An increasing number of people are spending their days in a home office, but working from home can be tough. Here are some tips on how to stay productive.



For Shelley Grandy, one of the best parts of working from home is the time she saves commuting – especially in the winter. “Not having to commute on snow days, I feel extremely smug,” says Grandy, president of Grandy Public Relations, which is based out of her home in Erin, Ontario, about 80 kilometres northwest of Toronto. “I listen to the traffic reports, thinking, ‘Thank goodness I’m not out there!’”

For the past seven years, her commute has involved walking from the master bedroom to the office located in the loft in her country home, sometimes tailed by her two dogs and one cat. Grandy admits that work-from-home life suits her – she can focus, she can multi-task and she doesn’t miss the company. The main downside is not having an IT department to fix her printer, which recently broke.

Just because you can work from home doesn’t mean you’ll be any good at it. It can get lonely, it can be hard to focus and it can be hard to maintain work-life balance, which may be the most difficult thing to navigate.

An increasing number of people are giving up the corner office for the home office. About 11 percent of Canadians, or roughly 1.7 million people, work from home, up from 1.4 million in 2000, according to Statistics Canada. While approximately 15 percent of Canadians are self-employed and account for about half of those who work from home, other studies show that more employers are allowing their staff to stay home, too.

However, just because you can work from home doesn’t mean you’ll be any good at it, says Eileen Dooley, vice-president at Calgary-based career consulting company Gilker McRae. It can get lonely, it can be hard to focus and it can be hard to maintain work-life balance, which, to Salvatore Ciolfi, executive content producer at job-hunting website Workopolis, may be the most difficult thing to navigate. “Yes, there’s no commute, but the bad thing is that you’re always in the office,” he says.

So how can people make plugging away from the home office work? Here are some tips.

  • Treat your office like a real office space

    Designate a space for your work, and then shut the door at the end of the day, says Ciolfi. Whatever you do, don’t open it until the next morning. “Make that separation,” he says.

  • Get dressed

    It might sound fun to work in your bathrobe all day, but it can also make you less productive than if you get showered and dressed like you would if you were heading to an office.

  • Keep consistent hours

    There will always be nights when you have to squeeze in a bit of work, but trying to stick to a 9-to-5 or 8-to-4 day will help draw a line between your work and personal life. “That way you can separate things and make sure you’re not compensating on the weekend or at night,” Ciolfi says.

  • Leave personal errands for after hours

    “Avoid the temptation of doing housework or errands,” says Ciolfi. “If you make a habit of it, you’ll have trouble keeping consistent work hours.” That means putting down the vacuum cleaner and only going to the drugstore when the work is done, or when you’re on a break. Again, it’s about working during your own designated work hours to stay focused and separate the personal and business.

  • Get outside

    Step away from the desk and go for a walk or head to the gym. People who work from home forget how much movement can be involved in commuting to work, says Ciolfi. You’re burning way fewer calories walking from your bedroom to the kitchen to the office. ”It’s a hermit-like existence after a while,” says Ciolfi, “But it doesn’t have to be.”