5 Keys to Home Office Productivity

How many times have you heard people say, "I'm so jealous! You get to work in yoga pants." Or, "I'd love to be able to work from home and spend more time with my kids."

Here's the thing: working from home has a lot of benefits. For employees, it can provide flexibility and improve work-life balance, and for employers, it can reduce overhead costs and increase productivity and  reduce employee turnover. If not approached properly, however, it can have the opposite impact.

Here are 5 keys to making telecommuting or working from home work for you and your boss:

1. Dedicated Office Space
While many experts recommend setting up a dedicated work space, I'll go one step further and say it's most beneficial to set up an office space that has a door that you can close to remove yourself from your personal world. Having worked from home after my first daughter was born and my husband was taking on the child care for a time, I quickly came to understand the necessity of a closed door.  Crying babies, barking dogs, canned laughter emanating from the TV are all things that your clients or co-workers just don't need to hear during conference calls.  If a separate office is not possible, get creative and set up your work space somewhere that still has a door to reduce outside distractions.

2. Dress for Success
Forgo the yoga pants and greasy top knot. "Working from home" doesn't mean "withdrawing from society." Does your work day start at 8 a.m.? Get up an hour early, take your shower, put on clean clothes that you wouldn't mind your boss seeing you in should your web cam accidentally turn on during a GoToMeeting. These basic daily habits prepare your mind for work mode. You'll be more productive, more inspired, and if a friend reaches out last minute for a lunch date, you'll be ready to go. Plus, as a work-from-home parent, you're modeling the tools for success for your kids. Show them what "good" looks like.

3. Set Work Hours- and Let Your Family Hold You to Them!
Yes, working from home can provide tremendous flexibility. But "Flexibility" means different things for different people. For me, it means that if I want to take my daughter to gymnastics 1 day a week, I'll make up those 2 hours over the other days. Or, depending on the projects I'm working on, I can work on my laptop from the bleachers. For others, it might mean they work when and where they want and need to. Different professions require different availability. Regardless, the more important definition is: When DO you work?" Working from home can become an all-consuming obsession that wreaks havoc on the family. By defining your work hours and letting the family know, you (and they) can schedule the real world around them. It's called Work-Life Balance, remember?

4. Have or Request the Tools You Need
A laptop or mobile computer of choice, a good internet connection, and a phone with good connection. These are the most basic of needs. Without any of them, working from home is nearly impossible. Most employers provide these basics and often many other technological tools that are important to your particular business. But if they don't, take responsibility yourself. This is not the place to "make do." You shouldn't ever have to make excuses to your customers for not being able to communicate.  If any one of these is not working consistently, fix it. #ThatIsAll

5. Be Committed 
Not everyone can work from home. It takes someone who can daily stay on task and remain highly productive and self-motivated. Sure, you may occasionally throw a load in the washing machine while you're taking a water break, but regularly tuning in to a favorite TV show or losing an hour on Facebook a couple of hours a day may be a sign this isn't the gig for you. Staying connected to your boss or co-workers can be an important tool in staying in work mode. Whether it's a daily or weekly chat with your boss, staying on top of updates with your co-workers to keep them in the loop, or even participating in the occasional "water cooler talk" via Google Chat or IM, internal communication is critical to help maintain focus.

Working from home has been a great fit for me for the past 8 years. It can be a great fit for you as well!

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