If you spend a lot of time at a desk in an office or in a cubicle, working from home sounds great. You get to set your own schedule, work wherever you want, and you don't have your boss looking over your shoulder all day.

There's no question, working remotely has plenty of benefits. To me, working from home means that I'm able to do things I couldn't if I worked in an office. I'm able to see our four children off to school every morning, and I'm here when they get home. Still, if you're used to working in an office, the transition can be a bit of a shock.

With more companies starting to allow their employees to work remotely, there's a good chance that you might be considering whether it's right for you or your team. In addition, with growing concerns that the Coronovirus may become a pandemic, now is a good time to start preparing for what it might mean to work from home for a few weeks--or longer.

If that's the case, here are a few tips to help you be productive.

1. Make a Space

If you find yourself working remotely, especially if for an extended period, the first thing you should do is create a landing spot. That doesn't mean you always work in the same place, but it does mean that you have somewhere to go when you need to hunker down and get things done. Have a spot where you can feel organized, with all of the tools you need to get work done. 

By the way, this shouldn't be the kitchen table. That doesn't mean you can't get good work done there, but it does mean that you should have at least one place that is set apart just for work. Even if you like working in the middle of the chaos of life, there will come a time when you'll be glad you have a place to go when you're facing a deadline or need some time to think.

2. Shut the Door

Speaking of having space, it should be one with a door that you can shut. Just like working in an office, remote working has plenty of interruptions--often from your family. Sometimes that can be great, but it's a good idea to let everyone know that if the door is shut, it's work time. That's especially true if your work requires lots of video meetings or phone calls. 

3. Keep in Touch

When you aren't working in physical proximity to your team, it takes a little creative thinking and an intentional effort to stay connected. Tools like Zoom, Slack, and Basecamp make that relatively easy. The important thing is to create a plan and have the tools in place so that you and your team know how you're going to communicate.  

4. Organize Your Day

One of the challenges of working from home is that you're far more responsible for managing your own workload. That means creating a plan each day. In fact, I prefer to make a plan the night before, which allows me to get started first thing in the morning.

I also prefer to "chunk" my time by creating blocks on the calendar for different tasks. That helps me organize the things I have to do, and keeps distractions at bay. It's also a great way for individuals who don't work normal office hours to account for how and when they'll get things done.

5. Turn off the Noise 

Finally, when you really have to get work done, it can help to turn off interruptions like notifications. Set your devices to "Do Not Disturb," and schedule a time to check email and respond to important messages. That will help you stay focused, and not get sidetracked by endless Slack threads about things that can wait until later. 

Published on: Mar 3, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.