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If you are a self-motivated and extremely focused person, and you thrive with little supervision, read on to discover an expert’s secrets to working at home successfully.
1. Create your workspace
If you're fortunate enough to have a den or an extra bedroom in your home, stake a claim during “office hours” and make it your own.
“Get a proper desk, a comfortable and supportive chair and a dedicated telephone line for your business and you’re ready to go,” says Wes Lenci, vice-president of Regus Canada, an international firm that provides office space and workplace solutions.
Are you squeezed space-wise? The dining room table or kitchen table can work, too, but be sure that you clear away the salt and pepper shakers, and that you have all of the necessities for a productive workplace, such as adequate room to spread out and electrical sockets to power your laptop.
Additional must-haves include Wi-Fi access, a printer/scanner and a filing area. Many printers and filing cabinets are compact and can easily hide in a cupboard or drawer when not in use. Some homebound desk jockeys create a portable office in a box, storing a stapler, tape, pens, paper, envelopes, sticky notes and other office essentials within it. When the workday concludes, you can toss all of your supplies into the box and relocate it to a less conspicuous locale in your home.
2. Dress for success
You don’t have to don sky-high pumps and a business suit, but it is important to look professional. Dress for success in office-casual threads and leave your pajamas for after-hours.
“People who prepare as if they’re going into an office in the morning are more efficient, less frustrated and get more done,” says Lenci.
Another reason to appear presentable is that you could bump into a colleague or potential client while running lunchtime errands. Would you rather be seen clad in a T-shirt and yoga pants or in a classy blouse and trouser combo? Looking smart will also help you feel more confident, accomplished and ready for that last-minute lunchtime business meeting.
“You never know what can come up,” says Lenci. “You should be prepared.”
3. Set a routine and stick to it
“The most successful home-based workers are very disciplined,” says Lenci, so plan to start work no later than 9:00 a.m. every day.
Schedule mini-breaks to stretch and a lunch hour to refuel. If your productivity will be continually interrupted by guilty thoughts of unfinished home tasks, such as laundry or dirty dishes, Lenci recommends scheduling small household projects into your routine.
“Take 10 minutes to eat lunch and 20 minutes to do a chore inside the house,” he says. Avoid switching back and forth between personal and professional tasks, though, as it can leave you frazzled and dilute your efficiency.
4. Don’t forget to network
Feelings of isolation are common when you're left alone with your to-do list. Replace mingling around the corporate water cooler with networking via Twitter and LinkedIn. Keep abreast of news and gossip, as well as business contacts and industry happenings. Just be sure to limit your time on these addictive social media sites to ensure that deadlines are met and clients are satisfied.
Another way to feel connected and to keep your name in the mix is to get out of the house. “Go on that lunch break to an event or a speaker engagement,” suggests Lenci.
Joining an association catering to your profession is also a smart strategy. Many occupations have groups where you can meet socially or correspond via email to exchange ideas, receive support and view job opportunities.
5. Inform friends and family
Sometimes your loved ones won’t take your working-from-home situation seriously. They may think that you’re free to chat or that you’re able to run errands for them because you’re not ensconced in an office. So make sure that your nearest and dearest know that your work ethic is in full gear, even at home.
“You have to set boundaries,” says Lenci. “Be rigid and explain the hours that you’re working.” It's imperative that they know that you're on the clock, too.
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