IT Employment

Five tips for being more productive when working from home

Even if you're well-suited to work from home, maintaining your productivity can be a challenge. Here are some suggestions for making sure you're as effective and efficient as possible.

Not everyone is cut out for working from home. The pantry, the television, and YouTube are incredibly persuasive distractions if you have no boss or co-workers nearby. Personally, I've found that I thrive at home -- I can be quite productive for 10 hours at a stretch, and in fact knowing when and how to "shut down" and relax after business hours is actually my bigger problem.

When I saw jkOnTheRun's How to be a Productive Home Worker, I found myself nodding my head a lot in agreement. This is a great overview of how to be an effective worker at home, whether you're doing it to escape the cubicle part time or as a self-employed entrepreneur. Here's a summary with my take on the list.

Note: These tips are based on an entry in BNET's Business Hacks blog.

1: Set up a comfortable home office

This is essential. You can't work effectively if your home office is the kitchen table or a desk in the corner of the bedroom. Approach work-from-home professionally, with a quiet workspace, ergonomic seating and computer equipment, and decent lighting. Remember: I recently told you how to optimize your office lighting.

2: Think about music

At home, you have control over the sound in your "office" in ways that would be impossible at work. Music can make you more productive or can be a distraction. Personally, I like to play White Stripes, Decemberists, and Kristin Hersh while I work, but my wife finds music with vocals distracting. When she works at home, she plays instrumental music. The bottom line: Figure out what works for you. It might not be the same music you choose to listen to when relaxing.

3: Keep to a schedule

When I work from home, I don't take the opportunity to sleep in late. I get up at the same time as when I go into the office. I exercise, same as I would when commuting into the office. And I take the same lunch, snack, and dinner breaks. I think this is incredibly important -- discipline keeps me on track, productive, and mentally sharp.

4: Get out of the house

On the other hand, spending the whole day, from rise-and-shine to Conan-and-bedtime would drive me insane. When I work from home, I go out for lunch, and sometimes even dinner. It's important to get out, see some sights, and possibly talk to other human beings.

5: Choose the right wardrobe

The jkOnTheRun article recommends dressing up to work from home because it conveys a sense of seriousness about working from home. I vehemently disagree with that advice. I barely get out of my PJs all day when I work from home -- I put on sweats and I look like a hobo. I do that because getting to wear comfortable clothing is one of the benefits of working from home. If I dressed up, I might as well go into the office. Personally, I don't find that what I wear affects my productivity. What about you?

9 comments
maj37
maj37

How do you reconcile #4 and #5? Do you go out to lunch or whatever in your sweats? Otherwise I mostly agree with you. I seldom leave my desk at the office for lunch but when I work from home I always leave my desk and go to the kitchen to have lunch with my wife if she is home. maj

Caribe10
Caribe10

I agree with Dave. I work from home a few days a week and it works best for me when I follow most of his tips. I find that I do need to get dressed at least casually, and I definitely need to get out of the house at lunch, even if it is a 20 minute drive. Other than that, I am much more productive and work longer hours at home because I spend the hour commute (each way) working instead of driving, and I'm typically working longer into the evening as my wife gets home from work later. All this being said, we have a new CIO who feels everyone should work in the office full-time for the value of being with peers. While I agree somewhat, I don't totally agree. i think there is a balance. Opinions?

chrsxn
chrsxn

All this works right. Yes, you don't need to dress up when staying at home. Why waste time doing that? You can BE yourself at home. hehe And yes, you can play the right music at home. Must go out at night else will feel like an indoor plant later! And then less productivity! Yes, agree a lot with pOint No.3.

nightshadel
nightshadel

Keeping to a "schedule" rather depends on what sort of work you are doing. For example, computer programming or translations are not the sort of work where you switch your brain on and off at preset times of day. Working at home is a LOT more productive. You actually work and avoid office politics

chrsxn
chrsxn

I so totally agree with all the points and vehemently with the last being in your pJ's all day. I mean what's the point of dressing up if you aren't going out. One has to keep the same environment when it comes to keeping away the distractions like a blaring tv set or cooking fragrances...whatever distracts you. Yes keeping the same time and schedule works awesome as mentioned in 3 above. There are more points. I'm working from home today and all this is working right for me.

DittoHeadStL
DittoHeadStL

I've telecommuted from home full-time since 1994 and agree on most of these points. It isn't for everyone. Some tell me they probably couldn't resist the temptation to have the TV going and getting distracted continually. That's where you need to think about discipline and what works best for you. I think the point about getting out of the house is probably a personal preference. While getting out of the *office* part of the house is probably necessary, I haven't observed any ill effects by staying home all evening. I almost always have breakfast (alone), lunch (alone or with the wife) and dinner (with the fam) at home. Maybe it's the busy household that makes the difference.

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

Your CIO would have problems surviving several of the clients I have had in the past. These are major companies who effectively have eliminated their offices for non-VPs. If he worked for them the increase in costs alone would have him turfed within the month. (Actually he wouldn't be allowed to spend the money). There are other organizations where the very idea of everyone working together is laughable. This seems to be the growing trend as companies learn from offshoring that they don't need to have people under their sight in order to get work done. Even the smallest companies I've worked with lately have started to let people work outside the office. Being able to form friendships is a matter of being open and friendly -- not being co-located. It sounds more like he is looking to decide who should remain and who shouldn't. Either that or he is an old-fashioned manager with a touch of control freak.

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

Interaction is important - being able to actually grip-and-grin not so much. I've got two opposite numbers only one of whom I've actually met and that on just one occasion, but we work well together, and talk/email freely as needed. The interaction is invaluable because we all have strengths - and weaknesses(!) - that the other two can use or cover. It doesn't bother me that I'm never in the same room with those folks, but I'd hate not being able to pick their brains and miss being able to return the favor.

Caribe10
Caribe10

Your last statement rings a bell. In the last round of layoffs, the telecommuters who were not close to a physical site are not here anymore. One of them was my most talented. Wasn't my decision.