Ask Matt: I work from home -- how can I balance the two?

  • Updated: December 17, 2012 - 9:48 AM

Dear Matt: After years of fighting rush hour traffic and long commutes I am now a work-from-home employee. It's great, but I do find it hard at times to separate work/home. How does one find balance?

Matt says: Because of advancements in technology and companies looking to reduce office overhead, more and more people are now working from home. In fact, about 10 percent of the workforce, or 13.4 million Americans, are now classified as work-from-home employees.

As a work-from-home employee myself, I can completely understand your situation. For me, I need to have a clean, organized kitchen before I get the day rolling. Even though my home office is nowhere near the kitchen, it weighs on my mind until things are nice and tidy.

Others working from home find similar quirky distractions. According to a recent survey by Regus (regus.com), the world's largest provider of flexible workspace, almost half of all professionals who work from home admit they have difficulty maintaining or balancing productivity. The survey also identified the top distractions that Twin Cities-based work-from-home employees face, including children and family wanting attention or disturbing work calls; difficulties accessing office equipment; household noises such as the doorbell or the dishwasher; and temptation to use the TV as company.

Guillermo Rotman, CEO of Regus Americas, offers these tips:

Create parameters. Set rules with family and friends and let them know when you are not available. Make sure they are aware of any scheduled calls so that you can limit any background noises or interruptions; you don't want your clients to think you're working in an unprofessional environment.

Establish a routine. Working from home can lead to working around the clock. Set blocks of time for work and stick to the schedule. This will reduce the chances of burnout. Don't turn the TV on during your set working hours (and that laundry can wait until after 5 p.m.).

Keep lines of communication open. Maintaining regular contact with colleagues and managers will help to keep productivity moving. Use technology like videoconferencing and instant messaging to remain in constant contact.

Use flexible workspaces for meetings. Making the right impression with clients is very important. There are local resources such as the CoCo (cocomsp.com) co-working and collaborative spaces in Minneapolis and St. Paul that provide a perfect work and meeting environment -- as well as other professionals to interact with to help avoid isolation.

GOT A CAREER QUESTION FOR MATT? EMAIL ASKMATT@STARTRIBUNE.COM

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