How to Stay Motivated While Working From Home

a mother sitting at a table working with a laptop

By Nicole Williams

Who isn't guilty of fantasizing about working from home – until about a month later, when you're sitting in your pajamas and haven't left the house during daylight hours. With limited separation between the personal and the professional and little contact with others, working from home can become depressing and discouraging.

After all, not only do you depend on people, but your careers depend on people. You require interaction to be successful. The opportunity to talk things out in order to come to a conclusion and create innovative ideas can be tough without the lunchroom.

Thankfully, technology is an enormous help in terms of connecting us with others. Joining virtual, industry-based groups and committees in which you can ask questions and share ideas and thoughts with legitimate professionals helps you avoid stagnation and foster an environment of innovation – all from the comfort of your home.However, while you should take advantage of professional networking websites, the important thing is to take these connections offline – especially when you don't have a regular routine that allows you to bump into colleagues in the elevator or chat up a potential new client while waiting in line to grab coffee.

After you've gotten all the surface stuff out of the way online and have established that this is a relationship worth investing in, a meaningful face-to-face conversation about trends in your industry, who your mutual colleagues are, your respective challenges and a list of what you can do to help each other. Afterward, you're to be caffeinated and motivated when you return to your "office."

And this office space of yours is another thing to consider. It's fine to admit that you find yourself most productive in your bed – unless that bed is filled with your kids, dog and husband. Laser focus and discipline are essential for telecommuting – and hard to achieve in a room filled with loved ones and laundry. Ideally, you'll have both physical and mental space conducive to concentration and output.

For concerned employers, it's not a bad idea to check out your employee's new "cubicle" to ensure that it meets all applicable employment laws and obligations. And speaking of obligations, the best flexible working environments have clearly defined and communicated duties, expectations and deadlines between employer and employee. (And it's not a bad idea to include customers and co-workers as well.)

Because of the inherent self-motivated nature of this kind of flexible environment, it's important for both employers and employees to note that whether you're more an overachiever or procrastinator, you are more likely to go to your extreme without someone looking over your shoulder. This means employees need to be self-aware and either work with a clear to-do list (and a promise to steer clear of the TV remote), or have a timer that indicates the day is done.

As a business owner, remind yourself that what you saw at the office is probably what's going down at home. There might days (usually after four or five in a row) when you haven't seen hide nor hair of some of your staff, and the agita it produces might make you wonder if you need to refine your policy.

What you need to remember is that the motivated professional you hired is no more likely to be playing Candy Crush at home than if she was at the office. As long as she's getting the work done, do you really care that she's doing it at 10 p.m. because she decided to go for an afternoon run?

When it comes down to it, a flexible working environment requires trust, and interestingly, this is exactly what employees are looking for. One of the No. 1 "wants" an employee seeks at the office is the trust of her employer. Flexible work hours and telecommuting are an excellent way of demonstrating trust.
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