A Beginner’s Guide to Working from Home

Thu, Aug 12, 2010

Human Resources

You already know that telecommuting is an effective way to save your business money and increase employee morale. But like most things in life, it’s much different in practice than in theory. In real life, working from home presents many unexpected obstacles in the form of noisy kids and pets, lack of communication, and even loneliness. Here’s a quick four-step guide to beating the Work-at-Home Blues and making your commuting, non-sustainable friends jealous.

1. Keep a schedule.

One of the beauties of telecommuting is that you can say that you don’t work a “nine to five.” You could work a “twelve to eight,” a “three to one” or even a “nine to one” twice a day or a 24-hour day every few days. Whenever you choose to work, however, make sure you use the time to work and work consistently. Treat yourself like your own employee; give yourself hours and make certain that you stick to them. If you need to change your schedule, consult your inner boss (and your real boss) and negotiate it. A daily time frame separates work from non-work time. Remember that you need time off; if you’re always working, you’re never truly working.

2. Minimize distractions.

If you find that the location from which you work is hectic at a certain point of the day, schedule your time so that you’re not working at that point or work in a space away from it. Keep your workspace free of clutter – both tangible and virtual – treat your personal computer with the same reverence you’d treat one in an office. The same should be said of what you use the computer for; if you’re prone to visit non-work-related websites when you lose focus, make it harder to visit those sites. If you use Firefox, there are several add-ons you can download to set your own list of sites to be blocked during work time. One such extension is LeechBlock, which you can download here.

3. Learn how to motivate yourself.

Reward yourself for doing work with a snack or a short break: these little things will give you something to look forward to and goals to reach. Without deadlines or incentives, it’s very difficult to get work done, so learn how to create miniature, daily time frames. Ask yourself, “What one thing have I accomplished today?” If you can’t answer that question, it’s time to go back to work. Established goals, even if small, have a profound effect on one’s sense of accomplishment. Again, try to be your own boss.

4. Connect with others.

Sometimes email and phone calls simply can’t cut it and you’re left feeling isolated and unimportant after too much time working on your own. If this is the case, find a communal place, like a coffee shop or a library, in which you can work with others. Realize that telecommuting is not the antithesis of office life, but rather a more manageable adaptation of it. In other words, you can stay close to home without losing office culture. Arrange meet ups with coworkers. Even if the meetings aren’t on work time, you’ll feel better to share experiences and feedback with those in a similar situation.

Telecommuting is different for everyone. If you find that working from home is not the right solution for your business, don’t fret. There are other ways to save money and energy. If it does work for you, all the better. Now enjoy wearing your pajamas all day and saving gas!

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