Working From Home More Effectively


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Working From Home More Effectively

  1. 1. Working from Home More Effectively By Chelse Benham “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” - Isabella Mary Beeton (1836-1865) writer and author of “Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management” If you are a new home-office worker or experienced one, you may find it difficult to stay focused. There are many perks to working from home - no commuting and a totally flexible schedule – but, home offices can be a double-edged sword situation. There are many distractions that can interfere with staying focused and on task. It’s easy to misplace priorities, such as cleaning the house, as a means of avoiding working on a business project. Working from home means that you must budget your time, work efficiently and commit yourself to working smart. “Working from home requires real discipline,” said Pedro Salazar, associate director for One Stop Capital Shop at The University of Texas-Pan American. “These are some of the suggestions I usually give clients that come to us for assistance: • Create a separate area that looks like a "real" office. If you feel like you are at work, you are more likely to stay on task. • Get up and get dressed. Just because they can't see you, doesn't mean that you should work in your robe. What you communicate on the phone is reflective of how you feel and how you are dressed has a lot to do with that. • Talk to your family and friends about respecting your work time. It starts with running one personal errand during the day and the next thing you know you are spending most of your time doing personal stuff for family and friends. • Plan your workday and include some time to do the personal things you need to do, but stay focused on what work you need to accomplish. Seek face to face interaction with other people. • Visit a customer or spend an afternoon working from the coffee shop. The important thing is to feel some how connected and not feel excessively isolated from the rest of the world.” Terry Thomas, president of IMC, Inc., a multi-million dollar import/export home based company, and the author of the article “Run an Efficient Home Office” originally published at, offers some suggestions to creating a successful home office environment. Thomas suggests the following when creating a productive home work environment: Have a separate phone line installed. This makes it easier for customers to reach you and projects a professional image. A fax machine is certainly a must for many businesses. You don't need a separate phone
  2. 2. line. Use a telephone sharing device which automatically routes calls to a phone, fax or modem. These are readily available and eliminate the need for costly phone lines. Have the proper office furniture. Make sure you have a desk that is large enough to handle your needs and a file cabinet or two for files. Most importantly, get a good comfortable chair. This can be your most important office tool! Fatigue and many back and neck problems are caused by cheaply made chairs. Purchase or lease an office copier. For many this may be out of the question due to the numerous copy places in every community. But, if copying is repetitive and halts work evaluate if the time and money saved offsets this expense. Get one that handles everyday copy needs. Set up a regular work schedule. All of us know we work our home businesses all hours of the day and night. Still, set up some "business hours". If you're going to have hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., then stick to that schedule. Take normal breaks, including lunch. It is important that you establish a regular habit of being "in the office" on a set schedule for the sake of your customers. For the times you must leave the office to make sales calls, run errands, or for other reasons, make sure there is an answering machine or service to answer any incoming calls, and that you return the calls as soon as you return. Be certain that family and friends are aware of your regular "business" hours. Ask them to respect that time. They should not expect you to be "free" just because you are at home. Outfit your office as best you can within your budget. Treat it as a business and work regular hours. Your business or office may be at home, but it is still an "office"! Treat it with the respect it deserves! The Web site offers tips to help maintain costs and save money when managing a home office. They suggest: Using recyclable paper Turn your recycle pile into a scrap paper pile. Take notes on the backs of "used" pages from your printer and copier and recycle them after the second use! You can also use the back-side of "used" paper in your fax machine. Get creative with office supplies While you don't want to skimp on your desk setup and your chair, you do want to save money wherever you can. You can re-use things around your house as office supplies. For example, need an in-box? Use a square
  3. 3. Tupperware container. Need a pencil holder? Use a coffee mug. You can also use vases or other bottom-heavy objects as paperweights. You'll be amazed at the clever things you can do with everyday household items. Lights, computers and other equipment In a larger office, where the budget is bigger and there are more people to accommodate, it isn't necessary to keep up with lights or computers being left on all the time, but in your home office turn them off when you're not using them. You'll be surprised on how much money you can save on electricity. Separate your housework from your office work Don't pay your household bills at your desk. Have two distinct areas where you handle work tasks and household tasks. If at all possible, choose a workspace that has a door. That way, at the end of the workday, you'll be able to close the door and concentrate on your personal life. Save money where you can Quite possibly the easiest way to cutback on your bills is by optimizing your telecommunications plans. Find a long distance provider that caters exactly to your specific calling needs to save 65 percent or more on your long distance bill. Check to make sure you're using the best wireless plan for your calling habits - more than 75 percent of all wireless users are on the wrong plan for their needs. Finally, be sure you have the best Internet access for your needs. Broadband is great if you're online a lot, but if you only check email once or twice a day, a dialup connection may be the most cost effective option for you. Suzanne Falter-Barns, president and founder of, a personal advice Web site offers some advice to make an office more productive in her Joy Letter #98, “The Distraction-Free Home Office.” A few of her suggestions are listed here: If the kids have a break, go on vacation. Don't casually forget about these breaks before you agree to major work deadlines. Instead, write them all down in your calendar as soon as the school year begins. Then really carve that time out for yourself and your family; you almost certainly would if you were working in an office. Don't begin your day by checking e-mail. Instead, use that time to jump into your most difficult, challenging task. Your mind will be its freshest, and you'll be able to get much more done. E-mail is a surprising consumer of time. A study from the Pew Research Center found that 71 percent of workers interviewed consider e-mail a generally positive force in their work lives. However, a third of workers say
  4. 4. e-mail can be stressful, encourage gossip and otherwise create "situations that distract from work." Create small rewards along the way. What makes you stay committed, even in the face of wandering off task? If it’s a piece of chocolate or a stroll down the block, do something to reward yourself for your efforts. Schedule chat breaks. Just as you would visit the water cooler in the office, every so often you need to take a breather. So give yourself ten minutes every few hours to call a friend, stretch your legs and even wander down to the kitchen. This is especially helpful if you're struggling over something with no immediate solution. Eliminate coffee breaks. While you're taking a break, avoid caffeine. A report released by United Kingdom's Economic and Social Research Council reports that caffeine exacerbates stress, especially in men, and makes people less cooperative in teams. Other studies say it can worsen anxiety and trigger stress. Close your door. If you're not alone in your home during the day, give the rest of your family or housemates the signal. Door closed means "Please don't interrupt"; door opens means "Come on in." And don't cave to the impulse to let the hordes in "just this once." That quickly erodes your critical barrier, and the importance of your workspace and your work. End the work day at a given time. It may be easy for you to want to return to work after the end of the day. Don't do it! Otherwise, you run the risk of serious burnout, which makes you far less efficient the next day. Working at home requires discipline, motivation and focus. Are you the regimented type who can stay alert and self-motivated? Critical self-evaluation can help solve productivity problems in the home office environment. Knowing your strengths and isolating your weaknesses are vital to structuring an industrious working situation from home. Put yourself on track tomorrow with some simple solutions for better time management today. “Discipline is remembering what you want.” - David Campbell, international clarinet soloist