5 tips to be a productive home worker

Folks are working at home in greater numbers than ever, and a few simple tips can help make the best of it.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor on

Society is more mobile than ever, and that is reflected in the rising numbers of those telecommuting, or working at home. The benefits of giving up the commute to an office are great, but there are a few things home workers can do to make sure they don't suffer from the isolation created by working at home.

1. Have a clearly defined work area. A common mistake many home workers commit, due to lack of space or planning, is to fail to make sure the home work area is separate from living areas. Working at home brings the inevitable situation where the worker remembers that one thing he/she meant to do during the day but forgot. Nothing is easier than jumping on the computer outside normal working hours to do that "one more thing." This often leads to the habit of working all the time, taking much needed time away from living one's life. Having a separate work area makes it easier to get in the habit of only working during standard working hours. If possible make this work area out of sight from the rest of the dwelling. Out of sight, out of mind is the key.

2. Maintain a standard work schedule. Working at home stretches the standard office environment to the limit if a clear schedule is not maintained. Keep normal office hours if at all possible to establish a routine that allows the separation of work and home life. It seems strange to reach for the alarm first thing in the morning to start the day, but in the long run it makes for a more fulfilling home life.

3. Take breaks. This may be the most important tip of all, as it is too easy when working at home to fall into a trap of never taking breaks. Such breaks are critical to keep your mind focused on work when needed, but also recharge throughout the day. Get up from the computer and do "break stuff", walk around, make personal phone calls, whatever works for you. The key is to get away from the work space regularly to recharge throughout the day.

4. Don't eat lunch at the desk. This goes hand-in-hand with taking breaks throughout the day. It is essential, both for mental and physical well-being, to have a good lunch break every day away from work. It is vital to maintain a schedule for lunch every day, whether eating out or at home. Take lunch at near the same time each day, and get away from the desk. The worst thing you can do is eat at the desk, in front of the computer. That hot project won't go away if you take a lunch break, it will be there waiting for you. You will be refreshed and refueled to tackle it much better.

5. Music soothes the soul. A great advantage to working at home is the ability to have music playing as desired. This can be a great tool while working at home, isolated from co-workers in an office. Change the music up from time to time to keep things fresh, and play it as loud or soft as you require to focus on work. The key is to keep stimulated throughout the day to tackle the work.

Bonus tip: Video chat with colleagues every day to stay in touch and relieve the isolation that working at home creates. There is no substitute for reaching out and interacting with coworkers and friends, and video chat is a wonderful way to do that.

Image credit: Flickr user Sean MacEntee

Editorial standards