Working from Home —
and Making it Work! Part 2
In our last installment, we presented the advantages and disadvantages of working from home, a very prevalent setup during the COVID-19 era and offered our first tip for facilitating effective work at home: establishing set work hours. Today, we continue with additional tips. Some of these tips apply to all those working from home; others apply to people working independently from home, not to employees:
Create your own office space. Set aside a specific part of the house for your work. A separate room is optimal, but any designated area will do. Keep this space neat and organized. Having your own “corporate headquarters” creates a physical and mental separation between your work and home life. Your family members will quickly learn that your office space and equipment are completely off-limits and that when you are in your “office” you are not to be disturbed.
Designation of office space is also important for taxation purposes, since costs associated with the area set aside as workspace can be deducted from taxes.
Have a company name. Instead of calling yourself, “Rivka Cohen, Graphic Artist,” create a company name. Put that name on your email address and signature, invoices, and other materials.
This will boost your credibility and also give you greater personal pride in your work, which in turn will increase the respect you receive from others.
Open a separate bank account. Keeping a separate bank account for work transactions will help you distinguish between personal and business finances and make informed financial decisions. Also, filing taxes will be easier if your work transactions are separate from your personal transactions.
Get household help if you need it. Some people can work at home with young children around, but others can’t. Some can tackle housework while working at home, while some others can’t.
Working at home doesn’t mean you have to be a superwoman. Know your limitations, and get babysitters and domestic help when necessary.
Set goals. Prepare a daily list of tasks. Slot different tasks throughout the day so you can exercise different mental “muscles.” Designating a daily “MIT” (Most Important Task) will ensure that you get to this most important item on your to-do list.
Set long-term work goals, and periodically assess if your daily work reflects those goals.
Invest in professional supplies and equipment. Make sure your space contains all of the necessary equipment and don’t cut corners. Prepare respectable-looking letterheads, email templates, and invoices.
Buy an up-to-date computer, and equip it with the right programs. Investing in professional hardware, software, and supplies will enable you to produce quality work in an efficient and timely manner.
If your computer is always crashing, your email is often down, and your programs are outdated, your clients will lose patience. While start-up costs may be higher, buying superior products will save you money in the long run.
Once you’ve invested in professional-grade equipment, make sure to maintain it properly. Beware of the common habit of snacking at the computer. Should coffee spill on your keyboard, you’re the one who’ll have to pay.
Make yourself feel like working. Even though you do not have to leave the house, it is important to dress and conduct yourself as though you were working in an office. This will make you feel more professional and behave accordingly. Your clients can sense whether you are a professional working out of a home-based office or a housewife dabbling on the computer.
Working from home has enough distractions; a cluttered workspace should not be one of them. Make sure you allocate time to organize your documents, invoices, receipts, supplies and so on.
Facilitate communication. Because you are working remotely, make sure there are multiple ways for people to contact you — by telephone, cellular, fax, email, etc. — and see to it that you can be easily reached during work hours.
Keep a separate telephone line and email account for work. Your work telephone should be off-limits to anyone but you and should never be answered by children.
Get out. To avoid the feeling of isolation, try to arrange for some of your work to be done outside the home — for example, by scheduling meetings elsewhere or participating in professional seminars.
Upgrade your skills. Be sure to keep on top of the latest advances in your field and set aside time to continually upgrade your skills.
Track your performance. Keeping careful records of work-related income and expenses will enable you to evaluate your performance. In addition, the awareness that comes from writing down hours often motivates people to work additional hours.
Occasionally, ask yourself: Am I working too few, or too many, hours? How much am I earning? How much am I spending on work-related expenses? Am I disciplined enough in my work? The answers to these questions should help you to plan your work in the future.