Working from home - it sounds like the perfect situation. No commuting, no unnecessary meetings, and you can work from the comfort of your couch. But before you trade your business attire for pajamas, make sure you have the mental and emotional tools to work from home. (For related reading, also take a look at Recognize And Avoid "Work At Home" Scams.)
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Perhaps the hardest thing about working from home is that your attention will be pulled in a hundred directions. Not only will you have your television calling your name, but it also will be very easy to sleep in or spend your time doing tasks outside of your paid work. You will need to be strict with yourself about how much time you spend actually working when you are telecommuting.
On the flipside, those who work from home may find themselves actually working more than they would if they were going into the office every day. Telecommuters may find themselves more willing to work at all hours than their cubicle-dwelling counterparts.
The issue doesn't just lie in how much time you spend on your actual work, but also in maintaining your focus when you are working. You may find that working from home leaves you unable to devote 100% of your attention for long periods of time – especially when a snack or a couch is so close by. This ability may take some time to perfect, but if you know you aren't the type who can focus easily, it may be an issue.
Work Well Independently - But Not Always
Without your coworkers around, you'll likely never have to clean up their mess in the kitchen or try to drown out their loud music. However, you will also be missing the productive atmosphere that comes from working in a group and the mental stimulation that can come from working in teams. Working from home effectively will likely require you to supplement that co-operative drive. Consider meeting once a week with team members or like-minded stay-at-home entrepreneurs. Even staying in contact over email and instant messaging can help – just make sure it doesn't become a distraction.
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Ability to Brand Yourself
Especially if you are an entrepreneur, it will be important to be active in networking and creating a brand for yourself. Working from home can bring the temptation to "disappear" and become a bit of a professional hermit. Make it part of your daily routine to participate in activities that further your brand – updating your online profile, working on your relationships with existing clients and seeking out new clients.
Even if you aren't an entrepreneur, commit to spending some time connecting with customers, coworkers or touching base with your boss. Don't let the fact that you work at home take you out of the company eye.
When you work from home, it can be easy to let your work and home lives blend together. One of the upsides of going to an office everyday is that you establish a mental separation between home and work – when you're at the office, you tend to focus more easily on your work and when you are at home, you are able to focus on your responsibilities there.
To facilitate recreating that separation, create a home office space for yourself (even if it isn't in a separate room) and commit to only working on professional tasks there. Have a separate computer (or move a laptop) for when you are playing online versus working. Set a schedule for yourself and stick to it – it doesn't have to be the same nine-to-five schedule you might have in an office, but it should be consistent. Some work-at-home professionals even get up and put on a suit in the morning – whatever it takes to help you create a distinct line between work and play. (For more on segmenting your home, take a look at Creating A Home Business Work Space.)
The Bottom Line
Working from home has some great perks and some definite drawbacks. Before you take the leap, make sure that you will be able to handle the change in work environment. By taking a few simple steps, you can ensure that you are just as productive at home as you might be at the office. (Also for additional reading, see 6 Careers You Can Do From Home.)
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