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the top tens

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For professionals who endure traffic-plagued commutes to the office each day, working from home may conjure dream-like images of conference calls in pyjamas, flexible work hours, extended lunches and extra family time.

While a work-from-home policy can be an ideal solution for employers looking to trim lofty real estate costs, it can take its toll on the worker. For example, according to our latest survey, 60 per cent of Canadians said they were distracted by their family. Other challenges of working from home included the inability to access to the proper office equipment (28 per cent), the desire to complete household chores (26 per cent), the temptation to keep TV on as 'company' (24 per cent) and lack of proper work space (18 per cent).

I work with businesses of all sizes – from startups to global firms – who are putting together a workplace strategy that gives employees the flexibility they crave without comprising productivity and a positive corporate culture.

Here are my top 10 best work-at-home practices:

1. Keep lines of communication open. Maintaining regular contact with colleagues and managers will ensure status of projects and deliverables are understood by all. All forms of communication should be used. This means moving beyond phone and e-mail, to instant messenger or even better, video calls allowing for some face time.

2. Establish a routine. Working from home can sometimes lead to working around the clock. Set blocks of time for work and stick to the schedule. Sticking to your timetable will reduce the chance of burnout and boost your productivity. If you're easily distracted, work on improving your time management and organization skills to keep you on track during the day – there are a number of free courses available online.

3. Create parameters. Set rules with family and friends and let them know when you are and are not available. Explain your responsibilities to your family and friends and make sure they take what you do seriously. While you might not be going into an office, but you are still expected to meet your daily obligations.

4. Have appropriate child care. By eliminating your commute, you have more time to spend with your family which is a major advantage to working from home. Arranging proper childcare either for the full-week or a few days a week will help to alleviate the stress of working in a home environment with young children.

5. Avoid isolation. It can be taxing to live, work and sleep in the same space and it's common to start feeling a little cabin fever. One of the downsides of working from home is the loss of positive interactions with colleagues. Leaving your home office and dropping in at a flexible workspace provider, provides an opportunity to connect and network with other professionals.

6. Maintain credibility. Making the right impression with clients is very important. Work with your employer to establish a professional way to host meetings outside of your home office. For example, our business centres located in both suburban and downtown markets have meeting rooms that can be booked by the hour or the day. The meeting rooms are equipped with full technical requirements and video conference capabilities to ensure presentations run smoothly and clients leave impressed by your professionalism.

7. Minimize distractions. The kitchen table, the couch, the bed in the mornings – all these spaces should not serve as your office. Design a workspace in your home that is clutter-free, ergonomic and dedicated solely for work purposes.

8. Take a break. You would make time for lunch or coffee with co-workers when working from an office. So don't feel guilty about walking away from your computer. Go for a walk, clear your mind and reset throughout the day.

9. Equip yourself with the tools you need. With freedom comes responsibility. No one is going to run to the office supplies store for you. You must have the technical tools like fast and reliable Internet access, office supplies and equipment to be fully prepared so you can focus on work. You will need to be more tech-savvy than your office-bound colleagues who can rely on IT for immediate support. Knowing how to troubleshoot and resolve technical issues will limit your interruptions.

10. Go into the office. Consider heading into the office if and when you are working on a complex team project. A little office camaraderie can go a long way.

Wes Lenci is the vice-president of Regus Canada. Regus is the world's largest provider of flexible work spaces, with products and services ranging from fully equipped offices to professional meeting rooms, business lounges and the world's largest network of video communication studios. The company operates 49 business centres across Canada.

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