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.

The so-called journalists who run Patch sites do not get up in the morning and go to an office. They work wherever their laptop is situated at the time. That's why you might see the Novato Patch editor pounding the keyboard at Dr. Insomniac's or another local coffee shop.

More people are working from home or wherever they can milk a free wifi connection as the need for centralized offices becomes less important in some occupations, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In 2010, about 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 about 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.

So, 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. 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.

6. Don't sit or stand too long. Podiastrists will tell you that more telecommuters are suffering from foot problems, specifically broken down arches, because they never get out of their slippers or flip-flops. Spine specialists will tell you that more people are suffering from back problems from the compressions of sitting too much. So remember to move around every few minutes. 

Do you work from home? What are your rules? Share your advice by adding a comment below.

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BJL December 30, 2012 at 05:55 AM
Merry December 30, 2012 at 11:01 PM
I make sure to schedule email responses to go out stratgically: 7am, 12 noon, 4pm. This allows for clients to understand my work schedule vs. On demand expectations.
Tina McMillan December 31, 2012 at 04:09 AM
Don't forget to get a Novato Business License if you are self employed and/or operating a business in the city of Novato. The city gets a cut of all the local action. This includes people who have offices in multiple locations in different cities. For each location you need a separate business license. "Who is required to obtain a business license? All persons and business entities located or doing business in the City of Novato are required by City ordinance to obtain a business license. A new business license is also required if a business changes location or ownership. For most businesses the business license fee is a fixed rate depending on the number of employees." http://www.cityofnovato.org/index.aspx?page=574 You'd be surprised by the cost. Professionals pay a base fee of $155 a year. For each additional owner and employee it increases. Fortune telling actually requires a permit that costs $258.50 a year and Real Estate Broker fees are based on their gross receipts.


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