4 Tips for Working From Home

Working from home isn't always easy -- here's how to stay on track.

Know your strengths and weaknesses before setting up a remote working arrangement. Working from home involves both discipline and isolation. “It takes a lot of focus on both ends — making sure you stay focused, and knowing when to shut it down,” said Kathleen McClemmy, CMP. “I don’t think it’s for everyone.”

Paul Devlin, a New York–based managing director for the political land-use consulting firm Five Corners Strategies, purposely bookends his day with activities anchored in the outside world: coffee out of the apartment first thing in the morning, dinner with friends or hitting the gym in the evening. “I work with partners in Boston, D.C., and San Francisco who are early-morning types and night owls,” Devlin said. “I could be prone to talking to one starting at 7 a.m. and another at midnight. My solution is to leave, come back, and leave again, so work doesn’t bleed into my entire day and night.”

Set up your A-game environment. Some people are self-motivated and disciplined, and working independently at home comes naturally to them. But if you have to struggle to ignore the dirty dishes, find someplace else to work than the kitchen table. Choose your dedicated office hours based on the time and location that work best for your schedule, and stick to them. “I truly think for the best teleworkers it’s a mindset of total dedication to what you promised to do,” said ACCESS Destination Services’ Patty Phelps. “The successful ones have a talent for turning off whatever’s going on in your house, kind of a tunnel vision for work.”

Be organized. Make sure you have the right tools with you for days at home and days in the office. “If you move back and forth, doing the home-headquarters split, you can’t be saying, ‘Oh no, I left this important contract at home,’ or be carrying around two huge boxes you don’t need,” McClemmy said. “You need to have all the tools and materials you need to be most productive in whichever location you’re in.”

Communicate, and communicate more. Don’t be afraid of multiple channels. Write often, and in different ways to suit different purposes: formal email, informal instant messenger, intranet blog postings. If writing doesn’t seem appropriate, then use Skype. Be aware what format will best convey your purpose and your tone. Which also means knowing which format works for sarcasm and emoticons, and which doesn’t — because you might not have the opportunity to know you’ve been misunderstood.

Read more in our CMP Series: “How Planners Maximize the Benefits of Telecommuting.”

Nichole Bernier

Nichole Bernier is a writer and editor based in Massachusetts.