Whether you are running your own business or telecommuting for your regular job, working from home offers a range of benefits. You can save on transportation and clothing expenses by working at home, and you typically have flexibility in your schedule, particularly when it's your own business. Before making the decision to work at home, be sure you understand the challenges, particularly those involved with making a clear delineation between work and home life.
Establish a Businesslike Routine
Managing perceptions -- your own and those of other people -- is a big part of working from home. People often perceive that working from home is somehow less than a real job. Dispel this misconception by keeping to a fixed schedule as much as possible. Set times for handling phone calls, customer meetings and work hours when people know they can reach you. Respond promptly to communications from clients.
Set Up Your Home Office
Establish an area that is dedicated to your work. This keeps your work life professional and focused and contributes to your family's understanding that your work is real. Whether you have a separate office or work in a corner of a shared space in your home, keep it organized and stocked with the items you routinely use. Acquire necessary reference materials, as well as relevant computer software packages. Spend the money necessary to have safe, reliable communications lines and data storage options to reassure clients their information is secure.
One of the biggest challenges to working from home is establishing the appropriate work-life balance. Explain to family members that you need to be able to work without interruptions during specified times of the day and that your desk is not for others' use. Even with a limited budget or small home, maintaining a clear separation between your workspace and shared spaces is important. Avoid a situation where the workspace you use during the day becomes your preschooler's "let's play office" space in the evening. Educate friends and neighbors about these boundaries as well, to prevent them from dropping by to chat during your work hours or assuming you can pick up their kids "because you're home anyway."
Even if you enjoy working alone, don't let the isolation of working from home keep you from remaining professionally engaged. If you are a telecommuter, set fixed times to go to your company's offices to interact with co-workers, attend key meetings and keep yourself visible to management. Maintain regular electronic communication with supervisors and update them on your projects. If you are a home business owner, participating in industry seminars, continuing education or other public events relevant to your field is important to retaining your professional currency, establishing business connections and identifying new industry trends and leaders. Keep your profiles updated on business networking sites.