Working from home is both a dream and a nightmare. On the one hand is the desirability of working in your pajamas with a 20 second commute. But on the flip side is the reality of constant interruptions, limited space, and distractions. If you are struggling to be productive from a home office, try the following:
HAVE A SET WORKSPACE
Designate a space that will be used for work. Make it look professional, or in some way different, from your regular space. The subtle cue to the eye of a hanging work schedule, client binders or action files can put you in the mindset to work. Make sure to have all the supplies you need to work in this space to minimize the chance you will need to get up, walk away, and potentially get distracted from the task at hand.
KEEP WORK & OFFICE FILES SEPARATE
If possible, have one file drawer for work and one for home. If you are space constrained, consider using a rolling file box or file ottoman just for business. This goes for supplies as well. To properly track expenses, keep your office supplies (paper, notepads, pens, etc.) separate from the stock that is used for home purposes.
SET WORK HOURS
While this may seem difficult, it is very important to have a schedule for when you are “working.” Setting – and then clearly communicating – “work” hours provides predictability for you and for your friends and family. If friends know you are working from 9-11am every morning, they will be less likely to call home and interrupt you. If you can predict your schedule, you will have an easier time balancing work & home tasks (e.g.” I’m always working Monday, Wednesdays ad Fridays, so I will only schedule household maintenance on Tuesday and Thursdays.”) Finally, avoid tackling housework or personal chores during work hours. Keep work time sacred, as if you are in an office far away from home.
GIVE FAMILY MEMBERS VISIBLE SIGNALS
Whether you close the door, hang a sign, or put on a hat, find a way to remind family members of all ages that you are working… and hence, should not be interrupted. This is difficult with little ones, but they too can be taught to look first. If you are watching your children and working at the same time, be sure to take frequent breaks so you can reward children who are trying to hold off and not interrupt you.
HAVE A CLEAR AGENDA
One of the problems of working from home is that you never “leave.” Work has a tendency to stare at you, beckoning for attention. Be sure each day to have a clear list of what you need to accomplish, and when you have either completed the list, or reached a stopping point, walk away. Be sure to clean up at the end of the day to avoid the risk of little hands/dogs/unsuspecting family members misplacing or damaging an important item.
Combining work and childcare can be challenging. Consider hiring childcare, even if it is only for a few of your working hours. Do your easier work when little ones are underfoot, and save the conference calls for a time when someone else is in charge.
The overarching theme here is to create an artificial separation where it really doesn’t exist. By segregating your space, supplies, attention and time, you can make working from home an efficient and affordable alternative.
What is your best tip for working from home?
15 thoughts on “Home vs. the Home Office”
I am so bad about all of this! Seana, I really have set a goal for myself to get my office organized and put some boundaries into place starting with the school year. This is really good advice to follow!! Thank you for sharing it!
It can be hard to do, and takes an intentional effort. I hope you are able to implement some of it – every little bit counts! Good luck:)
I haven’t yet shifted into working from home full time.
So, now, I work on business stuff when I can, which is usually at home! I’m starting to realize that I’m not productive when I’m at home exactly for the reason you say — I don’t have a dedicated work at home space.
My space is my dining room table, which is filled with both personal and work papers!! Since I’m not full time on my business yet, I have found that working at a coffee shop is more helpful than working at home. But, when I start full-time on my business, I know that I’ll need to make a dedicate space in my house! Thank you so much for the insight!
I love your idea, Jennifer. Sometimes getting to a neutral location can be a great temporary alternative. Best of luck as you grow your business, and thanks for stopping by!
Great advice Seana!
Can be a tricky balance! Thanks for reading, Matt!
while I don’t have an home office, as a teacher I often do work at home…which is why I need to follow some of these tips…so pinning this and reading when my son is jumping on the couch, LOL
Such a good point, Karen! So many of us bring some form of work into our homes these days. Hope it helps – I’m smiling thinking of your son on the couch!
I love your home office! I am a teacher but also work at home as an artist so I can relate. Thanks for the great tips:)!
Thanks for stopping by. I imagine lighting is of utmost importance in your space. I’m off to visit your site:)
What fabulous tips! I don’t currently work at home, but these would have really helped me when I did. I still see things I can learn from them in my situation. Thanks for sharing.
Is that your home office in the picture? It’s fabulous. The desk is beautiful and there is so much light. Whoever owns that space is very fortunate.
Stopping by from SITS.
When I started my business, I had a regular day job, so I got in the habit of spending evenings and weekends working on my business. Once I quit my day job, I realized that I didn’t need to work from dawn to dusk and now I stop at 5 PM every day, with few exceptions.
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It can be so easy to “just keep working” when home is also the office. But you need to give yourself permission to be done, relax, and enjoy your home. Great routine you’ve established, Janet!
What a great list of guidelines, Seana! I like having my planner open so that I can quickly see what needs to be done and/or record what I have done. I purchased an open/closed sign for my office door to remind myself that it is OK to be finished for the day! Thanks for your consistent excellent contributions to POBC!
Love the idea of an open/closed sign for your office door. Great way to put some boundaries on your working life. And thank YOU, Olive, for your kind words. Hope you are having a very happy holiday season:)