Tips for Telecommuters: Managing the Fine Line Between Home and Office

Wednesday, November 30, 2011
This fall, I quickly learned that the lines between work and home often blur when you work from home. One second I was writing an article, and the next I was refilling a cup of apple juice. I'd often return to my desk to discover that I couldn't remember where I'd left off. To say it was counterproductive is quite an understatement.

Whether your work at home situation is permanent or temporary, there are some steps to take to ensure that you achieve maximum productivity while minimizing distractions.

1. Maintain your space
Whether you have a dedicated home office or you'll be working from your dining room table, keep your setup contained to that area only. Do not spill over into the kitchen, family room, or worse yet, the bedroom. Working in every room will give your family the impression that you are constantly available.

2. Create some rules and set expectations
Let your family know when you can be interrupted, if necessary. For example, when taking phone calls, close the door to send the message that you are not available. When not on a call, keep the door ajar just a crack so that everyone knows you are accessible in a crisis. Make sure you let your family know what constitutes a crisis. You'd be surprised how much it differs between everyone. ;-)

3. Get help
If you've got little ones home during the day, consider hiring some help for a few hours a day. The extra money for a sitter will be worth the uninterrupted time you get to work in peace.

4. Gentle reminders
Because I made the transition from stay-at-home mom to work-at-home mom, my family often forgets that I am working. Requests for trips to the store, dry cleaning, post office can no longer be fit in just anywhere in my day. If you have a typical 9 to 5 day, schedule errands for before or after work. If you have an atypical day, as I often do, block out time in the middle of the day to run errands.

5. Manage social media
As a social media professional, it's easy for me to become distracted by the personal aspect of social media outlets. It's difficult not be distracted by a friend's recently posted vacation album on Facebook when I should be working for a client. However, it's best to save personal FB time for the evenings. Otherwise, one simple comment may quickly turn into an hour browsing albums and commenting on each photo.

6. Get out!`
Working from home can be lonely and isolating. Rather than take a lunch break, I opt for a trip to Starbucks instead. It gets me out of the house and breaks up the monotony. Plus, I am bound to run into someone I know who is up for a quick chat. This is just as important for productivity as any of the above measures.

And of course, behind every organized woman is a great planner. I love the momAgenda line of planners.

Do you work from home? What tricks have you implemented to keep your focus?


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