Working from home when you normally work in an office can change of pace for a day or two. Some offices can be filled with distractions such as co-workers with questions, background noise, and random fires needing your extinguishing attention.
However, working at home presents its own set of distractions which could detract from your productivity: family at home, nagging chores, different background noises, and a whole new set of random fires needing your extinguishing attention.
When I work from home, or from anyone other than the office, I follow a few rules to keep me productive and sane.
Family: I’m not home, I’m at work. It’s important for family to recognize that you can’t stop what you’re doing to go help them with something for a half an hour. If you have small children, operate normally as if you weren’t there. If a part of staying home is to avoid having to pay a babysitter, then try to get the kids doing something which will keep them busy while you work.
Claim your space. Having a workspace is very important. I have a computer desk at my apartment, but I make space on it by moving my desktop computer’s input peripherals so I can put my work laptop on it. When I work from my parents’ house, I take over a quarter of their dining room table. When I work from my uncle’s house, I take over an whole table in the guest bedroom.
Discipline yourself. I don’t even turn on my desktop computer when I work from home. My personal laptop has a lot of work stuff on it, and I use it at work, too, so it is of course acceptable to use it. If I turn on the desktop, I will inevitably end up playing games or tweaking something; there goes my productivity. Likewise, I work on my desk, upstairs and away from the TV, lest I be drawn to daytime TV (shudder) or my beckoning PS3 with Netflix. Remember, you’re still on company time.
Use mute when using a speakerphone. I frequently participate in conference calls. I know that my coworkers and business partners don’t want to hear the wild chainsaws of a tree trimming crew outside, or my girlfriend’s music downstairs. Likewise, it’s distracting to hear baby cries, television, or anything else which detracts from a call and thereby likely extends it.
Seek compensation. When you’re out of the office, you’re likely to use your landline or mobile phone to dial into conference calls or call the office. If you’re using mobile minutes or data, or calling long distance on a landline, you’re within your rights to ask to be reimbursed for that time.
Set your side goals. Remember that because you’re at home, you might have a few extra minutes here and there to maybe put a load of laundry in or some other task which doesn’t take but a minute with long waits in between. However, don’t let these detract from your primary task: your job.
Take breaks. Don’t forget to take occasional breaks, just like you would at the office. Go grab something healthy from the fridge. Go for a walk around the block. Go kiss your significant other.
Stay productive. Being productive should always be your number one rule. You must prove and continue to show that working from home is a winning proposition for both you and your employer, and that you can be trusted to accomplish the tasks set out for you while out of the office.
Are there any other rules? I may have omitted one of my own, or you may have others to add.