So you just decided to make that big leap to telecommuting. Maybe it’s just a day or two a week. Or you own a business like I do and operate it out of your home or the neighborhood Starbucks.
You’re one of the millions of individuals who work from home either occasionally or full-time. A market research company estimated that figure at 34 million way back in 2011 and the prediction for 2016 is almost double, at a staggering 63 million.
The good news is it works for many. How do you make it work for you?
Designate office space. It could be a dedicated home office or an extra room in your house. It could also be a corner of your bedroom or the living room, or a small table by your kitchen. Organize your space and own it. Respect that space and ask your family members to do the same. Do not use the space as a dumping ground for laundry.
Decorate the money savvy way. You don’t have to head to Ikea, go all out and buy a new desk or chair. The idea is to make it conducive to working and making a living. Grab an extra chair and designate it your office chair. Do the same with the desk. Ask yourself. What inspires you to work? Good lighting? Flowers? Pretty pictures? Make those happen so you look forward to sitting down and being productive everyday you work from home. Invest in some low-cost office supplies too, if you don’t have those yet.
Technology is your best friend. If you need a land line, designate one for office work. Ditto with a printer and a fax, if your company or business is still one of the few using those. If you’re a business owner, invest in software like MacFreelance to send out those professional-looking invoices. Invest in business cards and marketing collateral to get the word out about your business. Do not write contact info on Post-it notes or the back of napkins!
Dress the part. So you took care of the ambience and the aesthetics. It’s important to get into a dress-up routine. For me, it helps if I’m out of my pjs or work-out clothes. I’m not tempted to go back to bed or lounge around after my morning routine. I just dive right into work, wearing work clothes, even if it’s just jeans and a nice top.
Set goals. There’s this study I read about recently that suggested doing away with the daily to-do list, earmark certain times in your schedule for specific tasks. Say, instead of just adding “draft book proposal” to your mile-long to-do list, put it in for 10:00-11:00 am on Tuesday, for example. The study said that we are more inclined to get the task done that way. Let’s face it – to-do lists can be overwhelming. They never get any shorter.
Take breaks. Just as you would if you were in a regular office, it’s important to take frequent breaks. I use coffee as my consistent excuse to get up, walk the 77 steps to my kitchen and back. It declutters my mind as well as provides me the opprtunity for a good stretch or walk. If your schedule allows it, go for a quick walk with your dog around the neighborhood. You’ll come back feeling refreshed.
Stay on task. The beauty of working from home is control over your schedule. Say you designate 10 am to 4 pm as your daily work schedule (lucky you!), stick to it Don’t be tempted by the laundry pile, Netflix or a middle-of-the-day grocery run. Do those outside your normal office hours. I’ve lost momentum due to distractions. Working from home requires some serious self-discipline but you can do it!
Network and reach out. Working from home does not mean one should say goodbye to the outside world. If you’re a member of a professional association, stay connected by attending your regular meetings. If you have a mentor, schedule coffee. If you’d like to pick the brains of a colleague or a mentor, reach out. The key is to get out of the house and be with other people. Telecommuting doesn’t mean one should become a hermit.
You can reap the many benefits of working from home: saving on gas, not having to purchase and maintain an extensive work wardrobe, not missing out on your kids’ awards ceremony at school, squeezing in a work-out, scheduling a hair appointment or just enjoying the silence in your home office. You can do this!