Be Productive When Working From Home

Last Updated Nov 5, 2009 10:44 PM EST

Not everyone is cut out for working from home. The pantry, the television, and YouTube are incredibly persuasive distractions if you have no boss or co-workers nearby. Personally, I've found that I thrive at home -- I can be quite productive for 10 hours at a stretch, and in fact knowing when and how to "shut down" and relax after business hours is actually my bigger problem.

When I saw jkOnTheRun's How to be a Productive Home Worker, I found myself nodding my head a lot in agreement. This is a great overview of how to be an effective worker at home, whether you're doing it to escape the cubicle part time or as a self-employed entrepreneur. Here's a summary with my take on the list:


Set up a comfortable home office. This is essential -- you can't work effectively if your home office is the kitchen table or a desk in the corner of the bedroom. Approach work-from-home professionally, with a quiet workspace, ergonomic seating and computer equipment, and decent lighting. Remember: I recently told you how to optimize your office lighting.

Think about music. At home, you have control over the sound in your "office" in ways that would be impossible at work. Music can make you more productive or can be a distraction. Personally, I like to play White Stripes, Decemberists, and Kristin Hersh while I work, but my wife finds music with vocals distracting. When she works at home, she plays instrumental music. The bottom line: Figure out what works for you; it might not be the same music you choose to listen to when relaxing.

Keep to a schedule. When I work from home, I don't take the opportunity to sleep in late. I get up at the same time as when I go into the office. I exercise, same as I would when commuting into the office. And I take the same lunch, snack, and dinner breaks. I think this is incredibly important -- discipline keeps me on track, productive, and mentally sharp.

Get out of the house. On the other hand, spending the whole day, from rise-and-shine to Conan-and-bedtime would drive me insane. When I work from home, I go out for lunch, and possibly even dinner. It's important to get out, see some sights, and possibly talk to other human beings.

What to wear. The jkOnTheRun article recommends dressing up to work from home, because it conveys a sense of seriousness about working from home. This is one area that I vehemently disagree with their advice. I barely get out of my PJs all day when I work from home -- I put on sweats and I look like a hobo (you know, the way Rick looks when he actually does leave the house). I do that because getting to wear comfortable clothing is one of the benefits of working from home. If I was going to dress up, I might as well go into the office. Personally, I don't find that what I wear affects my productivity. What about you?

Photo by Christian Heindel

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