources department and my productivity was diminished by not having an additional computer screen.

Again, ask if your company will purchase these items for you or if you can expense them. If not, save your receipts. You can likely write them off as unreimbursed business expenses when you do your taxes, but be sure to check with a tax professional first.

Create a good filing system.

If your job requires you to work with a lot of paper, you don’t want it cluttering up your space. What’s the adage? Cluttered space, cluttered mind? Invest in a filing cabinet, folders and even a label machine if you’re really OCD and like things extremely neat and organized. Check out these Priority Paper Piling tips for more information.

Even if your work doesn’t involve a lot of paper, a digital filing system is just as important. If you’re going to be sharing documents with coworkers, use a cloud-based storage system like Dropbox so that you and your distance-based coworkers can all retrieve files quickly and easily.

Do you have or are you planning on using a home office? Leave your tips in the comments section below!

Be sure to check back for our next post, “How to successfully work from home.”

 

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