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5 productivity tips for working from home

Working from home

Thinking about telecommuting? Although working from home can offer more flexibility than being in a traditional office, you still have to meet your employer’s deadlines and expectations — and that takes discipline.

“Today, telecommuting is something that enters many of our work worlds, [so] we should all create spaces at home that are conducive to working there,” says Heath Boice-Pardee, EdD, associate faculty member at the University of Phoenix School of Advanced Studies and community manager of the PhoenixConnect® academic social network.

Here are Boice-Pardee’s tips for being productive at home:

Set boundaries.

A potential drawback of not being in an office is having no line of demarcation between your work and personal life. One way to avoid this is to set firm boundaries.

“Have a dedicated workspace,” Boice-Pardee stresses, preferably with a door you can close to reduce noise and interruptions from the rest of the household so you can concentrate on your job. “When my family comes into my [home] office,” he says, “it means my worlds are colliding, and it causes me anxiety.”

He also recommends keeping separate phone lines and email accounts for work and personal use, and turning off work-related accounts outside of business hours so you can decompress at the end of your workday.

Maintain a schedule.

Although it’s tempting to sleep late or run errands instead of working — don’t. “It’s very important to develop a schedule,” Boice-Pardee emphasizes. “Maybe you’ll get up at 7 am and do household chores until 8:30, then work until 11. You can take lunch or go to the gym for an hour, and then get back to work.”

Telecommuting also can make holding meetings a challenge, especially if you work with people across multiple time zones. Flexibility is key, Boice-Pardee says, suggesting that people in the East schedule conference calls in the afternoon or early evening to accommodate colleagues in the West.

Be professional.

Just because your colleagues won’t see you doesn’t mean you should dress down, according to Boice-Pardee.

“While I don’t wear my best suit when working at home, I can’t be productive in my pajamas,” he says, stressing that wearing business clothes and working at a desk or table instead of the couch can help you stay in your “work brain.”

Stay connected.

Working from home can be isolating, so it’s important to get out in order to remain productive, Boice-Pardee advises. “Work at a coffee shop or library, or have lunch with someone,” he says, which can motivate you when you’re feeling stir-crazy.

If you work from home full time, the need for face-to-face connections can be even more important, he notes. He recommends meeting with colleagues at least once or twice a year, even if you must travel. “You can conduct business via email or on the phone,” he says, “but there’s no replacement for building relationships in person.”

Avoid diversions.

Your home has all kinds of distractions that can derail your best intentions to focus on your work. “Turn the TV off so you aren’t tempted to watch it all day,” Boice-Pardee advises. He also suggests that parents of small children get help with child care.

It’s possible to do light housework during work hours and still be productive, Boice-Pardee believes, but he says juggling work and chores is not for everyone. “Some people,” he notes, “just aren’t made for that.”