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Lose the slippers... and the pyjamas. Gisela Giardino via Flickr/Creative Commons
top tips

10 tips for working effectively at home

Clear the clutter, stay in touch – and take off those pyjamas.

MORE THAN 10 per cent of US employees now regularly work from home, according to a survey by Stanford University. The figure in Ireland isn’t so clear as the Central Statistics Office explains that working outside of an office or teleworking doesn’t always mean the person is based in their own home (for example, a salesperson could be on the road most of the week). However, even in 2003, around 10 per cent of people in sectors other than agriculture worked to some extent from home.

Although there are some who find they are more productive when working from home, “losing the structure provided by a regular office job can be detrimental to success,” warns Andrew Rosen, founder and editor of the career advice blog, in a conversation with Glassdoor.

Many people working from from home, whether they are self-employed, working remotely, or out on leave, experience difficulties that those in an office setting don’t. But there are still a number of ways you can be just as productive at home as you are in the office.

We’ve collected the ten best tips to increasing your productivity when working from home.

1. Set your working hours

If you commit yourself to specific hours like you do at the office, you’re more likely to get work done during those hours.

One perk of working from home is that you don’t have to work 9-5. If you operate better at night, and the kind of work that you do permits it, start work at 7.00pm. But whatever your hours are, make yourself a routine, and be committed to it.

This Wired article also suggests dressing for work during those times to stay more focused on the task at hand. You don’t have to put on a suit, but do get out of your pyjamas.

2. Tell your family and friends to leave you alone

Your family probably doesn’t disturb you at the office with questions they can ask you when you get home. But if home is your office, they may not show the same restraint.

“I was very stressed with the noise of my kids and the general stress that kids cause when you do concentration-based work,” writes Dave Tate on Lifehacker. “I felt like a bad Dad because I would have to tell them 8 times that I wasn’t ‘done yet’ [with work].”

Tell your family and friends that even though you’re not working from an office doesn’t mean you’re available. Interruptions should be left for urgent matters only.

3. Clearly define and optimise your workspace

“You have to have a workplace, and it can’t be sitting in front of the TV,” Kathleen Downs, a recruiting manager at Robert Half International tells Glassdoor. “You have to go to your workplace and put in the time exactly as you would in the office.”

To up your productivity, some people recommend keeping a green plant at your desk. Office plants improve concentration and reduce stress levels by detoxifying the air around them, according to a study by scientists at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and Uppsala University of Sweden.

4. Communicate well and often with your colleagues

Maintain good, clear contact with whomever it is you have professional working relationships. These could be co-workers, clients, or your employer. Let them know what to expect from you and whether your home office might be a source of any limitations.

If you’re not your own boss, it’s especially important to communicate well with him or her.

“You have to maintain regular communications with the person you report to and definitely plan to do business with your manager and colleagues in person when possible,” Downs tells Glassdoor. “You have to really understand what your manager expects and deliver on it.”

5. Make a daily to-do list

A list of tasks you need to take care of each day will help keep you on track and reduce your ability to procrastinate.

If you tend to be a heavy procrastinator, you may even need to put ‘manage to-do list’ on your to-do list. “If you find yourself procrastinating anyway (despite the list), try scheduling out each hour of the day so you know what you need to do when,” writes Alison Green in an article on US News.

6. Back away from the screen

According to Science Daily, people spend more than five hours on average sitting at their desks each day.

Take a time out. It will remind you that you have a life outside of work, it will clear your head, and give your eyes a break from staring at a screen. Just be sure to let the people you work with know when you won’t be reachable during these breaks.

7. Get some human interaction

Don’t make all of your work connections through email. It’s more valuable to your career—and your mental well-being—to have a real conversation with someone, even if it’s over the phone.

You may want to go outside of your house to work for a while. Try heading to a coffee shop or to the library and working there, if it won’t be a distraction to you. Sometimes just having other people around can help you get more done, especially if they’re working too.

8. Develop relationships with other telecommuters

You probably won’t be getting the benefits of bonding with your coworkers around the office water cooler the way you used to. Not only that, but if you’re someone who telecommutes, “you may be left out of unplanned brainstorming or crisis-management meetings, which can lower your profile at work,” according to CNN.

Keep communication open between yourself and your colleagues in and out of the office. And if you can call in to a meeting through a conference phone, ask them to let you know.

9. Keep your workspace clean and free of clutter

If you’ve worked in an office building before, you’ve probably noticed that it’s cleaner when you come in the next morning than how it was left the night before. If you haven’t noticed, then you probably would if it hadn’t been cleaned. Messes are distracting.

If this isn’t motivation enough, studies show that over time, your desk can collect more than 400 times the bacteria on your toilet seat. Are you convinced yet?

10. “Leave” work at the end of the day

Susan Seaburg serves as Field Development Manager for the Americas for Hewlett-Packard, and offers her input on working from home. ”The good news is that now you can work anywhere, and the bad news is that now you can work anywhere,” she tells Santa Clara University.

The majority of people go home to get away from work. You don’t have that option. Make sure you still maintain a careful work-life balance. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you should be working all the time while you’re home.

Extra note: Be careful everyone in your household knows when you are on a video conference call…

via Sony/Youtube

- Melissa Stanger

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