Working From Home Tips: The Unwritten Rules Of Telecommuting

THOR (Home Sweet Studio) CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia CommonsJust google “work from home jobs – the rules” and you'll find a ton of material out there on the interwebs. Here's the thing, though -- almost all of it focuses on zoning laws, company policies, and tracking work hours. That's all well and good, but what about you, Joe or Jane Telecommuter, and your well-being? Fret not, there is a whole list of working from home tips that will help you survive and thrive. They just haven't appeared in written form ... until now, that is!

  1. Make sure you can breathe. Fine, go ahead and cram an entire home office into a spare clothes closet ... if it'll be used only occasionally for paying bills or catching up on a little paperwork, that is. However, when you're going to be sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day (or longer!), you'll need some serious space. A window or two would be nice as well.

  2. Make sure you can work. "Small is beautiful" is a fantastic concept when it comes to economic theories or the latest tablet. But if you'll be typing a lot, choose a big(gish) ol' workhorse for your home business computing device. I like a 13" laptop -- portable enough to take on a plane but substantial enough to bang out several full-length articles without wrist fatigue. And I looove my clunky desktop even better. A real desk to hold your equipment is also nice.

  3. Keep the dog in the bedroom. Contrary to popular canine misconception, when you're on an important work-related phone call, the sound of ferocious barking will not help you to clinch the sale. However, after you close that million-dollar deal, you can take a well-deserved break and romp with Fido in the park to celebrate.

  4. Energize yourself. While the idea of working in saggy sweats and cozy bunny slippers definitely has appeal, it's unlikely to do much for your motivation. A great energizing solution: Get yourself dressed in real clothes and go for a brisk walk before your "office hours" begin. If you're a caffeine addict like me, head to a lively local café and stand in line with the masses for a strong cappuccino to go. Then enjoy a quiet snicker up your sleeve as you meditate on the commute you won't be sharing with them.

  5. Know yourself. Notice I did not recommend sitting down at said coffee shop for a work session. While some folks (read: extroverts) might find the noise and bustle stimulating, for others it's just distraction ... a nice place to visit but you wouldn't want to work there. Know yourself and what is best for your personal work style.

  6. Have fun. Yippee! You're not confined to a cube or -- even worse -- a station at a shared worktable, with a small family photo or artistically framed Dilbert cartoon as your only personal touch. Instead, live large in your work-from-home space. Hire a painter to coat the walls in a color you love - fresh and airy wisteria blue or cheerful Amarillo yellow. (You may even be able to write it off as a business expense.)

  7. Don't isolate. Pace yourself. Just as alternate sessions of sitting and standing at the computer benefit your circulation and metabolism, it's equally healthy to break up long stretches of solitary concentration with some "people contact." Make phone calls or get together with colleagues via Slack, video conferencing, or Google Hangouts.

  8. Close it up. It's all too easy to blur the boundaries between your work and personal life when you telecommute. Don't forget a home office essential: a door you can close. Use this handy low-tech gadget to keep out interruptions as you go about your work. At the end of the day, you will be able literally to shut the door on your 9-to-5 grind and transition smoothly into the non-working you.

Laura Firszt writes for

Updated October 23, 2018.

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