How to Keep Your Home Office Professional and Productive

One of the advantages of being self-employed is the ability to work from home. No 1-2 hour traffic commutes. No long public transportation rides. More time spent with or close to your family. Ahhh. It’s the life.

(c) TranceMist on Flickr

But there’s a caveat when working from home. It can become a little too comfy and cozy. You’re still running a business, and as such, you need to treat your home office, and your activities in it, like a business. Here are some tips for keeping productivity high when you get to work in your PJs all day.

  1. Don’t work in your PJs all day. The way you dress has a profound impact on how you act during the day. It will subtly affect how you talk on the phone, how you sit at your desk, and the mindset you have when you go to work. So do at home what you would do if you went to an office. Shower, brush you teeth, put on your clothes, then go to work.
  2. Create physical boundaries. Make sure your workspace at home has actual physical boundaries. If you meet clients at your home, an ideal solution would be a finished basement or home attachment with a separate door to the outside. But if you don’t have that, at least have an autonomous room with its own separate internal door. Do not set aside a corner in your bedroom or living room as your office. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, in order to legally write-off a portion of your home for business use, that portion needs to be 100% used for business use.
  3. Create family boundaries. If you have other family members at home with you, make sure they understand that when you’re in your office, you’re at work and not to be disturbed. Put a DO NOT DISTURB sign on your door if you have to.  If you’re really creative and good with electronics, get an “On Air” or “Filming in Progress” red light to hang outside your door. 🙂
  4. Bring a lunch. This is a tip my good buddy Chris P. Jones (an award-winning videographer and co-founder of InFocus) has suggested for improving productivity. Instead of getting up from your desk every now and then to get a snack or make lunch, make it ahead of time and bring it to your office. This is particularly helpful if you’re working hard to get out from under a backlog.
  5. Create work boundaries. If during the day you’re being Mr. or Ms. CEO and cannot be disturbed, on the flip side, when you get off work, give your family the time and attention they deserve. It can be really tempting to go running downstairs or across the hall to check e-mail or finish an edit. Don’t. (I know this last statement will fall on deaf ears. But you can’t say no one ever told you.)

For all your home-workers out there, what other tips do you have for keeping your work-life balance, balanced?

15 thoughts on “How to Keep Your Home Office Professional and Productive

  1. This is great Ron! This is an important piece to being productive at home.

    My adds:
    -Remind your children, no matter how brilliant they are, this is your office not theirs to clutter and use unless they have permission.
    -Windows and doors to outside are great. Otherwise you may feel trapped and resent working in your own office space.
    -Proper lighting is key. You don’t want it to feel dismal – like an extension of an unfinished basement. If you can use office space with natural lighting go for it. If not, consider overhead lighting that fills the workspace properly. Get some desk lamps for task lighting if you like to change up the tones at times.

    Great post Ron!

  2. This chance way how I think about home office, “A must see for anyone who call themselves a creative professional, artist, or… well, a desk worker!”.

  3. – Put your shoes on, too! It makes me feel more productive.

    – Get out once in a while! Keep up your social skills and work for a morning a week in a coffee shop or other local area with free wireless.It feels good to be around people.

    – I actually take a lunch break every day and get out of the office for 30-60 minutes each day. Even if it is a 15 minute lunch, I take advantage of a little downtime and read, watch tv, throw in some laundry or pay bills.

  4. Thanks for the tips Ron!

    One thing that helps me out is to have a clean and clutter free desk and work area. Keeping it organized helps me stay focused on what is in front of me instead of worrying about all the stuff around me.

    Phil, I couldn’t agree more! Lighting is important… especially if you live in a super gloomy location.

  5. It’s important to get into a routine like you would if you were going into an office. I wake up, eat breakfast, go to the gym, shower and then start work in my dedicated office. I always try to take a lunch break- I usually eat lunch, play with the pets, and maybe do some dinner prep before heading back into my office. I’ve been working from home since April and I am enjoying it.

    1. I think that is a great way of putting it Mandy. Getting into a rhtym and routine will also make it easier for you to do it all the time. It may be hard at first, especially if you’re used to working in your PJs all day. But once you set up a habit of doing the same thing, it becomes second nature.

      Thanks for sharing.

  6. 🙂 as I read this I’m noticing that I am both working in my pjs and working in a corner of my bedroom. :/. I do try and get dressed everyday but it’s a Monday ;). Thanks for the advice!

  7. And don’t forgot about pets! Especially cats who like to jump on keyboards and laps. I let my spoiled baby cat (5 years old) sit on my lap for only a few minutes at a time, and then she has to get off!

  8. I have another tip for your home office…bring you family pictures to your office for calmness and inspiration.

    Carl from T.O.

  9. i made a program for every day, Monday through Friday otherwise i can be very distracted and since i receive my clients in my office i had my friday morning to do the accountings and papers so i can have my clients and my desk cleaned when they come.

  10. I manage to stay productive while working at home with the help of a tool that manage time efficiently. Using this tool l list my entire tasks on it and set an estimated amount of time when working on each task. I also set my breaks regularly mostly very two hours of work this way I can limit wasted time. The key that I can effectively follow scheduled task and finish it on time is with discipline. This way I can ignore work distractions and at the same time stay focus on tasks. With discipline and the right tools it can help you focus on work and stay productive.

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