Having worked from home for almost 13 years, I get asked all the time how I do it. There seem to be two camps of people, those who think working from home is their dream and a ticket to–well–not actually working, or those who know they don’t have what it takes to stay disciplined and get the job done. For my family, working from home means I get to have a productive career that contributes financially to my family and I’m still here for my children and my husband when I need to be.
Working from home gives you more power and independence in your work schedule. It also lowers work-family conflict and increases job satisfaction, performance, turnover intent and role stress, according to a 2014 American Psychological Association study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. If you find it difficult to make your way to your computer and forgo your Netflix queue, though, a lack of discipline can create stress and get you in trouble with your employer.
Staying focused and accomplishing work you’re tasked with is essential to maintain a work-from-home role. Here are five ways to create a work sanctuary that makes you satisfied with both your professional and personal life.
Create a Work Environment in Your Home
A home office lets you surround yourself with as many cute pictures of your kids and pets as you want to stay motivated, but creating a permanent seat on the couch may not be your best option.
Designate a space in your home that is designed to help you succeed at work. Personally, I work with the television on for background noise, so keeping the remote within easy reach so I can mute for conference calls helps me concentrate. What also helps is sticking to the Feng-Shui principles.
Equip Yourself With the Right Technology
One of the best ways to present yourself as a valuable work-from-home employee to your boss and co-workers is to be available during work hours. Having access to online conference tools, such as Skype and GoToMeeting, enables you to remotely join in on conversations. Chat programs like Google Chat let you instantly answer questions. A smartphone with a long battery life and expandable memory, such as the LG G4, allows you to store work data and access it from anywhere, even if you’ve taken a break to hit the gym or are at an appointment. Sure, it’s not all sunshine and roses. Read this post with pros and cons of working from home.
Dress for Success
Contrary to what most people think, I have never actually spent the day working in my pajamas. Put yourself in a working frame of mind by ditching your pajamas or sweatpants and dressing at least semi-professionally. There’s no need to go all out with a pantsuit and collared shirt, but simply going through the motions of showering and wearing clothes you wouldn’t be afraid to leave the house in or jump on a video conference call, lets your brain know it’s time to work, not relax.
Get Help From Productivity Apps
Stay on track by mapping out your workweek and setting deadlines regarding what you want to accomplish. Free smartphone apps like Any. Do sync your personal and professional tasks, so you can better plan your time. RescueTime helps you pinpoint where you’re being least productive, so you can stay on track. I personally find Google Docs to be indispensable for collaborating and working with a team. I also like BaseCamp for keeping track of who is responsible for each part of a large project.
Stay Connected With Your Office
Prevent disengagement from work by maintaining contact with your boss and routinely checking in on task progress. This conveys to your employer that you are invested in work even though you’re at home and that they can count on you to effectively manage your time remotely. It also increases your efficiency on tasks, since you fully understand the expectations and deadlines. Don’t be afraid to ask for weekly, or bi-weekly check-in meetings so you can update the team, and they can update you, on deadlines and projects and be aware not to get over-committed!
Set Work Hours
My friends and family know that I work regular hours, that means I’m not available during those times, just as I would if I worked in an office. Help your friends and family understand that even though you’re working from home you’re working and can’t drop everything to chat on the phone for an hour.
This works both ways. If your workday ends at 5:00 don’t hesitate to let your boss know that the meeting he just scheduled for 6:30 is problematic for you. With different time zones often it’s just a matter of picking a time that works for the entire team. I also let my employer know that I pick my children up from school every day so I’m briefly unavailable during that time.