Working from home can be an occasional treat for cube-raised office dwellers, or a way of life for lonely freelancers. Either way, there are a few rules about working from home that everyone needs to know, to make it rewarding, effective, and efficient. No, none of these tips have anything to do with switching brands of pajamas or which day-time talk shows to watch… but they’ll all be helpful anyway. Here are 7 ways to make working from home less like work and more like fun (but still effective).
1 Make a Space
It’s hard to work from home if you’re sitting at the kitchen table, the TV in one corner, a pile of dirty breakfast dishes in the sink, and a pot roast that needs cooking. Set aside a special work space, your own office-away-from-office, where the only thing that gets done is working. Make it a household-chore-free zone.
2 Create and Keep a Schedule
I work from home, and every morning, I’m up at seven, dressed and ready to work. I take breaks throughout the day, time for lunch, and I STOP work on time, too. Sure, I’ll check emails to make sure there’s nothing earth-shattering that can’t wait til the next day, but like other people who work, I’m not available 24/7. It’s important to have a quitting time, even when you’re working from home.
3 Minimize Distractions
Do you have the TV on or kids running around or a barking dog or laundry to do at work? No. So why would you want those distractions while you’re trying to work from home? Nothing sounds less professional than a background full of noise while you’re trying to make a business call. As much as possible, minimize distractions, especially while you’re interacting with those not in your home office.
4 Make It Clear
Here’s a little something you can do to make working from home easier for all of us — set reasonable expectations at the client and co-worker level. If you’re available during odd hours, we’ll all be expected to be available during odd hours. If you act professionally, and hand in assignments and projects on time, we will be forced to meet those expectations too. See? It works well for all of us when we all set, and maintain, reasonable expectations.
5 Keep Accurate Records
My accountant used to run and hide when he saw me at his office door. Needless to say, I didn’t always save my tax information, and when I did, it wasn’t tidy, and it wasn’t always the right stuff. Do your accountant, and yourself, a favor. Keep accurate, careful records. If you’re not sure what to keep, and what to toss, ask ahead of time. Tax time will be so much easier if you keep good records while you’re working from home! That’s what Excel was invented for, isn’t it?
6 Don’t Be Afraid to Speak up
Remember what I said about setting and maintaining reasonable expectations? It’s also important to speak up if a colleague or client is making your work a little more difficult than it needs to be. Don’t be afraid to be the bad guy… I don’t like confrontation, but if you’re working from home, who’s going to speak up for you if you don’t?
7 Start a Group
The one and only thing I miss about working in an office isn’t the khaki-rich fashions or the admiration of the guys in the IT department — it’s the interaction with other adults. So last summer, I started a work group. All we freelancers meet (and work) for several hours at a local coffee house or library, where we work, bounce ideas off of each other, and occasionally even gossip a little. It helps, especially when I have writer’s block, or when I missed an episode of Grey’s Anatomy and need some in-depth catching up.
Doesn’t working from home seem a lot more do-able now? I think so! Which of these tips will you use to make working from home more effective (and possibly even fun)? Or do you have another telecommuting tip to share?
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