My friends get pretty jealous about me having an office in my home, saying it must be cool to be able to sit around in my sweats and do all sorts of errands during the day. Well, while there are definite perks to working from home – spending nothing on gas (a big benefit in $4/gallon San Francisco) and eating a healthy lunch that I prepare – it’s important to remember the work part in the work-from-home equation. For most of us with home offices, it’s key to our success to find ways to put the “office” back in “home office.”
Reduce distractions. Here’s a scenario: even though you hate doing laundry, as soon as you sit down to start your workday, suddenly your laundry jumps to the top of your must-do list. You get out of your chair, collect your laundry, sort it, put it in the machine, and before you know it, you’ve lost 20 minutes that was supposed to be spent on an important project. Sound familiar? Most of us have distractions in our homes that can divert our attention from the work that we have in front of us. For us work-at-homers, it’s super-important to combat these distractions. True, we can’t make them go away, but look for ways to shift your focus back to your work. For instance, putting all non-work-related items out view of your desk, closing the door to your office, and turning off the ringer on your home phone during the day have all proven helpful to people I’ve worked with.
Set the scene. Is your home office set up to help you do your best work? If it isn’t, take some time to get the space organized, comfortable, and conducive for how you like to work. For instance, if you have trouble getting started each day because you can’t find your papers, take an afternoon and set up a paper management system. Are your frequently-used supplies all the way on the other side of the room? Move them closer so you spend less time getting up and interrupting your workflow. Does the space itself reflect your personal aesthetic? How things look and feel can play a big part in how much (or how little) we like our workspace, and when we like our space, we do better work. Spend some time “dressing up” your work area or desk with items that reflect who you are and the things you like.
Dress for work, not for home. Even though it might seem working in your home office in pajamas or sweats is a good idea (you’re already wearing them, right?), doing so doesn’t lend itself to enhancing your productivity or helping you do your best work. Your pajamas may be silk and your sweats designer, but chances are you’d never see a client or go to an office wearing these decidedly not-work garments. Dressing up helps us shift our mind into another state – in this case, dressing for work helps make the mental shift into work mode. I’ve seen people work much better when they dress as if they may be called off to a client site at any moment. For example, a client says when she puts on her shoes, she knows it’s time for her to go to work (even though her office is just down the hall from her bedroom). What outfit can you change into to signal work time?
Find the things that you can do, whether it’s putting on a dress shirt or closing your office door, to create a physical or mental “workspace” that is distinct from your home. When you do, you’ll find yourself being much more productive and enjoy your work more.