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How to Stay Motivated When Working From Home
December 2011

I have always been lucky to work for companies that have flexible work arrangement programs. My first job out of college enabled me to work from home full time, and since then, I have always had the opportunity to work from home in some form or fashion and love the flexibility that working from home offers.

The other night while having dinner with a few friends, the topic of working from home came up. One good friend mentioned how she could never work from home. She isn't a morning person, and on the weekends it's not uncommon for her to sleep until 1pm. If she were to take advantage of her company alternative work program, she would get fired within the first week because she would hit snooze every day and miss all her morning meetings. Another friend thought the lure of soap operas and talk shows would distract her to no end.

While my friends think that when I "work" from home I sit around in my PJ's and watch cable television shows (yes, they used "air quotes" when they said the word work), the truth is, I am usually most productive on these days. What makes keeps me so productive? Let me share a few secrets of my work-from-home success.

Get a good start to the day. Set your alarm for the same time every day. Eat a good breakfast. Go to the gym or for a walk. Get dressed for the day as if you were going into an office. Don't stay in your pajamas, it may de-motivate you.
Create a good work space. When working from home it is important to set aside a space or room where you can do your work and nothing else. Having that space will enable you to sit down and get work done. Keep it free of clutter and distractions. I live in New York City where you get used to living in small spaces. I do not have the luxury of a separate room for a home office, so I have a mobile computer desk that I use.

If you have the luxury of a true home office, close the office door during work hours. An open door will tell your significant other or family that you are available to talk, and they will come in to distract you.

Take regular breaks. I don't know about your work day schedule, but mine can be nuts with back-to-back meetings straight through the day. Some days it is tough to find 5 minutes let alone time to make or eat lunch. Taking small mind breaks during the day will help you stay on task. While you can't do laps around the office floor, or stop by your friend's cubicle to say hello, you can make a cup of coffee or walk to the mailbox. I have been trying to schedule a 30 minute lunch and some 15 minute breaks into my day so that I can ensure I keep my sanity by the end of the work day.

Create a to-do list. I am a person that lives in organized chaos. I always try to start each day with a list of the things I need to get accomplished. I know some people that thrive on lists and somehow manage them with perfection. I am not one of those people, but creating a list at the beginning of each week (or day) helps me keep things in perspective (and order). Sometimes I use the excuse of making a list as my mind break and it helps get me back on track when I am less than motivated.

Break down large tasks into smaller projects. There are many days when I look at my to-do list and it can be overwhelming. You want to procrastinate on a project that might seem boring. Try breaking up large projects into smaller, more attainable work tasks. Each task you accomplish will help motivate you to complete the next one and pretty soon you will see that once you got started on the project it isn't so overwhelming.

The last trick to being successful when you work from home is knowing when to stop. This is typically a challenge for me when I work from home. I tend to take another call, reply to another email, finish up one more item on my check list, and next thing I know it's 9 p.m. and I have not had dinner. Setting start and stop times each day will help you stay fresh and focused on your work.

So now you know a few tricks that help me stay focused and motivated on the days I work from home. Unlike my friends, I enjoy the time spent outside of the office and tend to be more productive on those days. Hopefully you can incorporate a few of these techniques into your work-from-home routine and you'll be a success.


alumni@drexel.edu