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Thanks to the advancement of mobile technologies, increasingly more people are finding ways to live the dream and work right from home. More positions open up for telecommuting jobs every day; even entry level positions are rapidly becoming available, and people are turning their 30-minute commute into a groggy walk through their living room. The implications of this changing tide are huge, and the revolution is far from over.
As more people enjoy the convenience of working from home though, there comes its own set of struggles. While working from home is convenient and comfortable, it can also be a nightmare for those who are easily distracted and attempt to multitask.
If you’re already telecommuting, or are just jumping in, setting up a home office is absolutely critical to your success. With kids, cleaning, dinner, and family visits, it can be difficult to separate your working hours from your personal time, and the desire to conquer everything at once can often leave you with absolutely nothing accomplished at the end of the day.
Setting aside a space for yourself to focus on the task at hand will give the same sense of discipline that you would need while working in an office, but with rules and schedules that you set and enforce for yourself. Here are a few tips for creating a practical and functional space to get your work done and keep your mind on the tasks at hand.
This should go without saying, but there are a surprising number of home offices with dart boards and mini fridges in them, and it’s hard to say that’s terribly necessary. By creating a space that is designed solely for work and leaving out any items that may tempt you to distract yourself, you’re more likely to stay on task longer and be more productive.
By all means, stay hydrated, and eat a balanced meal before heading into your office for the day, but having snacks at your disposal just invites mindless eating and encourages breaks that may be unnecessary. If you’re that hungry, you can make a trip to the kitchen.
While fun desktop puzzles and knickknacks are a cool way to add some personality to your workspace, in the end, you’re just going to wind up spending twenty minutes working on a Rubix cube or trying to beat your score on Candy Crush. Nix the entertainment–this is a workspace, not a lounge.
Another simple thing you can do to limit your distractions is to simply have a door in place. When you’re working, keep it shut.
The really fun part of setting up your home office is getting the furniture together to create a space that’s truly designed to facilitate productivity from that big, brilliant brain of yours. Furniture that’s both design conscious and functional serves to keep you organized and comfortable, and makes your workspace more of a work retreat.
Choose pieces carefully though, making sure to place function before form. An ergonomic desk chair is worth the investment, so shop carefully for one that’s going to keep you comfortable long enough for you to accomplish something. Many people are even opting for exercise balls in place of conventional chairs; just make sure yours is big enough to put you at the proper height to reach your keyboard.
Desks with ample storage are ideal, with plenty of drawers to keep files, electronic devices, and stationary close at hand. Try to go with something that offers enclosed storage rather than just open shelving, which tends to collect dust and clutter and can really be difficult to keep organized.
Depending on your type of work, other items you may want to consider putting in your office are bookcases, file cabinets, a printer stand, and of course, a great clock to tie it all together and keep you on schedule.
One major part of working from home is making sure that your connection is secure and private. This is absolutely critical to protecting not only the privacy of your personal information, but the integrity of your work, and the professionalism of your business. Set up a home Wi-Fi network that is closed to the public and properly secured.
Start by adjusting your router’s settings, and adding a username and password to your network. The default name on most routers is a dead giveaway of the ISP, and most hackers—and even regular Joe’s—can guess your password pretty easily. Turn your network sharing settings off, and if you can, keep your network from popping up in Network Discovery options.
Another easy way to protect and secure your connection is to set up VPN software on your home and mobile devices. Once installed, this software gives you a securely encrypted connection on a remote server and allows you to use online resources and tools without the fear of your data being intercepted. Set up is easy, and these plans usually don’t cost more than $10 per month.
VPNs are also a great cost-saving measure too. If you’re using VoIP services, you can actually make cheaper long distance calls by selecting a server in the country or region you’re trying to call. You can avoid hefty long distance fees and still make all of those conference calls.
Just like with a regular job, those who work from home should also set themselves a defined schedule to help them stay on track. If you have a family, make this schedule public knowledge; post it on the refrigerator, and talk about it with your kids. Explain that this is your working time, and you will be unavailable during those hours.
If you have friends and family nearby who like to drop in occasionally, make it equally apparent to them that your work has to come first. You can even have a sign on hand to hang on your door to politely let visitors know that you’re unavailable.
If you have children, look into hiring professional help. While it’s tempting to multitask your way through a work day, the reality is that looking after a family while working can usually set you back in your professional goals and ultimately affect your bottom line. It will help keep you sane, and ensure your kids get the attention and care they need while you provide for them.
Once you get the big hurdles out of the way, such as furniture and childcare, it’s time to fine tune your workspace. Make sure you have the means of keeping the temperature comfortable, and do what you must to adjust it. Have desktop fans in place, make sure windows open, and for chilly winter months, look into things such as space heaters and electric blankets.
Take a look at your lighting too, and make sure you have enough to avoid straining your eyes. Soft, incandescent desk lamps, in addition to overhead lighting, will give your eyes a break from the harshness of your computer screen. Whenever possible, allow natural light into the room; it’s been clinically shown to improve moods!
Keep your office clean and fresh, setting aside a day for cleaning, dusting, and vacuuming. Keep air circulating to avoid mustiness, and add some aromatherapy to keep the place inviting, but still productive. Look for awakening scents such as peppermint and lemongrass.
If you’re reading this, then kudos to you, you’ve found the holy grail and discovered a way to work from the four walls of your own home. Follow these tips, add some personal flair, and you’ll have a secure, productive workspace that invites you to get the job done.