Earth Day marks my two-year telecommuting anniversary and sitting here in my home office, just finishing a recent Buzzfeed article showcasing the famous home offices of creative geniuses, I find myself drooling over Nigella Lawson’s book-lined study. For longer than I care to admit, my house has been undergoing an extensive remodel. My current work space, now in transition if not upheaval, is the dining room table. Across from me, my husband works on his teaching materials. Surrounded by stacks of papers and books in a space a third the size of a cube, I wonder how much impact my “home-ly office” space has had on my telecommuting practice.
But soon I will realize my goal of creating a clean well-lighted work space.
Telecommuting, which established a foothold in the 1970s, has become increasingly popular in recent years; technological advancements such as video conferencing, smartphones, apps and high-speed wireless networks have entirely transformed early notions of “working from home.” Since 2005, telecommuting has increased by 73 percent in the United States and an impressive 474 percent within the U.S. government sector.
From all that I’ve learned about teleworking, the act of creating a separate—almost sacred—home office space is one of the most important, most influential elements of a productive telecommuting practice. Here are several vital steps toward making it happen.
(1) Get organized.
Without an organized and efficient work space, you tend to wander and get distracted. If your work space isn’t conducive to productivity, it can almost repel you.
(2) Bring in natural light, plants and a spirit of play.
Conversely, making your office space as attractive as possible invites a pattern of habit. By creating a world you respect and care for, you will return to it over and over again and it will become your haven. Treat it as you would an in-office space, but allow for plenty of creativity as well. Bring plants into your home office and circulate oxygen. Place your desk near a window so that you can enjoy the health benefits of natural light. And enjoy the decorative “home” aspect of working at home; invest in a well-designed, luxurious office chair…or better yet, enter to win one from PGi!
(3) If you can, find a room with a door you can close.
Ideally, your home office should be located in an area separate from the rest of the house to provide an environment that allows you to concentrate. Unlocking creativity almost always means locking the door. If both spouses work at home or if children are around, the need for privacy is paramount. Nothing is more distracting during conference calls than background noise, and it is a telecommuter’s responsibility to minimize the impact of their home environment upon their coworkers and clients.
(4) Create a routine and stick to it.
Stick to your daily habits, whether you are working from home or going into the office. Wake up at the same time every day, have your daily cup of tea or coffee, eat a good breakfast, and plan your day ahead. Dress as if you were going into the office. It may seem pointless, but dressing at least semi-professionally will transition you more fluidly into a “work” mindset. This small step can help improve your attitude and productivity immensely as well as prepare you for any last-minute video conference meetings.
(5) Don’t treat your home office as a temporary space.
Invest in the space and the tools and take your home office seriously. Even if you are just a part-time telecommuter, your boss will be watching your performance. Use smartphones, tablets, apps, and high-speed networks to make your life easier and your work more efficient. Maintain face-to-face contact with your coworkers and customers using virtual meeting tools, regardless of geography.
I’m looking forward to the day when I can finally move into my new home office, both for the space itself and for the boundaries it will establish within my telecommuting practice. But today, my circumstances remain easily manageable because of the many benefits working from home affords—along with two years of learning how to be a versatile and successful telecommuter, regardless of the conditions.
Learn more about working from home and start your telecommuting practice by downloading our free eBook: The Yin + Yang of Telecommuting today!