The fantasy of working from home is very compelling when you are sitting inside a dull, gray cube, still seething from your grinding commute.
You imagine waking up and strolling over to your computer in your comfortable pajamas, not caring if your hair resembles Albert Einstein, and cranking up your favorite music to no one’s complaint, whether your preference is Pat Boone or Metallica.
But for the new home-based entrepreneur, if you don’t take care of some key things, it can make the experience frustrating and unproductive.
So here are some keys to designing home office environment that both delivers results and gives you the benefit of a flexible work style.
1. Define roles and responsibilities
It is easy for other family members to make the assumption that because you are home, you can take care of the laundry, and get dinner started, and run errands during your workday. If you don’t define clear boundaries, it is easy for resentment to build on both sides. So sit down with your family and define an overall list of household chores. Assign roles and responsibilities evenly, just like you would if you were working outside the home full-time.
2. Set up distinct zones for work and family business.
If you pile everything up in one place in your home office, you are likely to spend some of your valuable working time taking care of unimportant personal projects. So create distinct zones in your workspace to distinguish between work and everything else. Key zones to separate are file drawers, inboxes and desktop space.
3. Identify your productivity power zones, and design your work around them.
One of the great benefits of working for yourself is designing a schedule that fits your natural biorhythms, not the random demands of a fixed work schedule. But if you don’t watch it, you can go through your day thinking “I will get started once I get the laundry going,” or “One episode of Law & Order is not going to kill me!” and before you know it, the day will be gone.
4. Identify good work environments outside of the home.
There are times when working from home can get very lonely. You might crave some company besides the occasional visit from the UPS guy, so find good places where you can get an energy boost from a different environment and community. Good alternatives can include a local café, the library or a coworking site.
Coworking is a café-like community/collaboration space, open to all kinds of people who work remotely or for themselves. See this wiki page for coworking locations from San Francisco to Santiago, Chile.
5. Define your no-work time zones
While it is easy to get distracted and unproductive while working from home, it is just as easy to end up working all the time. Your family relationships and health will suffer if you never take a break. So set some boundaries around your time such as no cell phone calls during dinner or no work on weekends. How you set your time is totally up to you. Just make sure that you don’t let work bleed into every waking moment, or you will find your fantasy of home working flexibility and freedom is more burdensome than your time in the cube.
Pamela Slim is a business coach and author of the upcoming book Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur (Portfolio, May, 2009)