Guest Post by Cheryl Lock

Work-from-home. Telecommute. Freelance. Whatever you want to call it, the number of employees who complete their workdays directly from the comfort of their own homes are on the rise. In fact, one survey from the Society for Human Resource Management found a greater increase in the number of companies planning to offer telecommuting in 2014 than any other new benefit.

We all know the advantages of working from home are many. From more flexible scheduling to working in your pjs, there are a lot of perks that come from this new-fangled way to tackle the workday. Having said that, as with most things in life, with the good comes the bad. (Okay in this case not necessarily bad, but maybe frustrating.) The disruptions that may abound when setting up your workplace in your own home are many, but there are ways to avoid them. Here are a few easy ones.

1. Keep to a Strict Schedule
If you work for a company that requires you to attend virtual meetings or keep certain deadlines every day, then this may not even be something you need to think about. However, for many work-from-home employees, the flexibility in any given day may actually prove to be a detriment. Yes, at first it might be nice to not have to get up at a certain time in the morning or stop working at a given time of night. However, as a person who has been working for herself for more than three years now, I’m here to tell you — working without a schedule will be your downfall. (It certainly was for me in the beginning.)

Instead of meandering throughout your day and getting things done as they occur to you, I suggest the following: Wake up, work out, eat your meals and schedule specific work activities at the same time every day, as often as possible. Routine is key, even when you don’t have to report to an office at 9 a.m. every morning and leave by the time they turn the lights off at 7 p.m.

2. Get Dressed
If you’re just getting started working from home, then maybe allow yourself a week to bask in the glow of doing work in your pajamas, but after that, put some clothes on! We’ve all heard the saying before: Dress for the job you want. The same holds true when you work from home — and I doubt you’d stand in front of co-workers at an office and pitch your awesome ideas with fuzzy slippers on. So do yourself a favor and dress for work even when you’re just sitting at your living room table — it really will help you feel more mentally in the game.

3. Take a (Real) Break
One thing you’ll notice quickly once you start working from home is the absence of one certain kind of distraction — co-workers — and the introduction of many other kinds — namely your television, the radio, Facebook, etc. As much as I’d like to say ignore all of those things, the truth is that can be tough, and let’s be honest, even people who work in an office are unplugging through social media from time to time.

What I would suggest, instead, is to make sure that you schedule in some real breaks during your workday, by which I mean unplugging completely from your phone and computer and getting outside. You’re no longer commuting, so it would be all too easy to spend all day, most days, cooped up inside. Sunshine, fresh air and people will all help reset and refresh a brain that spends the majority of its day removed from civilization.

4. Don’t Be a Stranger
Again, if you work for an office but just do your day job at home, this may not be a problem at all, but if keeping in touch with your office is a toughie, make sure that you attempt to grab coffee with your boss and colleagues from time to time, and attend those office parties and outings. Even if you’ve scored the coveted work-from-home situation that you always wanted, it’s important to remind your co-workers (and especially your boss) that out of “site” is not out of mind. This is especially true for people who don’t work for a specific company. If you’re a freelance worker, suggest meeting up with your clients face-to-face before you start on a project, and take the time to grab coffee or drinks with former co-workers, bosses and mentors. You never know when they might need your expertise.

5. Don’t Work from Home Exclusively
Yes, working from the comfort of your home is what you’ve always wanted, but to be honest, working in the same place day after day, sans any human contact (for the most part), can become quite tedious and lonely. Instead, shake it up and make a goal of working outside of your house once or twice a week as well. Coffee shops with free Wi-Fi are perfect, but even a park will do, if you don’t need the internet.

Ups and downs, perks and drawbacks are par for the course with any job, whether it’s a job you complete from home or one for which you commute to an office. Help squash some of the common work-from-home drawbacks by putting a few of the above-mentioned systems in place, and just wait and see how much more you can get done.

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