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Posted by Stacey West (NH/MA) on 4/14/2017

It's been more than 10 years since American workers started to ask their employers if they could take advantage of telecommuting work arrangements. Today it's not uncommon for employees to work one or more days from a home office.

Right home office setup isn't the most important thing

The numbers of adults who are setting up their own businesses right at home is also growing. Artificial intelligence and robots aren't the only changes that are creating shifts in the world environment. Independent contractors are performing jobs that core employees once fulfilled.

If you're an independent contractor who provides services for a number of organizations,setting up an effective home office can save you time. A reliable computer, backup laptop, operating telephone and a functioning multi-purpose printer are home office equipment basics. Home office mood boosters include large windows that invite lots of natural sunlight inside your office, plants and soothing colors.

A comfortable desk and chair that are adequately aligned by height and width can alleviate back aches and keep you from stretching and straining to reach pens,the telephone and other office supplies. What the right home office equipment,supplies and mood boosters can't do for you is give you healthy home office boundaries.

You need healthy home office boundaries to avoid getting stuck

Absent healthy home office boundaries, you could end up working on projects into the wee hours of the night. Don't be surprised if you hear yourself telling your children to watch television just so they won't make noise or bother you while you rush to finish yet another work assignment.

Time that you spend with your spouse could also suffer. Even while you're out on a date or on vacation, you could be thinking about work that's waiting for you at home. Keep this up and you'll never get a break from work. Don't fall into the trap. Create healthy home office habits by:

  • Establishing the days and hours that you will work from home
  • Sharing your work schedule with your family
  • Learning to say "no" to relatives, neighbors and friends who ask you to run errands while you're working. You may have to persist until everyone understands that just because you're working out of a home office that doesn't mean that you can stop and do them daytime favors.
  • Shutting off your computer at the end of your scheduled work day
  • Putting up an email message that alerts customers and colleagues to the fact that you are away for the rest of the day and will respond to their email on the following work day
  • Letting go of the belief that an organization or person won't make it if you stop working
  • Setting up a separate work telephone number and turning the number off at the end of your work day
  • Signing out of work email accounts at the end of the work day and not checking emails or voice mails until the following work day begins

Working out of a home office has advantages. You'll save on commuting expenses, be where your family is and get to care for pets without paying for a pet sitter. You could also work day and night, including on weekends if you don't create healthy home office boundaries.

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Posted by Stacey West (NH/MA) on 1/6/2017

We all have our own version of the ideal work environment. Some of us require a distraction-free bubble to be productive, whereas others prefer to work in a bustling cafe. There are many factors that contribute to workplace productivity and there have been numerous studies on that very topic, focusing on things like the best time of day to work, how often to take breaks, and even the benefits of looking at cute pictures of cats to boost your performance. For our purposes, we're going to focus on environment. Specifically, your home. We live in a time when more and more of us are unable to "punch out" at the end of the day and leave our work at the office. Whether it's checking emails, staying up late grading papers, or studying for a work-related exam, odds are you'll find yourself having to work in your home at some point. Step 1: Choose which room you will dedicate to work Whether it's a bedroom or home office, you'll want to be consistent with which room serves as your productivity zone. Just as you've trained your body to sleep when your head hits the pillow, you'll need to train your brain to work when you sit down at your desk at home. Step 2: Setting up your desk You won't get much work done if your back aches or if your chair is so comfortable that you're likely to fall asleep in it. Pick a chair that is sturdy and ergonomic, and make sure your screen and keyboard are at a good height so you aren't slouched. Step 3: Setting the mood If you need noise to work, determine what kind of noise will help you stay focused. There are sites like Noisli that let you combine different natural sounds. Pandora radio is free and will play a diverse mix of songs based on what you want to hear, and you can pay a small monthly fee to get rid of the ads. Maybe nature sounds and music are too distracting for you but the sound of silence is even worse. If that's the case you might want to invest in a white noise fan. Step 4: Do some decorating As important as the sound in your environment is what you put in it and how you arrange it. Depending on personal preference, you might want to keep your workplace either minimalistic or homey. You should also consider the lighting of the room. Dimming the lights a bit might save your eyes some strain if you're looking at a computer screen for hours at a time. Generally speaking, people work best in natural lighting (so avoid blue LEDs or harsh fluorescent bulbs). The options are endless and the best way to find out what keeps you productive is to experiment with different set ups. What's most important is that you find what works for you. And remember, this isn't the office; you have the opportunity to design a productivity sanctuary of your design. Why settle for anything other than perfect?

Posted by Stacey West (NH/MA) on 12/16/2016

Whether you telecommute as a full-time employee, operate your own business from home or engage in creative hobbies like web design, writing or painting at home, make sure that you build out your home office the right way. After all, you could easily spend 20 to 40 or more hours a week in your home office. Lack one key component and you could find yourself struggling to focus on your work. Lighten up your day Choose a room in your house that has at least one large window for your home office. Install quality fluorescent or LED lights. Hang light weight blinds at the window, instead of heavy drapes, to allow plenty of natural light to stream into your office. You’ll see better and feel better too. Home office ergonomics Go for an adjustable chair and a desk with a pull-out keyboard tray. While you’re shopping for home office furniture, check to see that the chair you plan on buying is comfortable and aligns well with the desk that you want. Proper desk and chair heights could help you to avoid back and neck discomfort, especially on days when you log lots of hours. Backup computer resources You won’t have to worry about this if your employer gives you an office computer or laptop. But, if you’re an independent contractor or entrepreneur who works from home, you’ll want access to a backup computer should your regular PC go on the blink. A tablet with office software applications, an extra laptop or a low cost desktop can do the trick. Easy filing space There may be times when you need to keep printed documents. For example, you might need to keep printed receipts for tax purposes and printed copies of signed client contracts. Expandable file folders save space. Metal six foot tall filing cabinets can be placed behind your home office door. Another option is to store paper documents in plastic storage bins. The best option depends on how long you need to keep the documents and the volume of printed materials you’ll keep. Great Wi-Fi You’ll get more done faster if you have great Wi-Fi. Internet and computer download speeds should be fast enough to not cause you to have to wait several seconds or a minute or longer before a web page pops up or a Word document opens. As a tip, you can speed up download times by deleting unnecessary files, removing unused and unneeded applications off your computer, turning off pop-up ads, installing good Internet security and anti-virus software and keeping your computer battery in good condition. Spice up your home office Place a few plants in your home office to spruce up the space. Family pictures, posters with motivational quotes on them and artistic gadgets and knick knacks also work well. Eliminate distractions to stay engaged in your work. Avoid checking email throughout the day, answering your cell phone and watching television. Try it and see if your production doesn’t improve.