1. Go to work
When you work from home, your workspace may be just down the hall, but you still need to intentionally go to work when you are ready to start your day. Some people will walk around the block go to work in their home office and then walk around the block to “go home” at the end of the day. It may seem silly, but you will be much more productive by making a concrete breaking point between when you are at work and when you are off. You can still take advantage of a zero commute by breaking your day up and perhaps doing a few equivalent hours of work late in the evening or early in the morning–just be intentional about it. You don’t want to get into a situation where your work habits are the of “channel surfing.”
2. Create long, distraction-free periods
One of the advantages of working from home is being able to see your kids take their first steps, be there for the cable repair man, and be able to help your spouse bring in the heavy grocery items. On the other hand, with too many distractions, you won’t get any significant work periods where you can really get into your productive zone. Here are some things that can help:
- Shift your work hours to be be earlier or later in the day. For example, if your kids get home at 3pm, you might want to start working from home early so you can be off when they get home. Alternatively, you may find you get more done late at night when everyone else is asleep for the evening.
- Establish expectations with the rest of your household. For example: When your office door is closed, that means no interruptions unless it is an emergency. If a personal phone call comes in on your home phone, you are unavailable during work hours.
- Make sure your office isn’t in an area that needs to be frequently used for other purposes. You don’t want to be working in an area that is going to get a lot of traffic. Better to have a less desirable room for your office than have a constant stream of household members coming through all the time.
3. Get good equipment
There are definitely some ways you can save money with your home office. You can use a door as a desk or deal with an ugly file cabinet, but don’t put up with equipment that will lessen the quality of your work. Make sure you have a decent, reliable computer and a good backup plan for dealing with inevitable technology malfunctions. I don’t mean you need to spend money on the most expensive computer out there, but you definitely don’t want to spend hours each day dealing with unreliable technology.
Here are some areas that I would not recommend cutting corners:
- Computer – Doesn’t need to be fancy and doesn’t need to be particularly fast. Must be reliable.
- Computer Warranty – If your computer breaks, make sure you have a spare or a quick way to get it fixed.
- Monitor – If your eyes are tired, you aren’t going to get much work done.
- Chair – Doesn’t need to be expensive, but it needs to be comfortable.
- Climate Control – If you don’t get this right, you aren’t going to be able to concentrate.
- Lighting – Don’t subject yourself to hour upon hour of flickering fluorescent lighting when you work from home.
4. Dedicated office
Don’t try to use your kitchen table as your office when you work from home. You need a dedicated area–preferably with a door. If you don’t have an extra bedroom, you can finish a space in the attic, basement or garage. Some people will put a storage shed in the back yard, run electricity to it and use that as their office. Regardless of how you do it, you need a separate space for work in order to keep your sanity.