Working at the office is difficult enough, and usually it’s an environment that’s been stripped of all fun and stimulation. At home, workers have every possible distraction close at hand – from cable TV to their favourite book to that photo album project that’s a few months behind schedule.
The best part, and the worst part, is that at-home workers don’t have a boss looking over their shoulder or keeping them on task. It’s too easy to get bogged down in daily distractions, to let the mind wander and let time get away. Professionals have to learn how to master their environment to avoid all these outside distractions that make working at home such a challenge.
Keys to Success when Working from Home: Keep Productivity High in Your Home Business
Often, home-based business owners can have issues separating work from the rest of life. Follow these tips to keep the work flowing.
If you call a corner of your living room or your guest bedroom the headquarters of your home-based business, you know the drill: you sit down at your desk, and then, inevitably, the dog needs to go out or the baby’s up from a nap or the kitchen’s snacks are calling your name. Follow these tips in order to keep your work rhythm, even if it’s right smack in the middle of your living area.
Keep your work area clean
One of the big challenges with a home-based office is keeping your areas separate. One way to do this is to keep any “household items” away from your “work area.” That means when you sit down, there won’t be your kids' homework on your desk, dishes to be cleared or other distractions. Keep your work area neat and organised, and only allow work-related items to accumulate in the area.
One way to make sure that your work area stays separate and work-only is to have a work computer that isn’t used for anything else. If it’s a “work-only” computer, you won’t end up with strange programs on it, peanut butter fingers on the keyboard or homework scattered across the desk.
Keep the areas separate
Of course keeping organised and keeping your work area “work-only” are good ways to be able to focus when you sit down. But it’s also important to keep the space physically separate. If you have any kind of option, make sure your office is in an area where you can create a totally separate space. For many home-based business owners, this means designating a spare bedroom as an office, but that’s not necessary.
If you’ve got some room in your backyard, consider erecting a shed-like building (like a Modern Cabana or your own creation) to host your office space - this can be a great option since it offers a physical separation of space between your living space and office space. Just be sure to check with your local government for building regulations.
If you’ve only got that corner of the living room to work with, try installing a temporary “wall” by mounting curtains from the ceiling or putting up a room partition or screen. That way, it keeps kids and other lingering eyes, and creates a physical separation, which can also help create a mental separation.
The kids, the spouse and the pets may have difficulty respecting the at-home work space. It’s important for workers to define the borders of their private domains. Shut the door, put up a partition, hang curtains or simply put tape on the floor to mark out an area that defines the at-home office. It may even be helpful to incorporate a flip sign (“the worker is in/out”) or another visual method to show household members when working hours are active. Define the parameters of the workspace and talk to family members about respecting these borders.
Set kitchen hours
Snacking all day can be a great feature of working from home - or a terrible distraction. One way to keep yourself out of the kitchen (both for the sake of your waistline and your productivity) is to set kitchen hours. Maybe you’re allowed to go in for breakfast, once for lunch and for one glass of water each hour. If you write it down, it’ll keep you from wandering in there with no clear goal.
Work with a timer
Keep a kitchen timer on your work desk and set it for as long as you want to work. Then you don’t have to check the clock, and you know you can’t get up from your desk until the timer goes off. This keeps productivity high, because you can afford to lose yourself in your work and you’ll know when your time is up because the timer will ding.
All in all, make sure your home-based business area is working for you and allowing your business to be everything it can be.
Schedule Regular Breaks
Instead of checking TMZ when the mood strikes or picking up the smartphone every few minutes to read the latest Tweets, schedule specific daily breaks for snacking and pursuing personal matters. During traditional work days, professionals receive one or more 15-minute breaks and one or more lunch and/or dinner breaks. Why should work at home professionals enjoy something less? Schedule down time within the workday; these breaks are needed, and they provide a constructive space for becoming absorbed in daily distractions. Be disciplined when it comes to break times to stay on task.
Finding Work at Home Jobs
Even workers who stay on task and don’t get distracted may have trouble finding legitimate work at home jobs. The Internet is packed with self-employment scams, many of them cleverly camouflaged to look like genuine opportunities, and many smart professionals have been hoodwinked by false offers. The best way to avoid getting scammed is to take a little extra time to research potential employers.
When a job offer is on the virtual table, check the BBB (Better Business Bureau) for complaints or information. Not all businesses are registered through the BBB, but many are, and this is a good starting point for research. Search the Internet at large for forums regarding the employer. Self-employed professionals make up a wide community, and many of them are willing to speak out against scammers. If there is evidence that a job offer is a scam, it probably is. If the so-called employer asks for money in any way, it definitely is. Real job offers provide money to workers. Remember this, live by this, and avoid work at home scams.
Dealing with Kids successfully whilst working from homework
Keep Kids Busy While Working From Home
The first step to success when seeking work from home opportunities is to find one that works with the current home environment and schedule. Committing to too many hours or choosing an unrealistic home based business or job will lead to frustration and burnout both as a worker and a parent. Rule out any work that doesn’t fit; for example, for parents with very young children, phone work requiring a quiet environment is probably not an option. It’s hard to make young children understand that they need to be quiet because parents are working.
There are many other work from home jobs that involve little or no phone contact, and many ways of organising time management to fit in both work and parenting.
Schedule a Time To Work: No Late Nights
Schedule some time to work either before the kids wake up or after they go to bed. Avoid over commitment; for night owls, working into the wee hours may seem like a good choice. However, parents will stay face early mornings with kids, and lack of sleep can really take its toll. Consider going to bed early and waking very early instead of staying up late to work.
Choose a Laptop to Work on the Go
For those whose jobs require a lot of writing, a laptop or portable word processor can be an investment that will boost productivity. It will make it easier to sneak in work during the day while the kids take classes at a local recreation centre or keep busy at a park, indoor playground or other outdoor space - even the backyard.
To choose a laptop, look for some ruggedized features like a spill-proof keyboard, and make sure the laptop is light enough to haul around along with all the other kids equipment.
Creative Time Management for Working from Home
When using a laptop or working away from home is not possible, here are some other ways to work from home effectively:
- It may be difficult to work for long periods of time, so plan to work in short bursts of 20-30 minutes, or whatever works best. Save in-depth research and involved projects for times when the kids are asleep or out of the house.
- Experiment with different activities to find out what keeps children occupied. Try colouring, Legos, Barbie dolls or action figures, Play Doh and other toys.
- Set kids up with a craft activity. Give directions and help them get started, then leave them to work on their own once they get involved.
- Keep toys and craft supplies well organised. Having everything ready when needed will make things go smoothly.
- Let older children have their own computers close in proximity to a parent’s computer. Load it with educational software and find websites with kids computer activities. An older or low-end computer with enough memory and disk space to run games won’t cost much.
- Use nap time well. Resist the urge to do chores or other household tasks, and be prepared to just get down to work.
- Initiate a quiet time period for children who don’t nap. During this time, the children must rest or play quietly in their rooms. It may take some time or this to work. They may resist at first, but with persistence it is possible to develop a regular routine that allows time for the parent to get some work done and gives the kids some downtime.
- Get help with household chores and delegate as much as possible. Be sure that spouses, children and other family members understand that they need to pitch in and help.
- Use television time wisely. Whether to let children watch television at all is a personal decision that should be thought over carefully. While TV will keep the kids occupied, experts recommend limiting television time. If TV is used, choose educational shows or videos.
Use Flexible Childcare Hours
If a successful solution can’t be found, it may be time to consider some sort of childcare arrangement. This doesn’t mean full-time daycare; it may be possible to find a preschool that will take the children or only a few hours on certain days of the week, a mom in the area who is interested in watching children for a few hours, or someone to come to the house to keep the kids occupied while their mother works. A high school or college student majoring in education may be interested in a job like this. First, be sure that the earnings made is enough to justify the cost of childcare, and make sure that the time is spent productively. It may help to start on a trial basis with any childcare agreement at first.
With some home time management skills and fun ways to keep kids busy, working from home can work for the whole family.