Work-from-home Tips That Will Actually Make You More Productive

Get more done at home and watch your work prosper with this advice.

Working from home is becoming increasingly common—the number of those who worked at least one day a week from home increased from 7 percent in 1997 to 9.5 percent in 2010 (latest data available). Whether you are a full-time staffer who works from the comfort of your couch occasionally, or a freelancer with a home office that’s always open, these five tips will help you make those offsite days the most productive they can be. Read on for some helpful hints that may surprise you, even if you’ve been doing this “homework” thing for ages.

1. Prioritize your day, every day

When you’re working from home, it’s critical to set priorities and expectations on a daily basis. That is not to say to incessantly check in with your manager—do that and you run the risk of seeming unsure of your ability to manage your time and responsibilities on your own. Rather, plan a weekly meeting (phone, Skype, email, IM) with a supervisor to lay out upcoming projects and tasks. Use that info to set a schedule for yourself of what you’ll accomplish each day toward each goal to ensure that deadlines are met. Then each morning, do a quick check that you’re on track – it’ll be easier to course-correct as soon as you see the need. And—most importantly—you won’t find yourself with a project that’s just half done on the morning of a big deadline.

2. Best time is the flex-time

As much as we work to carefully schedule our time, there is always the chance that something will come up that can throw a wrench in our best-laid plans. Of course, this can happen to anyone regardless of whether their workdays are spent in the office or at home. In either case, the key to successfully resolving the issue is communication. Let anyone affected by an unforeseen schedule change know as soon as you become aware of the issue—and be clear on what the new expectations will be.

3. Tech support, DIY-style

Consider what will happen if you have tech issues—do you have access to the company’s IT support? If so, great! Just make sure to store contact information for the IT team on another device—your personal computer, if you have a company laptop (if that computer is the one having problems, you may not be able to access the info), and/or your own smartphone (again, if your work-issued phone dies you may lose the contact info stored there). If you will not be able to call on the company’s IT department, make sure you know the best local tech provider—whether there’s a small independent shop close by, or you need to call the closest Geek Squad. Remember to identify who can help you before you need the help.

4. It’s impossible to over-communicate

Asa worker who’s being entrusted to work offsite, whether by necessity or choice, you are being given an amazing opportunity to empower yourself and your position as a trailblazer in the workforce. But, as they say, with great power comes great responsibility—and yours is to communicate effectively with your employers, colleagues and clients. Be transparent about when and how you are available, what your current priorities are and ETAs on your deliverables.

5. Embrace a work-from-home mentality

What are the benefits to anyone (i.e., the worker, contractor, employer, client) from a work-from-home arrangement if you feel chained to the computer 24/7? Remember to step away at intervals throughout the day—take a quick brisk walk around the block, a 15-minute break to water your garden, prepare a midmorning treat or meet a friend for a half-hour confab at a local coffee spot. If you have to run errands or plan to be out of the house for more than a quick break, set your “away” message with a clear note as to when you will be available.