How to Make a Success of Work at Home

by Kevin on December 10, 2012

Many people would like a work-at-home arrangement. It can offer a better blend of work and personal life, and even give you more time in your workweek. The time you gain is a result of not needing to commute every morning and afternoon. And this also saves money and commuting expense, such as gas and wear-and-tear on your car.

But as much as work-at-home has so many benefits, it’s also a very different way to work, and one that requires certain adjustments in your work style if it is to be successful.

Creating a dedicated space

The first thing you have to do is create a dedicated workspace. Unless you live alone, working on your kitchen table or the cocktail table in your living room won’t cut it. You’ll need a place in your home where you can close your door to make sure that the privacy you need for your work will be respected. And if you do live with other people it won’t be a bad idea to have a lock on the door either.

The workspace will also need to be fully prepared for business. That will mean a desk, a file cabinet, and a very comfortable chair. You’ll also need a space that’s “wired”, meaning not only Internet and phone hookups nearby, but also sufficient electrical outlets to accommodate the various business equipment you may need.

A private office in your home would be ideal, but a large corner of your bedroom can work just as well.

Blocking distractions

Once you begin working at home you’ll also need to create boundaries for yourself and for those who you live with. It will have to be clear that you will need to work during regular business hours, and that disturbances are to be kept to a minimum.

As a rule, unless an emergency arises, you need to find a way to keep members of your household from continuing to behave as if you are not working. This will also mean not answering your residential phone line or tending to personal emails during working hours. If your work-at-home arrangement is to be successful you’ll need to block out your personal life from your work life.

Creating human interaction

For all of its benefits, work-at-home can be a lonely affair. It’s just you and your telephone and email, and that’s the extent of your contact with the outside world. But sometimes you need to spend some time with real live human beings.

In the workplace, we’re constantly surrounded by people. It’s not just the office either, but also lunches and the occasional after-hours interactions. They’re actually are more important than we generally assume.

You’ll have to create such opportunities as a work-at-home employee, at least on a more limited basis. You can do this by planning to get to the office maybe once or twice a week, if only to have lunch with your coworkers. You may also want to consider heading out to lunch one or two days a week by yourself, or even taking your laptop and working from a local coffee shop.

Keeping a schedule

Keeping a schedule is absolutely critical to work-at-home success. You’ll need to maintain a similar work schedule to the one that you had when you worked outside your home. And you’ll have to plan on working throughout the day and being very intentional about holding your personal missions for evenings and weekends.

You’ll also have to make sure that your lunch periods don’t go over time. In fact as a work-at-home employee your lunchtimes can probably be shorter than they would be in the office; you won’t need quite as much time for a midday break when you’re working in your own home.

Concentrating on what‘s most important

If you think that it’s difficult to stay on task when you work in a crowded office, it will only be worse when you work at home. You’ll need to be very intentional about completing your most important tasks each day. In any job or business we all have tasks that are not very important, somewhat important, very important – and one or two that are absolutely critical.

The critical tasks are the ones that need to get your first priority. If you accomplish nothing else all day, but you complete the most important tasks, you will have at least “earned your keep” for that day. All other tasks should be completed in descending order of the importance.

Not only will this strategy better enable you to control your workflow, but it will also make your work-at-home venture look more successful in the eyes of your superiors. That should be enough to keep you in your work-at-home arrangement for a good, long time.

Are there other strategies that you think are important for work-at-home success? What obstacles would you warn someone else about?

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