From Here to Home Office: Setting Up a Productive Shop

With weekly work hours on the rise, many professionals now perform several job duties at home. Telecommuting is more than a buzzword – it’s a way of life for millions of American workers. Growing at a double-digit rate, more than 43 million U.S. households now maintain home offices, according to International Data Corporation.

“Although home offices present several new challenges – such as sticking to a rigorous work regimen and communicating long distance with clients and coworkers – setting up a comfortable and productive home office doesn’t need to be difficult,” says Lisa Kanarek, founder of HomeOfficeLife.

“One challenge involves finding the right place to work. Not surprisingly, bedrooms make bad choices,” says Kanarek. She tries to steer people away from this room because of high traffic levels. A den or spare bedroom is ideal, but converting a seldom-used dining room or basement into a functional home office can work well.

Staying on task and being productive at home can be challenging. Distractions such as the car, television and telephone lurk behind each corner. Help curtail these temptations by creating the ideal work environment.

Consider the following before setting up a home office:

Invest in the technology. While you’re acquiring the necessary hardware and software, line up appropriate tech support. Go beyond the usual fax machine, computer and phone system and invest in your business’ specific needs. Laying down the technology groundwork sooner rather than later saves you time and trouble down the road.

Childproof your home office. If you have children, keep tempting items – wires and cables, fax machines, computers and paper piles – out of harm’s reach. By taking these safety precautions now, you’ll prevent potential disasters later.

Limit work hours. With 24 hours in the day, you could work 16 of them. Since this probably wasn’t your goal when you struck out as an independent professional, place limits on your work days.

Be organized. Arranging your office becomes easier when you break the process into bite-size chunks. Don’t organize your workspace by bouncing from one area to another. Focus on completing one area at a time to produce a highly productive home office.

Get out of the house. Virtual offices don’t need to be isolation tanks. Look at home offices as ways to develop alliances and partnerships. Meet colleagues for an extended lunch once a week. Break away from the computer for a walk. These activities will fill a physical as well as mental need that goes a long way toward productivity.

Embarking on a telecommute need not be a lonely pursuit. Chat rooms, forums and membership associations bring networking to the home-based community. They make at-home work a well-connected experience.

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