How to be productive working at home

As an AT&T employee I was used to working in an office with lots of colleagues around.  Suddenly in 1994 the group I was with was asked to work from home.  I liked the fact that I didn’t have to drive 45 minutes to an hour to work but I missed the camaraderie of the office.  I learned to compensate for the isolation and continued to work from home.  After I left AT&T I started my own business and to this day continue working from home.  I tried many different approaches in those 20+ years and am still learning how to work in a way that is best for me.  Here are 10 tips that work for me.

  1. Get dressed first thing in the morning and start the day just like you did in the office.  People used to ask me if I was working in my bunny slippers.  I can’t do that!  Somehow my shower, dressing and coffee signals my brain that it is work time.  I tried other ways at first but when I am in my PJs I want to sleep or watch TV.
  2. Wear proper clothing.  If I wear sports clothes, I want to go outside or to the gym.  I may not dress as formally as I did to go to work but I have business clothes on.  When I first started working at home, there was no Zoom or other services that I could access that people could see me.  Today however I do check to make sure I am a bit more formally dressed when I have a Zoom, Skype or Facetime call.  Clothes do affect my behavior and internal motivation.
  3. Maintain a work schedule.  As a caregiver there is always something I need to do around the house or for my Mom.  I take scheduled breaks during the day so I can do some of them.  My weekly schedule tells me what I need to get done and when I need to do it.
  4. Disconnect technology at a specific time and give yourself a mental break.  This one is challenging for me.  I do disconnect from my computer but the phone is harder.  Most days I do shut everything off at night but sometimes that is quite late.  Ideally finishing work by 5pm gives you family time and maybe time to workout too.
  5. Challenge yourself to use new technology and practice using it before you integrate it into your work.  I had never used Zoom as a host when the pandemic hit but had been a participant in meetings.  I practiced with a friend who also wanted to learn how to host a meeting.  Together we got good at it.  Later I helped members of my SCORE chapter learn to set up meetings and host calls.  The longer you have to work at home the more likely it will be that you will need to learn some software or hardware on your own.
  6. Reach out to others and interact with them so that you won’t feel so isolated.  Other people are feeling isolated too and will appreciate hearing from you.  Remember the people you would bump into in the office?  Call them to chat and/or talk about your work.  Friends who live alone too will appreciate hearing from you. Schedule celebrations on Zoom or phone conference services.
  7. Use a variety of communication tools.  Some examples: Zoom, Skype, Google classroom, Facetime, WhatsApp, texting, etc.  Make it easy for others to connect with you by knowing a variety of programs. Be sure to keep your boss up to date with what you are doing.  Find the best way to communicate with him/her and do it regularly.
  8. Figure out the best way to work with others in your family who are working from home.  Set clear boundaries to avoid interruptions or distractions.  If everyone is using the Internet at the same time, make sure there is enough bandwidth for you especially when it is high priority work.
  9. Find a separate work area or room in your home and set strict boundaries around the time you work.  I always let others know when I can not be interrupted so that no mishaps occur. 
  10. Put your laptop, keyboard, mouse, and monitor away at night.  This is challenging for me still.  There is always one more thing I could do.  Working all the time is not healthy so it is best to have an end of work time. I do usually manage to end my day when it is time to prepare dinner for my mother and me.  Most nights I resist the temptation to do work after I help my mother go to bed for the night.

What about you?  What tips do you have about working from home?  Let me know and I will share your tips with my readers.  In 2012 I wrote another list about working from home.  You can read it here.

Working from home can be challenging.  Most of my clients right now are doing it successfully.  Need some help getting your own routine?  A coach can help.  Give me a call at 781-598-0388 or email me at


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