Working from home sounds idyllic, in theory.
But not going into an office every day presents its own set of challenges, like determining how to separate your home life from work and making sure you're connecting with colleagues and clients.
These seasoned work-from-home pros have cultivated tips for staying productive — and thriving — in their careers.
1. Get the equipment you need.
"Invest in the quality of your workspace by getting equipment that helps you do the best work you can. When I transitioned to an at-home employee, I went out and bought a similar version of the computer I was used to working on so that my productivity levels wouldn't suffer from a slower setup."
— Brit Casady, 24, Lehi, Utah, graphic designer
2. Stay active.
"My favorite part of working from home is the fact that I can work on my treadmill desk. I've found that being able to walk helps keep me focused and because of that, I'm able to succumb less to the distractions that come from working at home. On the days I work on the treadmill, I typically spend two to four hours on it — that adds up to about 10 to 15 hours per week. At a two mile-per-hour pace, it's not so fast that certain tasks are difficult to do because I'm walking."
— Brent Hale, 30, Sparks, Nevada, online entrepreneur and owner of IncomeAddon.com
3. Get organized with the three-minute rule.
"I allow three minutes to tend to anything I feel I need to respond to immediately that is not on my to-do list. Give yourself three minutes every hour of your official 'work hours' to scan and respond to important emails, put shoes that accumulate around the doorway in the closet, etc. It puts your mind at ease and reduces at-home work distractions without derailing your day."
—Stephanie Taylor Christensen, 38, Columbus, Ohio, freelance writer, yoga instructor and mother to a 6-year-old
4. Don't let socializing get in the way of working.
"Notify friends that you do have work hours, even if you are at home. For the longest time, I had friends popping over at all times of the day whenever they were free! Make sure you are assertive and tell them what your hours of work are and that you stick to a no-visit schedule during these times."
— Laura Fredrick, 28, Marlton, New Jersey, public relations professional and owner of Laur PR
5. Time-delay your email responses.
"I have gotten people out of the habit of thinking that they control my workday and that they will get an immediate response. I time-delay up to a full day if I feel it's necessary. Inbox by Gmail has been critical in helping me maintain my inbox. I love it because I can simply save messages for later, create my own bundles (like per project or sender) and remind myself to do things."
— Ashley Sharie, 27, Washington, D.C., CEO and founder or Aspire Business, a business consulting firm
6. Err on the side of over-communication (sometimes).
"We've found that most workplace tension is caused by inadequate communication — particularly when you are unable to speak with colleagues in person. Make sure they know you are on the case by always being crystal clear. Frequent communication with your supervisor and co-workers can help reinforce bonds of friendship and trust."
— Sam McIntire, 26, San Francisco, founder of Deskbright, an online learning platform designed to help people thrive at work
7. Speak up during conference calls.
"In a remote environment, it's often easier to sit quietly during conference calls. But it's really important to go into a conference call with at least a few specific talking points to discuss. It not only shows that you're prepared, but it also helps to move the conversation forward in a productive way."
— Brie Weiler Reynolds, 34, Dallas, director of online content at FlexJobs
8. Give yourself yearly reviews.
"In December or January, I conduct a yearly review. This is partially to reconcile my numbers and partially to see which of the services I offer pay the most on both an hourly and total-dollars basis. In my year-end review I note items such as gross annual income, average hourly rate, average rate per word, average days from invoice to payment, total hours worked (plus average hours per week), total number of words edited or written (this is more for personal curiosity than anything), most lucrative service by total dollars and finally, most lucrative service by hourly rate."
— Anitra Budd, 37, Minneapolis, freelance writer and editor
9. Block off time for professional development.
"Leave open space [in your schedule] for planning and networking meetings, as well as time to reflect on what is working and what is not working. Perhaps Friday afternoons or Monday mornings where you block off time in your calendar to set up your week and revisit your goals."
— Cara Maksimow, 43, Chatham, New Jersey, clinical therapist and owner of Maximize Wellness Counseling and Coaching
10. Let your schedule be flexible.
"Know your schedule — your actual schedule, not a clone of the in-office working model. If you know your home or parenting responsibilities will make working in the morning tough but you'll be uninterrupted at night, you'll be more productive by planning your day that way rather than attempting to mix home and work. Be realistic about it so you can build boundaries based on efficiency."
— Monica Reccoppa, 42, Totowa, New Jersey, financial manager at Cardwell Beach, a creative marketing agency