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Work Smart

How To Make Working From Home More Productive

Working from home has its challenges. Five home office professionals share their secrets on making it work.

[Image: Flickr user Jeremy Levine]

As a freelance writer, I spend the majority of my working time in my home office. While zero commuting hours, the ability to work in my pajamas, and flexibility over my schedule sound like a dream; working from home also has its challenges.

Topping the list are distractions of home life and limited social interactions. With a third of full-time workers blending their home and work life, I conducted my own informal survey of home office workers to find out what they do to make working from home successful. Here are some of their best tips:

Separate work space from family space.

Virginia Ginsburg, owner of the Santa Monica, California, business consulting and coaching company Swell Strategies has worked from her home office for 10 years and says creating separation between work and personal space is key to being productive at home.

"By dedicating a space to my work, I create clear boundaries between work and home life. When I am in my office, I do not think about home. When I am in my home, I do not think about my office," she says. Ginsburg avoids contaminating home space with her work, preferring to contain all business documents behind her office door. She even uses a landline for her office rather than a cell phone to avoid work from flowing into her personal space.

Create opportunities for water cooler chat.

Lack of human interaction can cause home office workers to feel isolated from others, especially if the entire company works from their homes. To ensure her employees feel connected to the organization, Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of FlexJobs, a job site for telecommuting positions, created a Yammer message board, a virtual water cooler where staff can catch up with each other.

Each team has their own online group and can post on each other's walls. In addition to work-related topics, they also have groups for healthy living, hobbies and photo sharing to encourage a collaborative work environment. "Staffers post pictures of their most recent vacation or their kids dressed up for Halloween. We wish each other a happy birthday and celebrate anniversaries on Yammer," says Fell, who fights isolation by escaping to a local coffee shop to work or scheduling a business lunch.

Revive your drive.

Feeling disconnected from industry happenings is commonplace among home office workers who miss the buzz of the office environment. Tim Trampedach, owner of Level X Motorsports, says he frequently reaches out to others for coffee chats to exchange ideas and ignite the spark. "The best folks will ask really inquisitive questions about their business.

The more open you are, the better the feedback and the greater the value," says Trampedach, who typically goes for one or two coffee chats per week. Attending professional development events, participating in online forums or taking continuing education courses are other ways to self-generate the "office buzz" and spur your productivity into overdrive.

Stick to a schedule.

Home can be riddled with distractions, but throwing in a load of laundry can quickly eat up your workday and kill your productivity. Kelly Hadous, Executive Coach and CEO of Win the Room says keeping a daily schedule is how she avoids distractions.

"I mark down on a spreadsheet when I start and stop working and how much time I spent on each task. Completing the spreadsheet in real time helps [me to be] focused, involved, and motivated, as well as keeping track of accomplishments," says Hadous.

Create a commute.

While one of the bragging rights of working from home is the lack of a commute, the time spent in the car or on the train can be a valuable way for people to transition from home to work. Steve Capoccia, account director at Warner Communications says he creates his own version of a commute by setting aside time at the beginning of the day to create a list of priorities for the day, update social media pages, and browse emails to allow for the smooth transition into work mode.

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