With H1N1 hitting offices, more people are being forced - or choosing - to telecommute
1. Separate your work space from your living space
Unless your corporate office places you a few metres from a fridge and a TV beaming soap operas to your desk all afternoon, you should find a space in your home far away from living and entertainment zones.
Victoria career coach Michele Waters says a spare bedroom is ideal - it'll block out most distractions and give you a private space.
But if home is a 400-square-foot bachelor apartment, Ms. Waters says, you can mentally adjust to starting your work day by performing a morning ritual before going to "the office."
"Walk around the block if that's appropriate. Do some form of exercise. Do something that associates with, 'Now I'm transitioning to my work.' "
Career coach Michele Waters takes your questions on working from home, plus more general career advancement questions, on Tuesday at noon ET.
2. Dress the part
When James Kendrick, the Dallas-based blogger behind tech site jkOnTheRun.com, started working from home in 2003, he dressed for comfort: a ratty T-shirt and a pair of ripped jeans.
"What I found early on was that it was very easy to kind of evolve into an unprofessional work ethic," he says.
Now, he dons a polo or button-down shirt with some Dockers every morning - not just to get him in the right mind frame, but to look professional in video conferences.
He can always tell if the people he's speaking to on Skype are still in their pyjamas: "The first thing they'll say is 'audio only' and so you know immediately when they tell you that."
Share your tips Does your kitchen double as your boardroom? Change out of those yoga pants, gather round the digital water cooler and share tips and stories with your fellow at-home workers.
3. Create an ergonomic work environment
Clare Kumar, a Toronto-based professional organizer, came down with the flu last month and gave in to the temptation of cozying up in bed with her laptop. While it was fine for short bursts of typing, she says that when working from home, it's important to choose an office chair over a pillow-top mattress. Eight hours in bed or on the couch can cause serious lower back pain and shoulder tension, she warns.
"If you're hunched over to look at a laptop rather than have something at eye level, your body will know something's not quite right," she says.
4. Keep regular work hours
When Mr. Kendrick began working from home, he kept the same start time: 7 a.m. He knew sleeping in till noon would have hit his output.
If you find yourself taking two-hour coffee breaks, Ms. Waters recommends setting a timer so you don't overindulge. And if you're a workaholic, set it to remind yourself to take a break.
"Even if they never take a break in the corporate office, it's important they do in the home office," she says. "They lose energy - there's no outside stimulation."
5. Keep the social networking to a minimum
Jeff Zbar, a telework columnist in Coral Springs, Fla., found that without any supervision at his home office, he could spend countless hours obsessively updating his Twitter and Facebook accounts.
A few months ago, he created a "self-imposed embargo" on social networking sites. Now he doesn't open them in the morning, which has killed the temptation to constantly check the sites throughout the day.
If you're using a company-issued computer, have co-workers as friends on Facebook or have an open Twitter account, Mr. Zbar's example is a good one to follow: It's all too easy for your boss to track your social networking "breaks" remotely, he says.
*And don't do this
Pretend you're at the corporate office when speaking with clients. They'll clue in that you're at home when the door bell rings or your toddler squeals."
Read: White Collar Slacker's Handbook
After much coaxing, your boss has agreed to let you work from home in a major show of trust. How foolish of him.
With the White Collar Slacker's Handbook , author Marc Saltzman unveils tech tricks to not only give your boss the illusion that you're productive, but probably win you the title of Employee of the Month and the accompanying Red Lobster gift certificate.
If you want to clock out early, you can configure Microsoft Outlook to release an e-mail at twilight to win you points as the diligent employee who works at all hours, Mr. Saltzman suggests.
He also recommends setting up call-forwarding. If your supervisor rings your home phone and you're out getting groceries, you can answer on your cell. You'll just have to figure out how to explain, "Clean-up in aisle five" blaring over the loudspeakers.
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