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Stay plugged in to office when working from home

Working from home is touted as a greener and more efficient alternative to commuting in to the office every day. But a new survey suggests that it can be a productivity killer.

About 17 per cent of employees who work at home said they get so distracted that they spend an hour or less on work every day, the survey of 5,299 U.S. workers by job site CareerBuilder found.

On the other hand, 35 per cent said they work eight or more hours in their work-at-home routine, which is a big increase from the findings of a similar survey in 2007, when only 18 per cent of telecommuters said they worked eight or more hours a day.

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Most of the rest of the telecommuters surveyed said that when they work at home, they're distracted often and get in four to seven hours of work.

The cross-country survey found people said their employers have been more willing to allow them to work from home on a regular basis since the recession. Ten per cent of all employees surveyed telecommute at least once a week – up from 8 per cent in 2007.

Another survey, by staffing service Accountemps, found 22 per cent of 270 Canadian chief financial officers interviewed said remote work arrangements, such as telecommuting and working from satellite offices, have increased at their companies in the past three years. Just 2 per cent of executives said these arrangements have decreased at their firms

"With mass adoption of smartphones and advanced network technologies, telecommuters are connected to their offices like never before," said Rosemary Haefner, vice-president of human resources for CareerBuilder. Overall, 10 per cent of employees telecommute at least once a week, up from 8 per cent in 2007, the survey found.

"To avoid situations where telecommuters aren't putting in the necessary time, managers need to be clear about expectations and establish daily objectives," she said.

Household chores are the biggest distractions, cited by 31 per cent of those surveyed. Other things that regularly took their minds off their work were television and Internet surfing, pets, errands and children.

Ms. Haefner offered tips to help telecommuters work as efficiently as possible

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Stick to a business routine

The survey found that 30 per cent of telecommuters tend to work in pyjamas. "The truth is you'll probably work better if you treat your mornings as if you were going to the office," she said.

Find a spot to concentrate

Even if you don't have a dedicated home office, it's important that you find the least distracting place in your home. Don't be tempted by the entertainment system or the recliner.

Stay connected to colleagues

It's easier to slack off when you know your colleagues or managers aren't watching. If you're struggling to stay motivated at home, schedule an update meeting or call and talk shop with an office peer to get your mind back on work.

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Plan your breaks

You should never feel like a prisoner in your own home. Plan short breaks to take care of chores, play with pets, exercise, or run a brief errand. You'll be less likely to succumb to quitting work early if you structure the perks of being at home appropriately into your schedule.

Take work outside

Working at home can be lonely. If your job allows it, try spending an afternoon in a coffee shop or library. In many places, you'll likely find contract workers or other telecommuters toiling away as well.

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About the Author

Wallace Immen is an award-winning staff writer for The Globe and Mail whose stories about workplace trends and career advice, as well as about cruising and travel destinations around the world appear regularly in print and on-line. He has worn many hats in his career with the Globe, including science writer, medical writer and columnist, urban affairs reporter and travel writer. More

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