Working Out of a Home Office? 3 Strategies for Success

Home Office

Although can be tempting some days to think so, “working from home” isn’t a code phrase for a House of Cards marathon — or for afternoons in a bathrobe.

Working from a home office is fast becoming a mainstay of many US businesses and it’s growing rapidly (by over 100% in the last decade). Chances are, you know someone who works out of their home — and you may even be eyeing the opportunity yourself.

Despite its popularity, there is still a lot to learn about working out of your house or apartment — the best practices, the pitfalls and even how to stay comfortable (and productive).

Here are 3 strategies to help you get the most out of working from a home office:

1. Make Your Home Office an Ideal Space

Decorate for Productivity

Can a well-designed workspace really make you more productive?

Yes indeed, says interior designer and author Anne Sage — and that goes doubly for home offices.

After years interviewing home-based workers — and blogging about the results — Sage is highlighted in her own interview in Architectural Digest. In Designing a Home Office That Makes You More Productive by Amy Preiser she offers 7 best practices for designing your productivity zone.

It’s no secret that if you’re making do with a folding chair — or poor lighting — you’re working harder than you need to be. But beyond those basis — just what is good office design?

We’re so glad you asked.

Sage just doesn’t describe great office design ideas – she shows them off with gorgeous photos and practical tips. Controlling clutter, hiding cables — even squeezing your office into another room — the tips are down-to-earth as well as beautiful.

Whether you’re in it for the sensible design tips — or the eye-candy — this gem from Architectural Digest is sure to inspire you.

Optimize for Color, Ergonomics, and More

There’s one thing that you’re sure not to miss when you work from home – the cubicle!

Being completely in charge of your environment is a true perk. But with great flexibility comes great responsibility: how exactly should you set up your home office?

We’ve got you covered. Make Your Home Office Work For You is a cherry infographic created by OKA Direct, presented by Irma Hunkeler for for Business2Community blog.

This infographic has tips for seating, lighting, ambient sound — just about everything you’re curious about to make your workspace a comfortable productive place. It even tells you which wall colors will increase your focus or stimulate your creativity. (You might want to get out the paintbrush: neither white nor beige score high marks.)

If you’re ready to invest a little in your home workspace in 2016 — or just want to see some statistics on the company you keep (nearly 30 million people work from home at least once a week!) — this is a handy graphic to check out.

2. Tap Into Empathy to Communicate Better

Make Staying Connected Your Top Priority

Staying in touch — it’s the primary concern of teams who work from home, and for good reason. When you’re not face-to-face, little frustrations can build into bigger ones.

If you work from a home office, you likely are on a perpetual search for tips for improving one-on-one communication and team meetings. If so, CEO of EventFuel Niko Roberts has some good advice.

In Top 3 Tips from Working Remotely for Medium, Roberts aims for the heart. Empathy, he says, is the key to success in a remote environment. While empathy grows best with occasional face-to-face time, he says, regular team meetings — and a culture of open communication — help as well.

But no matter where you work, wide open access to each other can be a double-edged sword — interruptions can torpedo productivity as much as communication can enhance it — so Roberts shrewdly focuses his last tip on notification management. Email filters and do-not-disturbs might sound tactical, but they can make a strategic impact when used wisely.

With the right tools and some smart processes, communication in remote teams can rival the standard office setting. Roberts offers some good advice to get started the right way.

3. Step Back And Reflect on Your Strengths

Would You Hire Yourself as a Remote Employee?

Ok, so now we’re all wondering exactly who is likely to thrive in a home-office scenario? (And how can we tell?)

There’s an infographic for that. And it’s a good one.

How to Hire the Most Successful Remote Workers written for UndercoverRecruiter by Sophie Deering, and featuring an infographic by Hubstaff, is full of tips and advice on what quality a person needs to thrive in a home office — and you can turn it around to assess your own personality as well.

First up is the ability to solve problems without much assistance — and the self-motivation to stay on track without constant prompting. Sensible, of course, although perhaps difficult to interview for. (“How do you stay focused?” is one of the interview questions they recommend.)

Other qualities — such as communication style — are easier to evaluate and just as important, according to Hubstaff.

It’s interesting to note that Hubstaff recommends a probationary period to see how workers can adjust to the home environment — a practice that makes even more sense after reading the findings in the Quarterly Journal of Economics reported above.

Whether you use this graphic to hire your team — or as a self-assessment — it’s a handy summary of the right skills, qualities and tools for remote success.

Be Sure That Working From a Home Office Is Right For You

Having a 2 minute morning “commute” — answering email from your armchair — what’s not to love about working from home?

Well…plenty, says Slate editor L.V. Anderson — and you might not realize it’s a poor fit until you’ve actually tried it out. Although setting up shop on our futons is the stuff of dreams for many of us, Anderson’s article in Working From Home Isn’t for Everyone in the December issue of Slate is a cautionary tale.

Despite beginning her own work-from-home stint with excitement, she quickly learned that it made her miserable.

Turns out, no matter how much we daydream about it, we aren’t very good at predicting whether we’ll actually thrive as remote workers. At least that’s the conclusion of a randomized controlled trial of telecommuters reported in the Quarterly Journal of Economics.

But the recent study — the first of its kind — wasn’t all doom and gloom. Actually, most workers in the study were more productive at home than they were in the workplace (the study measured call-center employees, so it was easy to reliably capture that metric).

Unfortunately, the downsides — the reported loneliness and isolation — drove half of those employees back to the workplace after the trial period was over, despite a lengthy commute and a slight drop in compensation.

What does this surprising twist mean for the rest of us?

It might just mean: proceed with caution — that we won’t know how well working from home might suit us, until after we have our first taste.

Anderson isn’t trying to pour cold water on our telecommuting fantasy, she’s just reminding us that we will all take to it differently. Fair advice and very good food for thought.

Want to get more done while working out of your home office? Don’t miss 9 Ways to Be More Productive Working From Home >>