Working from home has all sorts of benefits — no daily commute, no work wardrobe to maintain, a stocked kitchen for your choice of lunches, and of course, a more flexible work environment that you’re free to control. But your home office may also hide some pitfalls that can easily distract you from being productive.
On the flipside, working and living in the same place may blur the lines of when work ends and living begins, and telecommuters can get trapped working far more hours than they intended. To be successful at working from home, it’s important to give yourself a solid foundation where work can be accomplished, but where it doesn’t take over your life.
We recently spoke to a group of experienced telecommuters to get their best tips for maintaining work-life balance when you live where you work. Here’s what they had to say.
Get organized every day. “Declutter your mind. At the beginning of the day, I determine what domestic chores need to be done, organize my day and then when I work, I’m not boggled down by thinking I have so much to do.”
Keep your morning routine. “I always shave, shower, and get dressed as if I was going into an office job. It helps me get into a mindset of ‘Working Now,’ and also makes it easier to disengage at the end of the day. Keep a schedule within the day, too – lunch, occasional breaks, playing with your pets/kids, getting some fresh air… it’s all part of the same deal.”
Create an inviting workspace. “It should be simple, organized, and free from distractions. Also, make it a place you want to go. Use techniques you can’t in the office. Paint your office a cheerful, bright color, burn scented candles and have the radio playing whatever type of music puts you in a groove to get work done.”
Treat technology like your secretary. “The one thing I miss about working in an office is the administrative assistant. Use technology as secretarial barrier between you and distraction. Turn off email alerts, set your phone to go straight to voicemail, and create an auto-response to text messages that says something like, ‘In the middle of something; will get back to you later.’ Block chunks of time on your calendar as ‘busy.’ Sometimes you just need to turn off anything distracting and get down to work.”
Ask your family for help. “I had my children make a stop-and-go sign for my office door that I flip to the appropriate side when necessary. They thought it was fun to make and they respect it more as they were involved in the process. Communication with your family is key, my children know that mommy is working and not just ‘playing’ on the computer.”
Invest in technology that will really help you. “I put off investing in a tablet for a while, thinking it wasn’t something I needed. Eventually I broke down, and I’ve been a more productive telecommuter ever since. It’s easier to take with me for occasional on-site meetings, working from a coffee shop, or traveling to visit friends and family. I’m not saying a tablet is for everyone, but it’s been incredibly helpful for me.”
Let people know that working from home is REALLY work. “When I first started working from home, my friends and neighbors clearly didn’t believe that I was actually working. But once I started declining invitations to coffee or lunch in the middle of the week and kept talking to them about my busy schedule, people got the message that I still have a real job even though I telecommute. I even hang a sign on my front door that says, ‘Working ‘til 5, try back later!’ to stop mid-day interruptions.”
Readers, what are your best tips for finding work-life balance when you work from home?
Brie Weiler Reynolds is the Director of Content and Community at FlexJobs, the award-winning site for telecommuting, flexible schedule, and freelance job listings. For over four years, Brie has been telecommuting full-time as she and her husband move around the country, and she offers career, telecommuting, and work-life balance advice through the FlexJobs Blog and social media. Find her on Twitter @FlexJobs.