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You know the benefits of working from home and you're loving it -- mainly that you can be home with the kids when they need you, every day, and that's a huge bonus of telecommuting. So to maintain this perk -- working and being at home all at once -- you want to do everything you can to ensure you're successful in the remote-work setting. Flexibility has a way of leading to distraction and temptation, so organizing structure into your day permits the best chance to meet the demands of work and home life while allowing you to self-monitor your pace and productivity.
The beauty of remote work, or telecommuting, might stem from something simple, such as taking your kids to school. As you incorporate work with home life, leaving your schedule to chance is risky. "I believe you must have a schedule. It may be complex, and it may switch back-and-forth between work and home, but it is essential," says business consultant Donna Kent, of Schaumburg, Illinois. Kent gives an example of a client mom who is up early, tackling work email and planning her day before getting her family ready for their days. At 9:15 a.m., work day phase 2 begins, with breaks scheduled and taken regularly. "It's about framework, building discipline into your day and creating a road map for your work time," Kent adds.
"Some people can switch into work mode immediately, though most of us need a transition," says Kent. "Work-at-home advice sources often recommend dedicated office space, which may not be physically possible for all telecommuters. However, the suggestion of dressing for work time is particularly important when you are in contact with clients and co-workers through the day." Looking professional is essential for video conferencing, but being dressed for business during voice calls gives a sense of place and sets the mood. Jill Duffy, writing in PC.com in 2012, points out the effect dressing has on creating a work mindset. It's a simple act that replaces the morning commute, representing the change from home and work life.
A dedicated home office might be the holy grail of telecommuting, but an inefficient space can keep you from your best work. Interior designer Jo Heinz warns of the drawbacks from an office that's too casual. She says that there should be separation from the activity and noise in your home with a sense of "off limits" to other family members. All your work should remain in the office for easy access. As for office equipment, Duffy suggests that a dedicated work phone number is essential, while a dedicated work computer is advisable. "The nature of the work you do dictates what you need to do it, but have everything on hand, in easy reach. Grabbing a pen should be instinctive, not a five-minute search through drawers," says Kent.
Many people overestimate what they can accomplish during the day, says time-management expert Julie Morgenstern, writing in Redbook.com. She suggests managing goals by setting tangible targets, rather than the do-as-much-as-possible method. The work to-do list is essential in any office setting, says Morgenstern, to stay focused and be able to resume your priorities when interruptions occur. Kent recommends integrating to-do lists with your daily framework. "When you define the portions of your day that are work-related, it becomes easier to slot your tasks. A large project can be scheduled for a three-hour slot in the morning, for example, while a quick report may fit into a 90-minute window during your child's after-school activity," she says.