Whether you’re starting a home-based business, are temporarily working from home, or are teleworking, you need a functional home office that helps rather than hinders your work.
You need an office workspace that helps you work efficiently. You need effective time management. And you need to stay organized. Here are some ideas for dealing with the challenges of working at home.
Create a Home Office
If possible, select a dedicated workspace, apart from areas for activities like household chores and entertainment. Keeping personal and professional spaces separate helps you keep your mind on your work, away from outside distractions. Also, when you finish work for the day, physically removing yourself from your work area makes is easier to mentally disconnect from your work.
Even if you don’t have a whole room available as an office, select a space that won’t be used for another purpose while you’re working. Choose an area that you will only use for work, such as a specific seat at your dining room table or a corner of your bedroom.
Here are more tips for your workspace:
- If you’re using your personal computer, separate work files from personal in distinct folder structures.
- If you access work files on your home computer, backups and security are more important than ever.
- If possible, have a different phone line for work, so you can filter calls more easily and answer professionally.
- Pick a location where you can close the door for quiet if you make conference calls or use video conferencing.
- Use natural light whenever possible. Pick a spot that’s sunny while you’re working.
- But avoid a spot near windows if you tend to be distracted by outside activity.
- Invest in a comfortable chair if you sit for hours at a time.
Manage Your Time
Maintain a regular and realistic schedule. If possible, stick to a work schedule that’s similar to those you interact with, whether they’re your co-workers, clients, or colleagues.
If you have family in the house, let them know that you’ll be working and set a time until which they shouldn’t bother you except in case of emergencies. You define what constitutes an emergency. Sometimes just asking to be left alone is enough. If you have trouble finding uninterrupted blocks of time, see our previous post on Avoiding Interruptions.
Here are more tips for time management:
- Take regularly scheduled breaks, at least mid-morning, lunch, and mid-afternoon. Two-hour work blocks are effective.
- During breaks (and only during breaks), relax and let yourself do household tasks without guilt.
- Change scenery occasionally. Don’t stay at your desk every minute. Walk around. Stretch. Look out the window.
- Some find it useful to keep a regular schedule by acting as if they’re leaving for work — setting specific hours, dressing professionally, even walking around the block in the morning and re-entering the house.
- If you have difficulty getting started, see our post on Beating Procrastination.
- If distractions are a problem, see our post on Focusing on Your Work.
Working from home introduces unique organization problems. When possible, separate your work-related equipment and supplies from your home-related items, just as you separate your professional and personal space and time.
Here are more tips for dealing with space limitations:
- Before sitting down to work, collect the items you’ll need. Moving around the house to get things later tempts distractions.
- Store supplies close to where you use them and store similar items together.
- Have a specific place for each item. Don’t waste time with constant searches.
- Given a choice, store more frequently used supplies where they are most easily accessible, such as on your desktop or middle shelves.
- Avoid excessive desk clutter, which can leave you feeling unfocused and out of control.
- For easy access, avoid stacking more than two to four items on top of each other.
- Use systems and checklists. Routines are helpful for staying in control and remembering details when distractions are likely.
Set up a home office space that works for you. Follow a work schedule that keeps you in control. Get organized to help you stay sane while balancing your work and personal life in one environment. Do you have tips for working from home? Share them in the Comments below.