Everyone covets that golden opportunity…working from home. With soaring gas prices, congested rush hour traffic and annoying co-workers, bosses and clients, working from home can be a much welcomed safe haven for some. Most companies, even though they claim to be ahead of the global economic curve, either refuse to consider it, or will only consider it for one or two days a week. Let’s face it, not everyone is right for working at home. But whether you are a corporate warrior or a budding entrepreneur, here are some tips to ensure productivity (and comfort) in working from home.

  • Treat each work day like you’re heading into the office and will be working with clients. Too often we will roll out of bed and fire up the computer, hair looking crazy, in pajamas and a bath robe. Are you crazy? Just because nobody will see you doesn’t mean you need to look crazy! We are in the age of the video conference. If you have (or your employer supplies) video conferencing, it is your duty to get up and get the crust out your eyes, comb that hair and put on some decent clothes. Set a regimen. Get up, wash, put on some business casual attire, have breakfast THEN turn on the computer. Believe me, the better you look, the more productive you will be.
  • Set a regular work schedule. Guess what? Just because you work from home doesn’t mean that its not business as usual for your clients and colleagues. You just happen to not have a long commute. It works for me to break down my days into blocks of projects. For example, Monday is my day to return calls, follow up with clients, set my projects for the week and handle general business housekeeping. Friday is for reports, scouting new clients and networking contacts, and follow ups. Tuesday through Thursday I am focusing on specific tasks (sourcing candidates, interviews, business meetings, conference calls, coaching sessions, candidate summaries, etc.). Setting a schedule and posting it in a visible location will keep you on task.
  • Organize your workspace. Before I had a house, I lived in an apartment that had a sunroom. That was my office. It was annoying to have it constantly spill over to my living areas. Once I bought a laptop, that was all she wrote. My work and living spaces merged. Since I’ve lived in my house, I have separate room for my office. I have gone through great lengths to outfit my office to accommodate my businesses. I have a pretty good set up. Everything has its place. I can host a video conference without the fear of people seeing my bedroom or kitchen! I am in the process of redesigning my workspace for that less is more look. But you can spruce up your office anyway you like. Just make sure you have dedicated space for it. And don’t let it cross over into your home life if you can help it. Close that door or area at the end of the day and especially on Friday.
  • Make sure you get the basics covered. No matter what field you’re in, there are some items that are necessities for the home office. They include a computer, printer/scanner/fax combo, telephone (of course), cell phone, proper lighting, comfortable chair, functional desk and a filing/storage system. Now this can be expanded depending on the type of work you do. You know what you need to make your job easier. Now, if you need additional tools to help on a shoestring budget, there are a ton of cool sites out there for free or low fee. Look into using: Skype (for telephone or video conferencing), Google Apps (Google’s answer to Microsoft Office), Paypal (for receiving payments), Quickbooks (for managing your accounting), Genbook (online appointment scheduler), and a host of other tools to help you do your job better. A quick tip- a paperless office is the way to go. PDF as much as you can. And did you know that Oracle offers a free basic database?
  • Know your limitations. Listen to your body. We have a tendency to push beyond normal working hours because we figure we’re home anyway, why not work. Know when to take breaks. I’ll share a secret. I will often take a 2 hour lunch break each day. It allows me to rest, run errands, surf the net, eat, etc. It is also important to set time boundaries. I try (key word TRY) to not work late into the evening. But there are times when it is unavoidable. If you plan your day properly, you can accomplish everything you need to in the day. Most importantly, make time for family!

These are just a couple of general tips for successfully working at home. To make working from home successful, you must put in as much dedication as you would in an actual office. Prioritize, organize, plan, schedule and execute. That is the formula for success.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham (from her home office!)