Make working from home a success

Make working from home a success

By Kate Southam

Working from home is the dream for many but, beware; domestic chores and professional tasks don’t mix at least not according to new research.

Carried out by Professor Timothy Golden of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, the research claims telecommuters who struggle to separate the professional from the personal while working from home end the day more exhausted than commuting office dwellers.

Professor Golden studied a mixture of telecommuters and office based workers in a sample of 316 people employed by a computer company.

Of the home based workers, Professor Golden looked at those who worked “traditional” office hours and those that set their own hours and thus took time out of the day to tend to children or domestic duties returning to work duties at night.

Those that tried to tackle domestic and professional duties during their home-based work day were more exhausted at day’s end than those battling traffic or public transport plus a full work load at the office.

Among the questions Professor Golden asked were whether family responsibilities interfered with work responsibilities, and if the stress of those family commitments made it difficult to concentrate on the job at hand.

The clear the message from the research was that those who experienced a conflict between completing work tasks and managing domestic responsibilities ended the day more exhausted than those who had clear boundaries between their professional and personal life.

Professor Golden’s research, published in the Journal of Business and Psychology in November 2011, should serve as a warning rather than a barrier to working from home.  

Use the following tips and avoid telecommuter fatigue.

Create boundaries for family/friends

Would you tolerate your spouse or family turning up at your office with a list of personal errands for you to run? Of course not. Your home office is your workplace so discourage no drop ins, screen phone calls and learn to say ‘no’ to requests for help in work hours.  

Create a routine

To help you succeed consider getting up at the same time every day, doing some exercise, showering and changing in to casual work clothes and hitting your desk/work table/other at roughly the same time every day. The whole thing about working in your pajamas is over rated. Look professional (if also comfortable) and you will feel professional.   

Get set for success

Create a work environment conducive to success. An ergonomic set up of desk, chair, computer and mouse. If you can afford it, consider a second phone line or at least a work mobile so you can screen out non-work calls. Ditto separating work and personal email. Make sure you have adequate light and don’t have a TV in the room where you work. Try different “background” noise to see if anything helps you concentrate. Some research suggests classical music helps people think while research that shows no benefit also exists. Personally, I like to screen out neighbourhood type noise but do whatever works for you.

Fail to plan, plan to fail

An old saying but a good one. Set some goals for each day, manage your online diary and schedule in tasks but also phone calls and emails that need attention, keep a to do list where you can see it.

At the end of the day review what you got through. If you didn’t meet your goals, ask ‘why not?’ If it’s because you stopped to watch TV, have coffee with friends or clean out the cupboards then bingo, you know how to improve your work performance.  

Consequences of failure

View working from home as a great opportunity. If you are employed, consider what will happen if you don’t make working from home a success. You could find yourself back based at the office dealing with commuting in no time. Also, if you don’t make working from home a success then colleagues who request work from home options might be denied the same opportunity.

The consequence of not making a business work is a no brainer. Stay focused.

Create personal breaks

Working from home does offer lots of advantages by allowing you to get some domestic stuff done to create more leisure time on weekends. Fair enough but create a process to safeguard your professional time. Schedule personal breaks – mid-morning, lunch and maybe mid-afternoon. That is the time to put on the wash, hang it out, take it off, go to the supermarket, renew your license and so on.

Visibility Management

Consider holding regular catch ups with your manager or team via Skype, also schedule a monthly lunch and attend industry events to put in some face time with your network.

CareerOne.com.au, November, 2011.

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