I am blessed to work for a company that strongly believes in working from home when not traveling or meeting with customers. It is a great option but it is not always perfume and roses. Quite frankly, it can be stressful because there are expectations to do more both from work and home. I wanted to share with you what I consider best practices for being successful while working from home.

  1. Get dressed for the day before you begin work. You have this vision that working in your PJs all day would be great. I put the kids on the bus very early then go right down to my office and close the door. I could literally be so intense in meetings that I don’t get out of my seat until I hear the bus pulling up and dropping the kids back off. One of my favorite stories about the joys of working from home has to do with my next tip. Don’t answer the door when you are working from home. I learned the hard way. Throughout the day in my neighborhood, people knock on the door: a representative from the cable company, the FedEx delivery person, the college student who wants you to sign a petition, and every now and again, a Jehovah’s Witness evangelist shows up. One day, I heard a persistent reoccurring knock — you know that “it sounds important” knock? I ran upstairs to answer the door. Now let me remind you, it was 2 pm and I had not put my best practice into play here: I am in my PJs, wearing no bra, and I have a serious case of bed-head hair. This college kid is trying to get me to sign a petition and I am trying to be polite. I am not interested. “What, you are not interested in fresh water, M’aam? M’aam? M’aam? ”He continues, “What about your kids, you don’t think they deserve fresh water?” I swear, he turned into Charlie Brown’s teacher and I could not hear anything but “wha wha wha” and “M’aam.” I blurt out to him, “I am not interested and I have a very important meeting that I have been planning for all day and I am presenting in 5 minutes. I don’t have time!” and I slammed the door. Now imagine this kid’s face: he looked at me like, “you are off your rocker, lady. You are not even dressed, never mind present for an important meeting.”
  2. Don’t answer the notes under the door. If the kids get home from school and I am still working, they know that because the door to the basement is closed. Therefore, communications come via snail mail: I get notes slipped under the door. It’s never a note that says, “Hi Mom, we are home.” It usually says, “Can I get a new iPod?” with a “circle yes or no” option. “Can I invite five friends over?” The picture above is one of my favorites: “Can I go to the Recycle Center?” Seriously, you think I am going to say yes to you going half-way across town with a wagon? Don’t even entertain them by answering such notes.
  3. Take a break for a meal and try to walk around the block to recoup and refresh. Eat, drink lots of water, and get out of your seat every hour or two, even if you have to walk around the block or up and down the stairs if you have them in your home. Sitting is the new smoking. You need activity and fuel to be innovative and perform at your personal best.
  4. Add any personal appointments to your work calendar and block off the time. There will be important events at school such as a student award ceremony that you don’t want to miss. I will change my schedule so that I can experience these special moments. I will also add that appointment to my calendar and block it off completely. Communicating flexibility is important. Later that night after the kids are in bed, I typically get back online to make up that time. I use my office hours at night to create presentations and write emails that require no interruptions (from instant messages or the phone) and this strategy works well.
  5. Set up an official home office with a door. I have an office in my basement with a door. It is quiet and away for any activities that are happening in the home. When the door is closed, everyone knows not to come in. A permanent location is very important.

Buzz-Worthy Lesson: Put some best practices in place to be more successful working from home. Feel free to share some of your best practices in the comments.