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Best Practices for Working From Home

More and more entrepreneurs are working remotely. They may have an “office” at home, in a co-working space or even at the nearest coffee shop. Fortunately, technology has allowed everyone — even entrepreneurs who commute to a traditional office every day — to benefit from the flexibility of working from home when it’s needed or preferred.

Anyone who works from home will tell you that it has its benefits, yet also challenges. When I started my business in 1998, social media did not exist, I had no clients and most of my friends worked in a traditional office setting.

1. Maintain Regular Hours
Set a schedule, and stick to it…most of the time. Having clear guidelines for when to work and when to call it a day helps many remote workers maintain work-life balance. Working a swing shift is bad for you, and that applies to remote workers, too. That said, working remotely sometimes means extending your day or starting early to accommodate someone else’s time zone. When you do, be sure to wrap up earlier than usual or sleep in a bit the next morning. Installing an automatic time-tracking app, such as RescueTime, lets you check in on whether you’re sticking to your schedule.

2. Create a Morning Routine
Deciding you’ll sit down at your desk and start work at a certain time is one thing. Creating a routine that guides you into the chair is another. What in your morning routine delineates the start of work? It might be making a cup of coffee. It might be returning home after a jog. It might be getting dressed (wearing pajama pants to work is a perk for some, but a bad strategy for others). Create a morning routine that ends with you starting work.

3. Set Ground Rules With the People in Your Space
Set ground rules with other people in your home or who share your space for when you work. If you have children who come home from school while you’re still working, they need clear rules about what they can and cannot do during that time. Additionally, just because you’re home and can let service people into the house or take care of pets doesn’t mean other family members should assume you will always do it. If that’s how you choose to divide up the domestic labor, that’s fine, but if you simply take it all on by default, you may feel taken advantage of, and your productivity may suffer.

4. Schedule Breaks
Know your company’s policy on break times and take them. If you’re self-employed, give yourself adequate time during the day to walk away from the computer screen and phone. A lunch hour and two 15-minute breaks seems to be the standard for full-time US employees.

5. Take Breaks in Their Entirety
Don’t short-change yourself during breaks, especially your lunch hour. You can use an app, such as TimeOut for Mac and Smart Break for Windows, to lock yourself out of your computer for 60 minutes. Or you can just launch a simple clock or timer on the screen when you take a break. If you return to your desk after only 40 minutes, walk away for another 20.

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