Saturday 23 January 2010

Optimize your efficiency while working from home

Offices seem to have a magical atmosphere in which working seven hours a day comes naturally to all those present. While the regular office hours are suitable for early risers, people with a natural preference for evenings are forced to work when they're not performing their best. Working at home allows employees to schedule their day according to their biorhythms and plan their breaks around their personal concentration span. A lot of efficiency can be gained this way.

However, contemporary explorers who have left the office in order to work from home have to navigate between the Scylla and Charibdys of slacking and overworking themselves. The only way to pass these dangers is by planning your time carefully and sticking to your plan. The hardest part of working from home is getting your work-life-balance right. In order to allow the ideal middle way to emerge, your home will have to undergo a metamorphosis, whether you're setting up your own business at home or telecommuting for an employer.

If you've got a family, you'll have to communicate clearly to them when you'll be available for shopping, small talk and other distractions, and when they're not allowed to disturb you. Especially if you’ve got young children this might be difficult. One way of dealing with this is setting up your office in a separate room which is to be used for business purposes only. If a family member wants to ask you something, (s)he’ll have to wait until you come out of your room.

Being able to shut a door behind you (both when you enter and when you leave your home office) will also help you recreate that special office atmosphere that helps employees focus for hours on end. Some may argue that this defeats the whole purpose of working from home - a more flexible mixture of private and working life - but it's a fact that having a separate work space improves your concentration.

If you don't believe in ergonomics, working from the sofa might seem appealing. But where will you sit when you want to relax and watch TV? You'll start to feel as if you're always at work and can never really take a break. It will get harder and harder to motivate yourself if you're slouching on the sofa all day long, which will eventually lead to stress that you can’t even forget about in your spare time. Making a habit of working in your living room is a one way ticket to the burn-out clinic.

Regardless of whether you're reserving an entire room for your home office or just a desk in the corner of your bedroom, it's crucial to have a comfortable work space with daylight or indirect light which is bright enough but doesn't glare in your eyes. This may mean investing in some office furniture. If you're working for an employer, keep in mind that you're saving him a fortune because he doesn't have to rent office space for you. Therefore, it's not unreasonable to ask for financial support in order to buy a solid desk and a straight but comfortable chair. Getting the right office supplies will help you avoid distractions and get on with your work, so your employer will benefit from furnishing you with the right equipment.

Even if you're starting up your own business from your ensuite flat and your office consists of your laptop on the dinner table, you can turn your home into a proper work space with no more than a desk lamp, a printer and a good stationery set. Professional writing paper, a sharp hole punch, a good supply of staples and paper clips, binders, laminators, writing utensils and post-its will give you the feeling that what you're doing is important. That's what working from home is all about: allowing people to work under the conditions that work best for them.

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