Working from home can easily become a blessing or a curse. The minute that most people are offered the option, they think of the perks without realizing that many of these glorious benefits could lead to distractions and potential productivity failure.

My career has been a blend of home office and commute experiences, and I have bounced around on which I prefer depending on the weather and the project at hand. During the bleak winter months or rainy days, I often am grateful for the opportunity to stay in the house, log in, and get to work without having to brave the elements. During the spring and summer months on the other hand, I would miss the memories of leaving the office with the girls for lunch by the lake or at an open air café.

Ultimately, working for home still offers enough moments of happiness that I would never decline the chance to do so, but before you consider snatching up the first job that provides the option, here are a few tips to doing it successfully.

1) Stick to your routine. Treat your daily work life as though you were getting up to go to the office or you will run the risk of slipping into time complacency. Get up at the same time each morning and follow a system that requires you to move like you are trying to avoid rush hour traffic.  A strict schedule will naturally allow you to accomplish your daily goals and prevent you from answering dicey questions later (trust me, people who work from home are under close scrutiny by the powers-that-be but rarely know it until they are asked to give an account for their time).

2) Dress for success. Close your eyes and imagine yourself working from home. What are you wearing? If you conjure up images of comfy pajamas and fuzzy slippers, warm mugs of cocoa in front of the laptop, you might want to rethink working from home in the immediate future–depending on the type of industry you work in. Part of dressing for work is about the impact on performance. No one feels most productive in their pajamas or they wouldn’t be considered the go-to wear for lazy days. While you may not want to put on your most severe suit and heels, you don’t want to be in clothing that makes you feel like every minute is break time.

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3) Stay connected to your professional network. A friend of mine that worked from home miles away from the corporate office would often comment on being left out of the loop. Don’t underestimate the need for collegial support. To offset those feelings, go by the office once a week, schedule lunch with friends, or attend relevant networking events on a regular basis.

4) Be cautious with environmental stimulus. Okay, that was my fancy way of saying turn the television off. One of the most tempting things for me on my at home office days is the availability of daytime television–seriously, can you resist the allure of Ellen? All of a sudden the guilty pleasure television that I have only been catching as 30 second clips is a quick click away. Avoid the areas of the home that you typically watch TV or use as your hobby space. Designate certain areas as your work zone and stick to them. I can work with a radio on because it doesn’t create a distraction but if I hear Victor Newman’s voice (yes, I watch The Young and The Restless), I am in full distraction mode.

5) Make others aware of your “office hours”. Parents or spouses that work from home often struggle with the ability to communicate that they are really working. Perception isn’t always reality so when the kids come in after school and you’re clicking away at your computer, they take their cues from the environment, not from you. Your best girlfriend will ask you to run an errand or two for her because “you’re at home anyway” and your time appears more flexible. My home office hours and break times are clearly designated and communicated to friends and family allowing me to minimize unnecessary interruptions.

Do you work from home as well? We’d love to know more on how you do it!

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