Woman video chatting with her co-workers on a laptop

Working from home can save countless hours and untold stress when compared with commuting into the office on a daily basis and sitting in gridlock on Deerfoot Trail. Telecommuting enables you to freely perform workplace tasks from the comfort of your own home environment and gives you the flexibility to run errands or shuttle the kids from one practice to the next as needed. Working from home can supercharge your productivity, but it takes focus and discipline. Here are a few tactics that can help:

Stay Away from Social Media (During Working Hours)

This is an obvious tip, but one that many of us don’t adhere to. Minimizing our social media presence (or outright blocking it using Firefox or Chrome plugins) during preset working hours helps to eliminate distractions. That next refresh of your Twitter feed or scroll on LinkedIn can result in procrastination and a lack of focus if you aren’t careful enough. Many of us fall into this trap and there’s no shame in it, but the more you cut down or block social media out to focus on office work, the easier it will be to get things done.

Take Breaks

It’s important to not suffer from cabin fever when telecommuting. Be sure to avoid eye, neck, and back strain by getting up every once in a while to stretch, have a snack, or take a brief stroll outside. Go check on the kids, do a bit of watering, or fetch the newspaper and have a coffee — just be sure to not stray from your desk for too long, or the benefits of a restful break can turn into a nightmare for deadline-driven work. With careful balance and planning, you can fit in a brief jaunt out for lunch or a coffee and sweet treat break without impeding upon your progress. In fact, doing so may maintain your level of productivity through feeling refreshed.

Establish a Dedicated Workspace

The couch or kitchen table is not the ideal place for someone intending to work from home, as distractions abound through family interaction, visiting guests, and high traffic. Additionally, noise and sensory distractions through the barking of the dog or the smell of your spouse’s cooking can hinder progress further. Establishing a dedicated workstation for your telecommuting needs, whether comprising of an entire room or a quiet corner, can provide a psychological transition to your working hours. Filtering out noise with an ambient music playlist on your computer, putting up temporary partitions for privacy, and working in a quiet and comfortable spot free of intrusion will make it easier than ever to work. Try mimicking your office environment by utilizing similar equipment, materials, and general space to make it feel even more like a professional workstation.

Set up Adequate Security

Many who work from home worry about accessing sensitive information in areas outside of their offices. However, implementing security features to protect data can rectify these concerns. Setting up a virtual private network (VPN) is easier than ever in modern PCs and smartphones, and doing so enables for you to work with sensitive information in a private and secure pocket of the Web. Setting up a password-protected Dropbox or Evernote account is another great solution, particularly if your company doesn’t use Google Drive or Microsoft SkyDrive (just be certain to check whether or not this violates company security policies).

Video-Based Communication

It is imperative that you mimic your communications at home as closely as possible to those in a regular office environment. Higher-ups and other employees need to feel trusting of your dedication towards getting work done, and ensuring a steady and consistent method of visible communication can help in that regard. Google Talk is becoming increasingly popular for real-time communication, as is Skype’s Group Chat for paying users. Videoconferencing tools such as WebEx and Adobe Connect are other great solutions, offering face-to-face check-ins akin to poking your head over the cubicle partition at the office. That way, you won’t waste time waiting on text-based messaging replies and can instantly connect with coworkers when necessary, allowing for you to save time and be more productive. This is also where having a dedicated and private workspace at home can come in handy.

When carried out with dedication and careful planning, telecommuting can be a great opportunity to work from home and still remain highly efficient. In fact, many who work from home find they generate better results and are more focused due to being in a comfortable and personal environment. By applying these tips to your living and workplace arrangements, you too can reap the rewards.