Being Productive While Working From Home

By Gwen Parkes

work from homeAs the economy continues to precariously get back on its feet, many companies are continuing to "live lean" and keep costs down as much as possible, for as long as possible.

One side effect of this leaning down is to offer some or all of your employees the option to work remotely. If employees do not physically come into an office everyday and take up space, they are also not spending corporate dollars on heat, lights, security guards and other costly expenses that can hurt even the most stable of companies.

Many employees look to the work-from-home option as the answer to all their prayers since it frees them up from having to commute and make small talk with work employees and their micromanaging bosses.

Working-from-home, while exciting and full of promise, is still work and it is easy to get off course and bogged down in non-work related activities, making you less productive over time. Here is how to stay on track and ensure that your right to work-from-home remains righteous.

Avoid Distractions

If you are going to work at the same place where you live it is paramount that you start off on the right foot. The distractions that surround you when you are at home-laundry, television, nosy neighbors, deliveries, children, pets, empty pantry etc. - are about ten times those that you encounter in a workplace environment because the workplace environment is prepared and designed to be used for one purpose only-work; it does not serve multiple functions for multiple people like a home does. In order to avoid distractions try these tactics:

1. Carve out a work space. Your work is separate from your home life so you need to create a space in your home that is devoted exclusively to your work where your focus is on work and work alone-getting your work done; storing your work files; a place to make work phone calls etc. In short, a hub of work-related activity.

2. Create the work space environment. Now that you have carved out a place to do your work, you need to create an environment that is conducive to working. It should be a comfortable place-nice chair, ideal temperature and maybe a window or some music. It should be free of clutter and not cramped and you should surround yourself with the things that you like-photos of your children, pictures of serene mountains, books etc. The more comfortable you are in your place of work, the more work you will set out to do.

3. Look the part. Many people say that when they work- from- home they are going to every phone meeting in their underwear because they can. Besides the fact that you may get cold, just because you are working- from- home does not mean that you have carte blanche to do whatever you want. Look, perform and act the same at your home office as you would if you were at the office. Get up in the morning and shower and get dressed as if you were heading out to the office. Eat breakfast and enjoy your coffee. Taking pride in your appearance and hygiene, and sticking to a morning routine will set you up for success. You will begin each day more focused, and you will fuel your production and workplace performance during working hours.

4. Set a schedule. If you are used to working 9-5pm there is no reason to alter your routine just because of geography. So what if you now work- from- home and you used to work in a cubicle downtown. Stick with your routine because that is what you know and what makes you productive. Straying from your daily schedule is when you will get distracted by the laundry or neighbors and fall behind on your workload.

5. Organize. It is easy to get thrown off course when you become disorganized and it is easy to become disorganized at home when you think no one is watching. It is overwhelming to work from home for the first time if you are used to the discipline and structure of an office setting. Minimize feelings of being out of control or disorganized by becoming a task master.

Make two lists every night. One list should be all work related tasks that need to transpire the next working day, and the other list should be labeled home and should included a list of all non-work related tasks that need to transpire the next day, i.e., pick up milk or call the vet to schedule a visit for the pooch.

Prioritize your list as you write and place the most important task at the top so that you know what has to be done first. Put a star next to appointments or scheduled visits so that you know if something is time-sensitive.

As you complete your tasks cross them off and feel a complete sense of accomplishment and motivation: Accomplishment because you got a specific task from your list done; and motivation because, as you start to accomplish one task, you gain momentum and drive forward to complete the others. Any tasks left over at the end of the day are moved to the top of the list for the following day.

Be sure to focus on the work list during your scheduled working hours, and focus on the house list during your non-working hours. This will not only keep your time budgeted, but it will help you maintain your focus and give you a look at the bigger picture.

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