Ground Rules for Working From Home

You finally have that ideal set up -- you have a job where you work from home! Life couldn't get any better. How easy this will be. You will have no morning commute, you can login while still in your jammies, and you have no busy-body co-workers with their sidebar conversations to distract you. But what about the flip side of the coin?

Going downstairs means no commute, but it also means no time to transition into work. Logging in while still in your jammies could mean that now instead of dressing at 7 am, you get dressed right before the kids get off the bus! And maybe co-workers won't be distracting you, but now that you're working from home you know you can schedule the handyman for any time during the day, not to mention the distraction of having to throw in that one load of dirty laundry because it will "only take a second". And how tempting it is to take the time to chop up meat and veggies to toss into the crock pot for tonight's dinner.

Suddenly you have replaced all the challenges of working in an office with those of working from home. But fear not! By setting a few simple ground rules for yourself you can make working from home as efficient as working from the office, if not more so.

Schedule transition time — Having a commute actually has some benefit. As you are transporting your body to work, you are also transitioning your mind into work. Now that you are losing the commute, you must still maintain the mental transition time. Schedule ten minutes at the beginning of your day to ease your mind into work. Before you even dig into work, make a list of the items you want to accomplish for the day. Write out a rough idea of how your day will flow and how you will use your time. At the end of the day, schedule a ten minute wrap up period to deal with all loose ends so there are no nagging details awaiting you tomorrow. Clear your desk so you can start the new day fresh!

Get dressed — I mean completely dressed, as if you were going into the office. Do this before you allow yourself to check even one little email. When you are dressed for the day, you can handle any surprises (and there always are surprises!) with grace. There is nothing worse than having to unexpectedly run into the office or to a client's site and not be dressed yet. It also makes you feel, think and act like you truly are at work.

Plan for your distractions — Each night go through your schedule for the next day. If you know you are going to have to leave for thirty minutes to pick up your child, build back another thirty minute time block into your schedule elsewhere. This way you are certain to keep your commitment to your employer. It also prevents you from becoming stressed by trying to do too much work with not enough time allotted.

Have a designated work area — Communicate clearly to everyone in your household exactly what your work area is. Everyone in the home must learn to respect it as your work area, your paperwork, your phone, etc. And if you have a designated work computer, let others know that it's not for Webkinz, homework, or checking the scores of last night's games. Help them understand that it would be like walking into your company's office building and logging on to one of the PCs there.

Have start and end times — This is the most critical rule, and I have to say, the one most offended by both my husband and me. Be aware of when you are working. It sounds simple, but how many times have you gone to the computer just to check one email, and before you know it you have spent forty minutes of time you had blocked off to be with your children? When you are working you need to block out household distractions, but when you are not working, you need to completely disconnect.

When you have found your groove of working from home, you have to analyze what's working for you, and what's not. Once you know that, enforce the good habits and you’ll be able to maintain an efficient work-from-home environment that allows you to achieve your ideal work/life balance.

Kathleen has spent most of her professional life balancing work and motherhood. As a mother of five children, she has been a stay-at-home mom, worked part-time and worked full-time. She believes the optimum balance is achieved when she and her husband, Wade, are able to spend ample time enjoying and raising their children while still pursuing their professional careers. Kathleen majored in Marketing in the College of Business at Ohio University. She has an extensive sales background in training and information technology, working for companies such as AT&T, CompuServe and DPEC, Inc. (now MindLeaders, Inc.). In 2007 she, along with partner Carol Clark, launched , the first website dedicated to flextime jobs.

• For more tips and advice, check out the rest of our career section >>

• Visit us on our Facebook page! >>