Whether you have decided to break away and work on your own or if your company allows you to work from a home office, it can be overwhelming coming from a structured office environment. I have worked from an office in my home for over five years and have led or coached over 100 individuals as they made the transition to this more independent structure.
There are many positives to working from home, but I must caution you…it takes a self-disciplined, self motivated and goal-oriented individual. You must have a strong work ethic and a plan to stay focused on your priorities and goals. The following are some lessons I have learned from my own challenges, those faced by my team and from others in our industry that have been willing to share with me. I hope they will enable you to be successful working in a home office:
1. Establish a Productive Work Space (Establish Boundaries) -
The first priority is to establish a productive work area that is separate from the other activities going on in the house and will be your designated office (not the den, kitchen or playroom). For tax purposes, the IRS requires you to keep your work space separate from any other purpose for the space being utilized. This is a good guideline to use when establishing the correct space that will meet all of your needs. In addition, you need to establish boundaries with your family, friends and neighbors. Even though you are at home, you are in the office and they need to respect that you are working. The following are some quick points to help you set-up or improve your work environment:
a. Office Equipment- make sure you have all of the equipment needed (desk, chair, phone, computer, printer, etc.).
b. Environment- make certain itis a comfortable work environment with good lighting and hopefully a window.
c. Technology- use all the applicable technology and software to its full potential
d. Eliminate distractions-
i. Close your office door
ii. Put music on in your office to block out other noises.
e. Establish set hours and share them with your family, friends and customers. As an example, you will be in your office from 9 to 5 and during these times you will not be:
i. Socializing during your business hours, leave it for after hours.
ii. Doing household chores
iii. Answering the home phone.
The key is to set up your office at home just as you would in a corporate environment and remember when you are in the office, you are in the OFFICE.
2. Dress for the Office -
I know many people think that working from home means you can stay in your pajamas or sweat pants all day. Although this may be true, it has been proven that you will be more productive if you dress as if you are going to meet with clients. You need to act and behave as if you are ‘in the office’. This will provide you with great self confidence and a better professional presence (even over the phone).
3. Get Organized and Manage Your Time -
It is important that you have a clear goal and game plan that keeps you focused. Your time is your most valuable asset and you must use it wisely. I suggest that you establish a routine that will enable you to focus on your long-term goals and the daily activities you need to accomplish.
a. Utilize technology to keep you on task.
b. Know your most productive times within your day and schedule your tasks accordingly.
c. Block time for the basics- phone calls, email, paperwork, etc.
d. Schedule time for your larger projects
e. Don’t forget to schedule time for brainstorming on how to improve the services you provide and growing your business. You never want to be so busy that you stop coming up with new ideas.
f. Schedule breaks and lunch (just like when you went to an office)
4. Ask For Help: Be Willing to Outsource -
Let’s keep this one simple. Know what you are good at and know the areas where you need assistance. When challenged, find others to help you. It will be worth the investment…I guarantee it.
5. Build a Support Group -
You will want to build a support group that will help you along your journey to success. It goes without saying that your family and friends will be there for you. In addition, you want to have a professional network from whom you can seek and who are tied to your success:
b. Join a Mastermind Group
c. Buddy System-someone to join you for coffee or lunch
6. Get Out and Network -
It is important for both your well being and for growing your business to get out and network. Do not try to do it alone. I would challenge you to find organizations in your industry, community and networking groups. By being an active member you will grow your skills, your network of professional resources and your business.
7. Hold Yourself Accountable -
It is important to stay focused on your goals and in order to do this you need to hold yourself accountable. I realize this is easier said than done. I would challenge you to establish rewards for when you achieve certain objectives and consequences for when you fall short.
a. Rewards- make a list of things that enjoy and for each success, reward yourself with one of the items on your list.
b. Consequences- if you do not achieve your desired results, you need to hold yourself accountable by eliminating some perks or activities that you normally enjoy.
8. Utilize Time Gained -
Depending on where you live, you may be able to gain another hour (perhaps even more) of time back into your day by not having to commute back and forth to the office. Make sure you use this time you are gaining productively.
a. Have a cup of coffee with family or friends
c. Read the daily news
d. Have a morning routine – walk around the block or drive to get your morning coffee before heading to your office.
e. Read articles or books that will help you improve
In addition to these lessons, I was given some great advice by my mentor. He told me to refer to my office at home as simply my ‘office’ and not ‘home office’. I like this idea as it is not important where you work, but how you work and your results. If you can be self-disciplined and self-motivated and implement some of the tips above, you can be successful working in a home office environment. The move I made to a home office five years ago has enabled me to achieve several of my professional and personal goals…I hope you will have the same results.