Working from home seems like a thrilling prospect, but it can be easy for productivity to wane. Check out 7 tips for making your home office more productive.
Hold business hours – One of the benefits of working from home is that you don’t have to be in the door at a certain time. However, you should still set your business hours to help you keep a healthy work/life balance and keep you accountable. It’s very easy to fall into a trap of working longer than you’d be working in an office – or skimping on your workday. Setting business hours will also help you stay in touch with colleagues in the office who don’t see you face-to-face on a regular basis.
Dress for the job – Are you considering working in your pajamas all day? Think again. Dressing in comfortable clothes can trick you into thinking you’re at rest rather than at work, and harm your productivity in the process. When you’re working from home, start your normal morning routines: shower, put on some makeup and get dressed, and then start your work day at the normal time. Not only will dressing for your job make you feel more motivated, you’ll be ready to go if you’re needed in the office at the spur-of-the-moment.
Turn off your home phone – Unless you use your home phone for business, either keep it off the hook or send it to voicemail. If you have to leave it on, let your friends and family know that, although you are at home, you’re not available for a social call or drawn-out chat! Discussing this with your friends and family before you begin working at home can save awkward conversations in the future – as well as fewer hurt feelings! Working with children in the house can also be a challenge, especially if they are accustomed to more one-on-one time with Mom. Think about setting up their own “work space” near yours with crayons, coloring books and crafts so they can “work” alongside you.
Create a defined workspace – Wouldn’t it be nice to work from your couch? Sure – it might be nice, but it won’t be productive! Just like working in your pjs can hamper your productivity, sitting on the couch, patio or other “non-traditional” or moving workspace on a day-to-day basis can make you feel like you’re not really at work. Define and create a comfortable workspace that has everything you’d need in a real office. Have notebooks, pencils and other office supplies ready, set up an area with a phone and printer nearby, and indulge in a really comfortable and supportive chair – remember, in your home office, you’re not at the mercy of a specific set of corporate furniture! Personalize your area with photos, and if you can restrict activities in this area to work only, it will help you focus on work when it’s time to work.
Talk with your office colleagues – You might begin to feel out of touch with colleagues out of the office, especially if you’re used to working beside others. Technology makes this one pretty easy. Set up a chat system (through gchat or Yahoo!) so you can easily ping them with questions (or even just to chat!) Skyping is also a great idea if your office is set up with web cams, but teleconferencing whenever you can is also a good way to keep in touch. Try to make trips into the office as often as you can – biweekly if you’re local and once a month if you’re regional.
Take a break – Don’t think you need to keep your nose to the grindstone every hour of the day when you’re working from home! Many folks overcompensate for working at home by working through breaks and lunches, which can lead to burn out and lower productivity. Schedule your breaks for certain times during the day; get up and walk around, watch a few minutes of television, or even take a short snooze! You’re at home, so take advantage of this luxury during your short daily breaks.
Leave for lunch – Working from home means you’re staring at the same four walls seven days a week! It’s important to get out of the house for lunch now and then. Schedule lunch “dates” with coworkers or friends who work from home, or use your lunch hour to run errands close to home.