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Working from home can be hugely rewarding, but only if you know how to keep your productivity up, work-life balance in check, and business relationships intact.
Here are 15 tips and best practices for working from home.
1. Maintain regular hours. Set your schedule, and stick to it. The best way for most people to maintain a healthy work-life balance is to have clear cut guidelines for work and personal time.
2. Get dressed before work starts. Some people may see pajama pants as one of the perks of working from a home office, but plenty of successful at-home employees will tell you that getting dressed every morning changes their mindset for the better. Getting dressed also helps delineate working hours from home life time.
3. Set boundaries with family, pets, and other potential interruptions (i.e. neighbors). Let everyone know when you’re working and when you’re available. Use signs on a door or a closed do to keep distractions out.
4. Take scheduled breaks. Know your company’s policy on break times (if you’re telecommuting), and take them. If you’re self employed, give yourself adequate time during the day away from the computer screen and phone. If it’s easy, you can use the standard two short and one regular lunch break per normal work situations. Or you can design a break schedule that fits your goals and needs.
5. Take breaks in their entirety. Don’t short-change yourself during breaks. Time away rests your body and your brain, making you more energetic and productive when you get back to work.
6. Leave your house once a day. Try to leave the house every day for a short break or for lunch. This is good advice for those working in office environments, too: leave the building at least once a day. Your body needs a little exercise, and the fresh air will do you good. Talk a walk. Go to the post office. Weed the garden. Do something that gets you away to rejuvenate your energy stores.
7. Ask for what you need right away. If you’re employed by a company or organization that supports your work-from-home setup, request the equipment you need as soon as you start working from home, or within a day or two of when you realize you need something new. It’s extremely important to set precedents early that you will ask for what you need to get your job done comfortably, including the right monitor, keyboard, mouse, and chair supports.
8. Keep a dedicated office computer. If possible, buy a separate computer for personal use, especially if you would have your own computer if you worked in an office full time. Keeping separate computers for work and personal use helps establish that line between home and work life.
9. Get a separate work phone number. A separate number makes it easy to be professional on work calls, as well as to know you don’t need to answer if you’re off duty. Many phone companies offer distinctive ring, which provides a second phone number with it’s own ring on a single line. It’s less expense than getting a second line or a second cell phone.
10. Stay in frequent contact with colleagues or peers. Working at home can get lonely. Plus you miss out on great support and feedback. Use instant messaging programs, email, phone, video-chat, social networks, or whatever makes the most sense for you to communicate with your colleagues and peers regularly. While it might be a challenge when working with people in other time zones, it’s helpful in maintaining good working relationships.
11. “Show up” to meetings and be heard. Of course you’ll dial into mandatory meetings, but it’s a good idea to attend optional meetings sometimes, too. Be sure to speak during the meeting so everyone knows that you’re on the call. A simple, “Thanks, everyone. Bye!” at the close of a meeting will go a long way toward making your presence known.
12. Get face time. If your boss or employer is lax about calling you in to the office, consider stopping by a couple of times a year. Out of sight often means out of mind, which can result in being passed over for raises or interesting projects.
13. Take the day off when you’re sick. When you’re ill, take a proper sick day. Since you’re office is at home, there is pressure to force yourself to work. But rest and healing are important to work at full capacity.
14. Work from a different location occasionally. Café, libraries, and co-working spaces can help break up the tedium of being at home too long.
15. Seek out training and learning opportunities. Staying informed of trends and new ways of working in your industry is crucial to staying current in your job. Training and education can be great ways to get out of the house and mingle with your colleagues and peers too.