“The ultimate reward of working from home is that I get to spend time with my family,” said Catherine Quiambao. “I get to take care of my son, or look after him anytime I want,” adds the founder of Freelancing.ph, a platform that aims to help freelancers by offering skills training and advice.
But working from home also comes with a host of challenges. The home is chock-full of domestic distractions, such as your comfy bed, or that flat-screen TV in your living room. Just how do you get work done? Here are some pointers:
While the home will never compare to an office, you can always arrange it in such a way that there will be a specific space for you to work. That way, even if you are at home, you would still know where home ends and the work begins.
“I have a desk that is for work only and I try to keep my bedroom sacred, which means that I do not bring work in there,” said Denise Christine S. Gonzales-Bernardo, co-owner of Indigo Baby, a one-stop shop for baby products. “This way, there are clear boundaries, which makes it more professional. Arrange your workspace properly so that you can get things done,” she added.
For Quiambao, it is necessary to set up your own home office and, if possible, in a separate room away from your bedroom. “If a spare room is not available, try the living room or kitchen counter. It can even be a small nook under the staircase. What’s important is that you have a desk and a chair which will allow you to work comfortably,” she added.
You should also set boundaries in terms of time, adds Gonzales-Bernardo. For Indigo Baby, the retail business which she runs from home, she still holds an 8-to-5 workday and she would like to keep it that way. “So that after 5:00 pm, the home is quiet and the family can settle down and get ready for dinner and bedtime—super essential for yummy mummies with school-aged kids,” she quipped.
2. Invest in tools
Aside from a fast and reliable internet service, you need a desk that can accommodate your laptop and other stuff. If you are into retail, you need a storage space such as small drawers and cabinets. You also need ample lighting whether you prefer working during the day or night, and a headset and a microphone so you can make and receive calls online.
And if you have the budget for it, Quiambao suggested that you invest in a good, ergonomic chair and a sturdy table with ample workspace to fit your laptop, monitor, mouse, your notebook, coffee mug, and leaves room for a plant or a photo for some inspirational or motivational kick.
Still, Quaimbao cautioned against overdoing it. “No need to invest on fancy equipment—a stable Internet connection, a backup either via stick or a mobile data plan, and a trusted laptop or desktop computer will do,” she stressed.
3. Fix your schedule
Having a flexible work schedule remains one of the biggest perks of working from home. Since you have better control over your schedule, you can set a fixed number of hours that’s allotted for either work or play on a daily basis and stick to it.
“Set a work routine,” said Quiambao. “This depends on your own productivity peak, or when you can enjoy an uninterrupted time,” she noted. For one, Quiambao creates a certain structure to her schedule, allotting a fixed time and number of hours for certain clients, or certain activities, such as for making calls and checking emails, depending on when is the best time to do them.
And since you have better control of your time, you can also be more attuned to your body’s “rhythm,” said Gonzales-Bernardo. “I’m all for rhythm, so fix your daily schedule for productivity,” she added, both in terms of work and life.
Gonzales-Bernardo, for example, starts her day with a jog or exercise, then showers and gets dressed as if she is also heading to work. That way, her mind and body is more primed for work, even in the comforts of home.
Also, take advantage of the down times at your household, reminds Gonzales-Bernardo—like when family members are at work, or the kids are at school.
Still, Quiambao and Gonzales-Bernardo both agree that making lists never goes out of style—you can easily organize your time and your schedule by making a list of the things you should do, then erasing them once done. “I love lists and calendars so I can tick things off when done,” said Gonzales-Bernardo, who makes it a point to have separate lists for work and for the household.
It also helps if your list of activities for the day can also be seen by other members of your household—this can either be tacked on the refrigerator, or displayed like a poster or board near your workstation at home. This way, members of your household can easily know your schedule as well, and make efforts to not distract you from your work.
4.Talk to members of your family
If you live with your family at home, chances are, they will eat up most of your time away from the work you should be doing. So, for Gonzales-Bernardo, working from home also entails the delicate matter of talking to family members about this situation and your expectations from them.
Given the right communication, your family members will eventually learn to be your “workmates” and respect your schedule and activities. When Quiambao’s son was born, she asked her mother for help in taking care of the child during the first few months. “Eventually, when we developed a schedule, I would work in chunks—usually during my son’s nap time or play time,” she said.
For Gonzales-Bernardo, she has spoken to her son about her situation of running their business from home. But, from time to time, he still feels like he owns everything in her home office, so she tried to explain things to him and set some boundaries. “The kids run in every now and then, but I have to remind them that the room is for work,” she said.
And if you are going to delegate work from home, make sure that you hire people that will get along with members of your household. This way, no unnecessary conflict or tension may arise from the mingling of work and home. “I’m blessed to have a crew that loves my kids as well, so they are okay with playing with them in between answering emails and packing products,” said Gonzales-Bernardo.
Excel is a freelance writer and Christian book author. Follow him on Twitter, @exceldy.
This article was originally published in the November 2015 issue of Entrepreneur Philippines magazine. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors.