Working from home can be wonderful: You avoid traffic, crowded trains and noisy co-workers, and you're within your comfort zone. But it can also have a downside: Sometimes, you can get unbelievably distracted.
Between your professional duties and the responsibilities you have at home, working from your house can mix up your focus and take away from the work that really matters.
"Working from home can open up a lot of opportunities to do anything but work," said Gerald D. Vinci, owner of Vinci Digital Marketing. "A pile of dishes in the sink or laundry in the hamper might be calling your name, but too often, these distractions wind up greatly impacting productivity."
To help you avoid distractions and keep you on track, here are six strategies to use when you're working from home. [See Related Story: Ready to Work from Home? Ask Yourself These 6 Questions]
Have a designated workspace
A dedicated space, whether a home office or a dedicated corner of the bedroom, is the key to staying successful and productive. You still need to feel that you have, in some way, "gone to work," said Bill Conlon, corporate communications manager at business communications company Polycom.
Be technologically equipped
Beyond a reliable and speedy Wi-Fi connection, you'll want strong collaboration tools that will let you hear, see and share effectively. Conlon noted that videoconferencing and content-sharing technologies are critical to being productive.
Stay connected with your co-workers
When employees work from home, the biggest thing they miss is the conversation and commentary that occur after the meeting, Conlon said. Make sure to use your cellphone, instant messaging or audio or video calls to check in. To avoid being forgotten by not being "seen," consistently communicate about progress, ideas, insights and what you're thinking — but make sure it's relevant, he said.
Commit to work tasks during your working hours
For some people, keeping focused on their job while working remotely can be difficult, especially at first. When you're on the clock, ignore the laundry, yard work, dish washing or cleaning. Conlon reminded telecommuters that this is another reason why having a dedicated workspace is so important.
Remember to move
It's easy to stay glued to your desk or couch all day if you work from home, and that's not good for your health or your mental acuity. Make sure you get up regularly, stretch your legs and walk around, Conlon said.
Working from home doesn't need to literally mean "from home," either. Getting face time with clients at a coffee shop, working in a Wi-Fi-capable location or changing scenery are ways to remain productive while moving around.
"I find myself running out to meet with clients or attending networking events on a weekly basis," Vinci said. "By establishing a routine to dress and look the part, I can easily come and go throughout the day without stressing about getting ready for a last-minute meeting."
Don't work 24/7
Drawing a line of when work begins and ends is crucial as well. After work, it's important to keep your home office door closed, as it's easy to walk back in at midnight to check emails, Conlon said.
"Working from home could very well become a 24-hour-a-day job if you let it," Vinci added. "Set office hours, and stick to them."