Working at Home
By Gina Dostler
Working from the home sounds great, the perfect way to bring home the bucks, enjoy your own personal surroundings and save commuter frustration, time and money. Yet it isn’t all what it seems at times and requires discipline, strategies and an understanding of the different dynamics that await those who work from home. Distractions, the art of focusing and carving out your own space are all things to consider that can hamper productivity and creativity. As a writer I find lack of self-discipline and a quiet space are my downfall whereas my friend cites her kids, dogs and work-at-home husband as her challenges. Working at home is becoming more prevalent due to technology and a shift in job opportunities. If setting up at home provides a means and ways to shift your working world for the better, here are a few tips that I can recommend:
Space. You need a workplace, a space to put in the time exactly as you would in the office. Sitting in front of the TV or papers cluttering the kitchen table is not the optimum setup. Switch out the spare bedroom and turn it into an office that can be organized into your own space. Or convert the garage into an office. Fix it up so you get excited to enter the workday space. Add green plants to reduce stress levels and detoxify the air. Paint the room a favorite color. Find the perfect desk where you feel comfortable and happy. Establishing that separate place or room helps create a sense of division between home and work, thus making it easier to ‘go home’ when work is done.
Sequester yourself. Interruptions are productivity nightmares and need to be nipped in the bud. A firm and gentle hand that says “stop” I am working is essential to being home amongst family and friends. Make it very clear that though you are not working in an office, dropping by for a cup of coffee is not okay. Kids need to understand you are not to be interrupted unless it’s an emergency. Draw boundaries with them such as being quiet when you are on the phone and knocking on the office door. Place a sign that indicates “available” or whether they can’t disturb you. For younger kids use colors, green for “go” and red for “stop.” You might consider specific times each day where you allow interruptions, but stick to it.
Get organized. Working at home requires constant organization. Setting up your space where things are in their proper place saves not only time but increases productivity and your ability to focus. Clutter is an energy sucker and requires time to dig through the mess and weakens motivation to get things done. Including desk drawers, file folders, bookshelves and a waste basket in your work space might be the answer to establish that working at home is a piece of cake. Or find a professional organizer to whip your office space into shape. Most importantly, be sure to provide time at the end of the workday (or night) to clean up, file and put everything in its place.
Set working hours. Working at home allows full control of work habits and hours. Commit yourself to a timeframe that is essential to accomplishing your workload. It doesn’t necessarily have to be 9-5, but find the time that works for you. Many times for those working at home it is possible to actually work in the wee hours when the least amount of interruptions occur. Those that are telecommuting might have more time constraints. Whatever time you set, keep to it. This builds a routine and helps increase productivity. And studies show that getting out of your pajamas and putting on your daily attire helps to keep your focus. There is a lounge-lizard affect when sporting PJs that might just keep the sandman hanging around too long.
Human connections. Working at home can get lonely; kids are at school, spouse is off at work. When you work out of your home, the opportunity to build personal connections isn’t available. Without the interaction, the feeling of isolation can set in. Innovation can be hindered. Here’s a tip. Don’t just communicate through email. You still need human interaction whether it’s with co-workers, clients, or vendors. For your career and mental well-being, having real conversations with someone is important, even if it’s just over the phone. Schedule a day or two to get out of your home office and work outside to break up the monotony and bring the human element into the picture. Bring your laptop and papers to a coffee shop or library and set to work. Sometimes simply having other people around boosts your productivity and at times, sanity.
Due diligence. Make sure your homeowner’s insurance covers your work-at-home activity. If your business requires having visitors such as co-workers or clients it is important to check if you are covered for such dealings. If working for a company, check to see if they will subsidize part of that insurance. It’s always best to stay ahead of the insurance game and avoid any headaches down the road.
Separate phone lines. Many people utilize their cell phones for their business. But at home, whether you are an employee or on your own, it might be wise to get a separate land-line for your business. This will keep expenses easier to track and monitor. Having a business line also keeps the professional image up without family having to answer the phone. These days it’s easy and can be part of your Internet package.
Plan breaks. It is essential for both your health and productivity to have regular breaks. The mind tends to bog down, making concentration more of a burden than an asset. Being mentally alert is important so try to work in 30-45 minute segments with 5-10 minute breaks in-between. During the break you can accomplish a few things around the house and catch up on some personal emails, calls or bills to switch your mind to other things. And here is the big caveat, do not pull up any social media until after you’re officially “off” work. If social media is a part of your job, set a work time frame to accomplish what is needed and don’t deviate into anything irrelevant. Social media can be a trap that eats up valuable work time.
Motivation. Get up a little earlier and start with a routine that you genuinely like and look forward to after rolling out of bed. It could be taking a brisk morning walk or a cup of coffee with the morning paper, but make it something enjoyable. The afternoon or night before, have something you can look forward to working on for the next day. If you don’t have anything, be creative and invent something. If crunching numbers catches your fancy, do that first thing. Or maybe working on your website and changing it up. Whatever it is, do it first thing to get you into your office and into a productive and effective work-at-home mode.