UPDATE: In the height of the summertime, it's easy for work-from-home-ers to fall prey to the season's many distractions (thanks, Fourth of July!). If you've found yourself feeling uninspired, try these super-easy tips from our very own Chicago ed. This story was originally published on November 2, 2011.
There are certain perks to working from home. Your meetings don't happen in conference rooms, you totally avoid Starbucks (when you want to), and you officially have the shortest commute ever. Not bad. But, if you're not careful, work-from-home positions can also come with legit downsides. If you're the sort of person who easily falls into the Pit of Distraction, there's hope. Click through to read about how I manage to get the job done from my apartment, and learn some of my tips and tricks for staying productive. Want to know if they work? The story you're reading right now was written from home sweet home.
Left: Shani's home office.
1. Set aside one whole room (if the real estate gods have smiled on you) or at least a portion of your home that is all business, and only business. If you start thinking of your bed as a desk, you'll start thinking of your desk as a bed. Duncan Corner Computer Desk, $299.99, available at World Market. White Douglas Desk with Hutch, $259.99, available at World Market. Parsons Mirror Desk, $599, available at West Elm.
2. Commence operation distraction removal. If you spend hours in front of Bravo, HBO, and all their friends, consider canceling those stations. You'll save some cash and you won't be tempted by the Real Housewives of Procrastination. Also be aware of how productive you are while listening to music. Playing music constantly helps some people, and distracts others, so find out which one you are.
3. Exercise! Though it may not seem like it, working from home can drastically reduce the amount of calories you burn in a day. Fight stir craziness and the work-from-home 15 by devoting an hour of your day to getting physical. A gym membership is great, but if you can't swing it, invest in some light weights, an exercise ball, a yoga mat, or all three. Anything to get you moving.
4. Arrange your desk so that you're facing out a window. Okay, it's a little Carrie Bradshaw-esque, but girl apparently knew her stuff. You'll go less stir-crazy if you constantly have a glimpse of the outside world. Plus, watching commuters trudge through the snow will make you appreciate your job more.
5. Keep essentials in your office or workspace. Yes, your bedroom/kitchen/first-aid kit are just a few feet away, but every time you leave your desk to grab a necessary break, you're interrupting your productive flow. I keep a cozy sweater, water (okay, coffee) and healthy snacks at or near my desk during the day. This will prevent you from getting up to grab something and encountering who-knows-what distractions around the house. 321 Water bottle, $39, available at 312 Water.
6. Cut yourself off. When your home is also your office, it can feel like you're always working, literally. Decide when you're done for the day, and stick to it. Your pals don't run back to the office at 11 p.m. (barring an emergency), so why should you? As important as it is to focus on work, it's also just as important to focus on you when the workday is over. My suggestion? Turn off that clever little sound on your phone that lets you know when you have a work email. Also, try keeping a cute clock on your desk and setting it to "quittin' time". It sounds silly, but it will keep you on a regular, sane schedule. FirsTime Scandia Alarm Clock, $29.99, available at Kohl's.
7. Communicate! Make sure you're in communication with people throughout the day. Chat with colleagues, schedule phone meetings, even check in on Skype. This will make you feel like less of a lone wolf, and it will also make you feel like you're an important part of the company you're working for. For freelancers, keep in touch with your freelancy pals. Check in with each other, share ideas, and make sure everybody is feeling good about work.
8. Put some clothes on, k? It might be just you at home and those sweats from college are mighty comfy, but set aside time each morning to actually "get ready" for the day. Keep your outfit casual and comfortable, but not in the pajama family. It might sound unnecessary, but you'll feel more professional, and you'll be prepared if a last-minute meeting comes up.
9. Keep things clean. Work-from-homies don't have awesome cleaning crews coming in at night. Make sure you always clean up your desk at the end of the day. I keep a Swiffer duster in my desk. Works miracles. It's a great idea to have a trash can and paper organizers within reach to keep trash and random stuff from piling up. This will help prevent anxiety before it happens! Madrid Wastebasket, $27.99, available at Target. Bungalow Collapsible File Tote, $21, available at See Jane Work. Omaha Office Accessories Magazine Holder, $4.95, available at CB2.
10. Take advantage of every single perk. You're home during the day. Do you realize what that means? It means you can fire your dog walker, you'll never miss a Zappos delivery again, and you can totally lose your CTA card without panicking. It also means you won't get anyone sick if you come to work with a sniffle, and you won't miss a beat if (heaven forbid) there's another blizzard. Learn what you love about your home-based status, and milk it. The more you enjoy working from home, the more you'll enjoy your job. Now, get back to work!