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The Rules of Working from Home

Almost 10 percent of the American labor force now works from home at least one day per week, according to the US Census Bureau. How do you stay productive amid domestic distractions? Here are 5 tips for working from home.

More people are working from home, according to the US Census Bureau, which means more of us are dealing with laptop-sitting cats, dangerously comfortable couches, and the banes of keeping a home-office free from laundry and dirty plates.

In 2010, around 4.3 percent of the American workforce spent the majority of the week at home, and 9.5 percent worked at home at least one day per week. That's around 13.4 million people — up from 9.5 million in 1999.

Nearly half of these home-based workers were self-employed, according to the 2010 American Community Survey. But more and more areas of the labor force are transitioning out of the office. Government saw the largest increase in home-based workers last year, jumping by 133 percent among state government workers and 88 percent among federal government workers. There was a 67 percent increase in home-based work for employees of private companies.

The survey revealed that the median household income was significantly higher for workers who spent time both at home and in the office, at $96,300, compared with $74,000 for home workers and $65,600 for onsite workers.

With more Americans meshing work with domestic life — and perhaps struggling, at times, to find harmony — here are a few tips for the home-based worker, courtesy of PC Mag, Business Insider and personal experience:

1. Get showered and dressed before you start work. Although working in your pajamas is one of the perks of a home-based office, it won't help you feel productive.

2. Set your work hours — and stick to them. It can be easy to slip into overtime and forget to take breaks when working from home. Check the clock when you start, and determine break times and a finish time. Don't skimp on a lunch break (how many crumbs can you see on your keyboard right now?) and make sure to check out for 10 to 15 minutes every few hours. It's good for the brain and the body.

3. Keep your work space clean and tidy. Using your desk as a laundry-sorting station is not a great idea. And remember to keep those dirty plates and coffee-encrusted mugs out of there.

4. Avoid the television. If you have the willpower to watch just one episode of your favorite TV show during lunch... so be it. But be warned: you might find yourself tucked under a blanket on the couch two hours later, wondering what happened.

5. Get out of the house. Go somewhere other than the kitchen for lunch. Take a quick bike ride. Set up a home-office-away-from-home at a local cafe. Changing your environment is important for mental productivity and physical stimulation.

Do you work from home? What are your rules? Comment below.

Emily Henry October 10, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Clive, Panama is my favorite too! The staff are great, the atmosphere is wonderful, and there is lots of space, with the option of sitting outside in the sun too. The only problem sometimes is the Internet connection, which seems to be weak. Also... those comfy chairs. Once you're in one... you can't get out!
TMoraga October 10, 2012 at 06:08 PM
I was moved to the home office by our VP. He was looking at his budgets and decided some of the old worker bees could be just as productive at home. He then moved our group to a smaller space and helped his margins. That was way back in 07. I tend to work 24/7 either way productivity is measured by never hearing any complaints and occasionally he ends up in meetings and finds out I've been working with a team for some time already on a new project. Which case when I do see him he gives me the thumbs up and comments that there are just some things and people he never needs to talk with or worry about. HA HA It takes years in the job to have the full picture of what needs to be handled and how - and being based remotely you can't be shy about reaching out to people to get things done or the information you need to get your part done. As for staying focused the only person who had that issue was my wife who thought stay at home means laundry gets done along with other house stuff.
Victor Mataraso October 11, 2012 at 05:38 PM
The fundamentals in the article are great guidelines. If you really need a place to focus and work, there is a great new option in downtown Walnut Creek called Laptop Lounge. We also offer professional support services such as business address, mail and telephone reception. Learn more at LaptopLounge.biz.
Night Watch November 05, 2012 at 02:52 AM
LOL Lance!
Night Watch November 05, 2012 at 02:54 AM
Well, they're idiots!

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