Lucky you. You, along with 30 million other Americans who work from home at least once a week, are the envy of countless clock-punchers in offices everywhere. But telecommuting is becoming the new normal. Legal transcription, business administration and medical coding have been common telecommuting professions for several years, but the work-at-home paradigm is catching on across a wide range of industries. At-home workers can be productive if they learn to mange distractions, stay focused and tailor their environments to create a workplace that enhances—not detracts from—the business at hand. So, without further ado (after all, you've got work to do), here are three secrets to staying productive while working at home.
Focus by setting boundaries. Remember the office? Sure you do. Florescent lights. Cubicles. Focusing on the task at hand could be challenging with chatty co-workers hovering over your shoulder. But at least you knew you were all there for a common purpose. One advantage the traditional cube farm has over a home office is the environment is entirely dedicated to the company's mission. There are plenty of distractions, sure, but you're part of a team that is always going to bring you back to the task at hand. At home, focus is a state of mind best achieved by isolating your workspace and your time. Make your work room off-limits to friends, family members and even pets. You might feel cheesy putting up a “do not disturb” sign, but it's a polite way to make sure others get the message: you aren't to be interrupted. Once the barriers are up, you can concentrate better on your work.
Make technology your employee. If the only machine you depend on to work from home is the coffee machine, perhaps you should think about new ways to make technology work for you. Machines are a home worker's best friends. They are there to make your job easier and to make everything operate more efficiently. They save you time. Actually, it might be a good idea to look at them as your employees. So put them to work. A computer with an Internet connection and a phone are crucial for many at-home jobs. A fax machine may seem like a relic of the '90s, but you may find that you need one of those as well. What programs do you need on your home office computer? Don't waste your energy and precious time driving to meetings if you can use Google Hangouts or Skype.
Build your environment. Here's one of the best advantages of working from home: You can actually tailor your work surroundings to bring out your creativity and enhance your productivity. You're not on the cube farm any more, so feng shui your home office for maximum productivity. You might have your desk face the garden if you find nature soothes your nerves and refreshes your mind. Adjust the lighting to what works for you; bright for improved focus or dimmed for cozy and relaxed. If you build the perfect environment, you can put yourself in “the zone.”