working from home
by Fiona Clarke

Several years ago I began experimenting with work-from-home days on a very limited basis. I had heard the concept of the “cloud office” for over a decade and was intrigued by the possibilities it might afford me. Escaping the daily commute hassle two days a week, as well as avoiding the endless round of in-office meetings and interruptions, was reason enough to give it a try. My goal was to remain productive, submit quality work and meet deadlines in a timely manner while staying connected to my colleagues and clients. I quickly learned that working off-site certainly has its benefits, but it also requires a great deal of self-discipline. After much trial-and-error, here are ten tips on how I made it work for me and, most importantly, for my associates and clients.

Just because you’re not in the office doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable to start at 11 a.m., take a two hour lunch break and swing by Whole Foods after your 3 p.m. pilates lesson. Remember that this is a work day, not a holiday. Setting a schedule that mirrors your office timetable will make you more productive.

As tempting as it might seem to stay in your pjs and furry slippers, DON’T! You needn’t get all dolled up in your stylish stilettos, a designer suit and full makeup, but dressing appropriately will get you in the right frame of mind to focus on work.

Find a spot in your home to set up a workspace. It should be tucked away from distractions and maintained in an organized fashion. Arrange what you’ll need to navigate the day: your computer, office paperwork, chargers for your devises, a scratch pad, colored markers, etc. Keeping it free of clutter will help you to concentrate.

It’s helpful to create a task list the evening before your at-home workday. It’s also wise to have a plan as how best to accomplish these tasks. Set your priorities in order and be sure to hold yourself accountable to deadlines. Check this list periodically throughout the day so you stay on-track.

Whether its a friend casually stopping by to catch up or your significant other wanting to discuss plans for the upcoming weekend, it’s important that you set boundaries. It’s equally important to enforce them. Set aside your lunch hour as the time to socialize. Meeting at a nearby restaurant will help to keep your home off-limits to well-meaning intruders.

Modern technology can make your day run more smoothly. I take advantage of job tracking software to monitor my progress, use an online chat program to stay in touch with my colleagues, retrieve office documents via Dropbox and, when appropriate, schedule a skype for a face-to-face interview for an upcoming article.

Let’s face it…social media is addictive. You jump on Instagram looking for that perfect flower arrangement you spotted just last week and that five minute search turns into half-an-hour of scrolling. To help keep my focus on work, I turn off all notifications. I’ve even been known to log out of every social media account, making it so difficult to log back on that I don’t even bother to try.

You might be a master at multitasking, but having the TV on when you’re working is a major distraction. Save binge watching on Netflix for another time. If it’s background noise you’re wanting, try listening to music. Make a playlist of comforting tunes or find a radio station that will keep your energy focused on the tasks at hand.

It’s important when making a phone call that you maintain a professionalism demeanor. A barking dog or crying infant in the background is distracting and, even worse, may signal to your client that you’re not taking them seriously. These annoyances can also hamper your work pace. If you do have a youngster to mind on your at-home workday, it’s helpful to make other arrangements for his or her care.

It’s best to select tasks for your at-home workdays that can be easily handled on your laptop. You don’t want to continually be requesting that paperwork be forwarded, so download the files you’ll need from your firm’s access points and bring home any info, data and materials that may be needed for discussions with clients.