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Strategies for Working from Home: Six Tips to Keep You Focused and Productive

Working from home can be great, but in order to be successful, you have to employ some simple success strategies to help keep you focused and productive. The key is focus more on the work, and the less on the home.

The pros of working from home

Working from home sounds amazing, doesn’t it? You can work in your PJs with Fido at your feet and Nine Inch Nails in the background. You don’t have to shower if you don’t want to. Your commute is however long it takes to get to your computer, so you save time, money, and the stress of having to get to the office every day.

There are also no unwanted interruptions from office mates or office drama to distract you. This offers more potential for increased focus, concentration, and productivity. Potentially, you can get much more work done. 

The cons of working from home

The downside to working from home is that you miss out on the social interactions at work. The workplace is a social organization, and when you work from home that social fabric is missing. You can feel disconnected. This can hurt you emotionally, especially if you are a social person or an extrovert, but it can also hurt teamwork and workplace relationships, both of which are crucial to getting things done. You may also miss out on the political “game” of the office, which is a crucial component of networking.

Conversely, even if you like to be out of the mix, you can feel as if they don’t trust you, especially if they ask you to attend meetings, check in, or they call to check up on your work. Also, if you are not a self-motivated person or if you need a lot of instruction or supervision, working from home may not be right for you.

Setting yourself up for success

In order to be successful working from home, you have to learn to focus on the work, not the home. You have to take it seriously, set clear boundaries, and minimize distractions. Here’s how:

  1. First, carve out a home office. You need to have a dedicated space for your work. The couch won’t cut it. You have to take teleworking seriously, and this is best achieved if you take your workspace seriously. You need a place to work without distraction, a place that is recognized by your family as your workspace, a place where you can keep your work materials safe and separate from your home life.
  1. Second, create boundaries with your family and friends. Establish boundaries and a protocol with your friends and family. Make clear when you are working and when you shouldn’t be disturbed. Working from home usually affords a bit more flexibility, but it’s a slippery slope, so set boundaries and be firm with family and friends. And don’t feel bad about doing so; if you respect your working hours so will they.
  1. Third, equip yourself properly and professionally. Get a computer just for you and your work. Get the proper supplies. And get a dedicated phone, voicemail, and email for your work. If you’re a freelancer or consultant you’re on your own, but if you are a company employee, your firm may be willing to provide or offset the cost of a phone, a dedicated phone line, a computer, or other supplies or equipment for your home office. Just ask.
  1. Fourth, reduce distractions.You have to be able to ignore the laundry, the dishes, your DVR, running errands, and other household distractions. And, just like at the office, don’t constantly answer personal phone calls, e-mails, or surf the Internet while working.

Set aside time every hour or so to check your personal stuff. Throw in a load of laundry on one of your breaks if you like, but don’t go down any rabbit holes of housework or goofing off. Remember, working from home is more about the working than the home. 

  1. Establish your working hours. If you are with a company find out when they want you to be available and stick to that. If you are freelance, you can obviously establish your own hours, and you have to decide what those will be. Do you want to be nine to five, Monday through Friday? Or will you take client calls in the evenings and on weekends?

Very often, clients assume that since you work from home you are always available. That’s fine if you want it that way, but think about setting some parameters so that you aren’t working round the clock. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have set hours. Decide what those will be and make sure your clients are aware of them. Most importantly, stick to them.

  1. Keep networking.Whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, one of the most important things to do in business is network. People who work from home are already cut off from the workplace, so you have to make an extra effort to get out there and network.

These days, lots of networking can be done on-line, through LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, but you still need to maintain an active physical presence. Nothing beats face-to-face interactions, and you should look for ways to do so. If you work for a company, make sure you go to the office at least once a week. Attend meetings, lunches, social gatherings, and other opportunities.

If you are a freelancer or a consultant, find ways to network. Go to parties, lunches, seminars, and programs. Join clubs and professional and trade organizations. You have to combine the electronic world with the physical world in order to keep your network healthy and growing.

Working from home can be productive, rewarding, convenient, and cost-effective. The key is to take it seriously, set yourself up for success, and focus on the work. Good luck!


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