By Dirk Zeller

Crafting and adhering to a set of rules for you as well as your entire family and friends increases your chance of success when you’re working at home. By drawing lines between your work time and your personal time, you allow yourself to be fully present with each — and presence is a key component of productivity. To establish a solid set of boundaries for yourself, follow these suggestions:

  • Treat a day at the home as you would a day in your office. Start your day the same time you’d begin your commute to home‐away‐from‐home and end it at the same you’d end your workday. Take only a half‐hour lunch (but be sure to take the entire half‐hour for lunch because you need that break). Regular start and stop times and set lunch breaks allow everyone to recognize your schedule and abide by it.

  • Start early. If you work at home, you may find, as most office workers have, that you’re most productive before others arrive. In the home office world, that’s before your household wakes up for the day.

  • Dress for success. Because you don’t have to shower, shave, and don office clothes, you lose the empowering feeling you get that makes work seem like work. If you need formal dress to perform better and are negatively affected by staying in sweats or pajamas most of the day, by all means, get up, shower, and get dressed, just as you would if you were heading to the office. If you feel successful, you’ll be successful, regardless of where you work.

  • Set goals for yourself. Set goals in terms of work completed and reward yourself for achieving them, just as you would at the office.

  • Don’t answer personal calls during your workday. Using a home office to increase your productivity is an act of discipline. Others sometimes adopt the attitude that you’re not really working; people who wouldn’t imagine interrupting you at the office call to chew the fat, simply because you’re home. Parents are often guilty of this. Be polite but firm:

    “Mom, I’m sorry. I’d love to talk, but I’m working right now. I’ll call you back at five, as soon as I’m finished, okay?”

Fighting the home interruptions

You work from home, so undoubtedly you can take time for family whenever you want. Right? Well, not so much. Working from a home office doesn’t include answering questions about the lawn, deciding what you want for dinner, and watching cartoons when the kids get home from school.

  • Control interruptions from your family members. Patiently train your family on your work schedule and etiquette. You may want to establish set times when you allow for interruptions.

  • Even if it’s difficult, set and enforce boundaries. Setting these boundaries can be challenging, especially with the preschool set. You may want to set some inviolable rules. Make them few, but enforce them rigorously.

Working at home with kids

Trying to accomplish work tasks and projects in a home office setting can be more than difficult when the kids are around. If you’re home, many children feel like your time is theirs. They aren’t used to being told “no” from mom or dad, but they now need to understand that the office area is off limits.

  • Bartering can empower both you and your family. You get what you want (uninterrupted time), and they get what they want (a matinee or a couple of hours fishing).

  • End on time. Being available to work extended hours can diminish the quality and quantity of family time. Set boundaries. When the office door closes, let voice mail pick up work calls. Leave the office behind.

  • Allow yourself uninterrupted time each day to decompress. A commute allows you time to shift gears. On your way home, you move from CEO, salesperson, manager, assistant, or customer service representative to daddy, mommy, husband, wife, partner, or Fido’s master.

    When you exit the door of your home office, the shift is over, and you’re on! So when you’re done for the day, take ten minutes to decompress before you walk out the door. You may even play some relaxing music so you can leave the troubles of the day behind.

Feeling isolated from the business world

If you work regularly from your home office, the biggest adjustment is the personal contact and interaction that is no longer there. The regular banter, coffee talk, and social outlet is reduced dramatically. For social people this change can be a tough adjustment. The feelings of being alone can overtake you.

  • To overcome isolation feelings, schedule regular meetings and interactions with your colleagues. Use video conferencing, Skype, GoToMeeting, or WebEx so you have professional interaction via voice and video. Create a social media engagement time each day before your lunch hour. Grab a quick 15 minutes so you can catch up with others, and post personal reflections and observations to feel connected with others.

  • Create a weekly lunch outside your office. Get out and eat with friends or co-workers to stop the walls of your home office from closing in on you. Track some of the time you are saving by not driving to and from work each day for a longer lunch hour one day a week. You’re worth the flexible investment.