Working from home can be a blessing and a curse.
The temptation to work on the couch in your pajamas is strong, and the procrastination possibilities seem endless. In addition, there’s the potential to work all day, every day, never separating time on the job from time with the family.
David Katz began telecommuting for Climatronics in 1990 to work for the Long Island, N.Y.-based company without leaving his home in Newtown, Penn. Katz had worked for the niche scientific equipment business previously so they were comfortable with his ability to work unsupervised. He offered to close off his basement, keep regular office hours, put in office equipment, and Climatronics said yes.
In the early 1990s, Katz was one of two million telecommuters. By 2010, that number increased to 26.2 million, with many more freelancing or running home-based businesses. Companies like Cisco and Microsoft, and even the federal government all now support employees who work from home. If you work at home every day, every week or every month, Katz’s tips for staying motivated will help you stay productive.
Check in more often with bosses, clients and colleagues. “Expect that there will be information you will miss when working remotely, and assume extra responsibility to get and give frequent updates,” Katz recommends. Frequent communication will keep unplanned disruptions to a minimum and help confirm that you are doing things as well, if not better, than you would in the office.
Stick to a routine
“Find a way to start your day that mimics what you need to do to get started in an office,” says Katz, who keeps office hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for workdays when he is not traveling and makes sure to get dressed and ready before going downstairs. Whether you stick to a corporate schedule or make up your own, find something you can do before you begin. It will help you get going quickly.
Create a good location
A dedicated location with a door you can close is a must. Keep in mind what can be seen if you need to video conference and make sure the environment looks clean and professional. Posture and positioning increase productivity, and while working on the couch may seem like fun, it should be the exception to your at-home work day. With your desk or table in your dedicated room, go to your workspace, close the door behind you and get to work.
Track the time you spend on specific tasks and projects. When you work from home, it can feel like you are always working, and a schedule helps. Joanne Perrotta is the senior contract specialist at a major international educational publishing company where telecommuting is an earned privilege, not the norm.
“My boss knows she can count on me to get my work done without supervision,” says the New Jersey mother of two. She fits her work in between drop-offs and pick-ups, but the structure helps her get everything done efficiently.
Keep work and home separated
Perrotta separates her work time from the time she spends on childcare, errands and chores. She is careful not to blend her responsibilities. Save home tasks for lunch time, or before and after work, just like you would in the office. They distract you from your job, which means you wind up working longer and later. Take care to put away work tools, change location and find a way to shift gears so you protect your time at home too.