When I started my business 20 years ago, working from home had big appeal.
I looked forward to having space I could call my own, that I could personalize fully.
I’ve had offices for my business over the years, which has its advantages too. But I keep returning to a home office setting whenever I want to simplify my life and business.
One big reason working at home is popular is the increase in productivity that people experience. The fear that you’ll be hunkered down in front of the TV eating snacks isn’t true for most people.
If you have the self-discipline to pull it off, working at home lets you get more done with fewer interruptions.
Whether you’re teleworking or self-employed, working from home certainly has its perks. And its challenges.
To overcome those challenges and have a really productive and satisfying work life, it's smart to plan ahead and set yourself up for success.
Here are 11 working from home tips for making one of the best decisions of your life:
1. Enjoy the freedom in your schedule.
One of the biggest perks to working at home is that your schedule has flexibility.
You can begin and end your day with a minimum of planning and inconvenience. You eliminate the stress of worrying about making it home on time for dinner or an evening commitment. You decide when you work.
We all have our own internal natural body rhythms. Find out what times of day you’re most productive, and work accordingly.
To some extent, you will have to be available for your clients’ hours, or for your colleagues back at the office, but outside of that, you can work at times that suit you best.
That means big pluses in productivity and creativity. And you’ll feel a whole lot better when you’re working at your best times of day (or night!).
If you have young kids, even if you have full-time help to care for them, you can drop in to share lunch, or take breaks to snuggle and play.
Working from home also buys you additional time. Being conscious of that lets you use the time you would spend commuting, packing a lunch, or gathering your stuff in the morning for self-care, thinking time, or for that project you’re working on.
2. Connect with people.
Working from home can feel isolating, especially if you’re an extrovert.
You don’t have the benefits of companionship and someone to troubleshoot with. I’m more on the extroverted side of the scale, so to be at my best, I do better if I see people during the day.
One of the best things I chose to do very early on as an entrepreneur with a home office was to arrange regular meetings. I mixed it up between clients, potential business collaborators, and friends.
Even if you’re an introvert, you need encouragement and feedback to keep going. So schedule in some time to be with people in person at least once a week.
3. Be disciplined.
Working from home does require more discipline. You have few outside influences to help keep you on track.
It helps to set a daily schedule, defining when you will begin and end your day. That can vary, but make it a conscious choice rather than reacting to what’s needed. It’s one of the big advantages of working from home. Use it to its fullest.
One way to really get the most from your day is to plan it the night before.
Before you leave your home office, decide what your most important three priorities will be for the next day. Three priorities may not seem like a lot, but limiting yourself to three will work for you in several ways.
- First, it defines what’s most important for your business or your job. What three things can you do to move you closer to your most important goals? Have those goals handy on an index card or as your screen saver, so they’re always top of mind. You’ll get more accomplished, and the clarity will energize you.
- Second, it will give you a sense of completion and accomplishment. Celebrating those, even just by acknowledging them (and you can take that further with a celebratory, “Woohoo!”), will inspire and motivate you for the next day.
- Third, getting done what you said you would do increases your confidence in yourself. Everyone, especially entrepreneurs, needs that confidence to move through the hard stuff. That self-confidence, that you can rely on yourself, gives you a solid foundation for your work life and also for your personal relationships.
4. Get dressed.
Working from home myth: You get to hang out in your pajamas all day!
You don’t even have to take a shower or comb your hair!
While that may sound good on some days, it actually doesn’t work to your advantage.
Getting up and getting dressed is actually a good thing. It signals your shift from rest to action. To do a great job at whatever you do, it requires your intentional and consistent effort. To keep that up, you need to keep up your energy.
Blurring the lines between relaxation time and work time can work against you by draining your focus. So prepare for your day intentionally. You’ll feel a whole lot better about yourself at 3:00 in the afternoon than when haven’t brushed your teeth and you’re still in your jammies.
I personally find it puts me in better work mode if I dress semi-business casual, taking the time to put on jewelry that goes with my ensemble. I admit, my boss (me!) is pretty lax on the dressing point, so no makeup (thankfully) is required.
5. Make yourself comfortable.
On the flip side, we work-at-home folk do have the advantage of being able to dress as we please, and that can range from sweats to jeans to skirts.
Bring your personality into your work space. As I’m writing this, I’m looking at a small oil painting I found in Santa Fe, a bronze horse, and a metal sculpture of a moose. Whatever works for you!
Create a space you want to go into each day, and you’ll bring some esthetic delight to your work.
While it may sound good to work in bed or slouch on the sofa, it actually does your body no favors. Working at a computer with the proper ergonomics will really benefit your physical health short- and long-term.
Though there is now conflicting research about how bad long periods of sitting are for you, the evidence for the benefits of physical movement is pretty solid.
So even if you don’t choose to have a standing desk, mix some kind of movement into your day of sitting. I take short breaks every 50 minutes to move around. I stretch and walk a little, adding stairs when I want more movement.
6. Shift your perspective.
It’s a great idea to change your scenery during the day.
It stimulates creativity, and gives your mind and body a new perspective.
I often move to my living room to read or review a website. Business offices don’t always have those options, so this is a great perk of working at home!
Make a point of moving around in your home, to enjoy what you have available to you while still getting your work done. It’ll uplift your spirit.
Getting out of the house is a wonderful way to change things up. I walk in nature at lunch whenever I can.
Luckily I have easy access, but even if you’re in the city, stepping outdoors has a refreshing, energizing, and even creativity-boosting effect.
Taking regular breaks, even if you’re able to be hyper-focused like I am, really does benefit you by a shift in perspective.
I used to almost resent what felt like an interruption, but I now stick by my routine of 50 minutes of work (optimal for me) followed by 10 minutes doing something completely different, to rejuvenate.
7. Find focus time.
Being at home means a lot of potential distractions. If you have kids, that is multiplied.
Focused concentration is essential, so you have to create space and time when you won’t be interrupted.
Arrange for your young kids to be taken care of when you need to work. For teenagers and the adults in your household, make it clear that when you’re at work, you’re not available.
If you’re the one who’s the household linchpin, then help your family branch out a little and grow into more responsibility. Do they really need you to find their shoes, or can they take care of that themselves?
Focus time is not just the time to do, do, do whatever’s on your list, list, list. You need time to think.
Being able to step away to focus on your business or work is just as important is being in it.
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8. Set boundaries around your time.
Most of us who work at home do have flexibility on our side. However, that can mean extending work hours into evenings and weekends to get something done.
Plus, the ongoing presence of work space that you walk by constantly can pull you in with reminders of that one thing you forgot or just want to get done. That can lead to long hours without real rest.
While it’s true that dedication and concentrated effort do lead to success, keep in mind that you really do choose your schedule. Make it one that keeps your energy sustained and your motivation up.
9. Be realistic about what you can get done.
We always overestimate how much we can get done in a day. It seems to be human nature.
And since there’s so much to do around the house, surely we can take a few minutes to get stuff done. I mean, it’s so accessible, right?
Yes, it’s true, you will be able to throw in a couple of loads of laundry while you work. That’s a plus. But doing entire household projects? Not so much.
And chances are, when you get the burning desire to clean the bathroom or kitchen, you’re avoiding something important you need to do in your business or work.
Keep the home projects for evenings and weekends. When it’s time to work (whenever you decide that is), focus.
10. Keep the food distractions to a minimum.
Personally, my go-to coping strategy when I’m anxious or worried is to eat. If you’re like me, you’ll find the easy availability of an entire kitchen of food a distraction.
Eating healthy food depends on your planning and discipline. This is especially important when you work at home. Fill your cupboards and fridge with what you know will benefit you (while still tasting good – I’m no spartan when it comes to food!).
Your energy is a huge asset as an entrepreneur, and being able to call on it when you need it is key. Great self-care helps you fill that pool of energy.
11. Have a dedicated space.
Working in your kitchen or anywhere distractions call to you means less focus.
It’s best to have a dedicated space for your work, if you can manage it. Stepping into that space signals your brain, time to work! These seemingly small things add up to give you the energy you need to complete your day’s priorities.
Keep your office organized on an ongoing basis, instead of letting it pile up. When I worked in corporate, someone assigned to desk patrol used to come around and tell us whether our desks were up to muster.
This use of resources surprised me, but there is merit to having a neat desk. It helps keep your thinking clearer, and you aren’t pulled into unplanned activities just because they’re visible.
Working at home can be a big plus in many ways. Using these tips to move past the challenges can make your work time more productive and fulfilling.
About the author:
Ursula Jorch mentors business owners and leaders to be successful on their own terms. Blending business strategy and leadership development, Ursula works with business owners and leaders to embrace their impact and empower their future. A 20-year entrepreneur, she is the founder of Work Alchemy, a well-regarded speaker, and blogger.