Blog Post

9 Best Practices for Home-Based Web Workers

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

When you work from home, it can be difficult to keep work and personal life from blending into one big mess. Work demands bleed into every waking hour. Friends and family, assuming you’re not really busy, invite you out to lunch or ask you to help with daytime errands.

SmartMoney talked to a few long-time home-based entrepreneurs to find out what rules and guidelines they’ve developed to draw a line between work and personal life. But do these rules apply to web workers?

I’ve listed the tips here with my own commentary about how this might work for web workers. Share your own ideas in the comments.

1. Keep regular hours.

WWD says: This is difficult for the web-based worker since even during nonwork hours we may be using the computer to keep in touch with friends, play games, and manage our personal lives. I find my work so inspiring and stimulating that it’s a struggle to step away. Besides, my work and family schedules change so often that this just doesn’t seem feasible.

Do you limit your work to certain times?

2. Arrange for a second phone line or number.

WWD says: Who uses the phone anymore? People contact me by email or IM. The few times I get phone calls I already know it’s coming because the person pinged me first by IM to see if I was available to talk. Many web workers can do without a business phone line.

3. Get ready for work by showering and dressing up for work as though you were going to the office.

WWD says: We’re all for cleaning yourself up to signal to yourself that you’re “on the job.” WWD contributor Sabra Aaron covered what not to wear for home-based workers on her personal blog. I agree with her that elastic-waist pants are out — as Jerry told George in an episode of Seinfeld:

You know the message you’re sending out to the world with these sweat pants? You’re telling the world: I give up! I can’t compete in normal society. I’m miserable, so I might as well be comfortable.

4. Limit personal tasks during business hours.

WWD says: While this seems good in theory, I’ve yet to put it into practice. One of the main reasons I work from home is so I can get laundry done, pay the bills, and get the kids to and from school on my own schedule. What about you?

5. If you have kids, especially younger ones, consider hiring child care.

WWD says: Good idea. Or take lessons from WWD contributor Mike Gunderloy, father of four homeschooled children. Here are his humane ideas about working from home with kids around.

6. Adopt an exercise habit.

WWD says: Too much time at the computer makes Jack flabby and Jane tired. Ideally, choose a regimen that will counteract the back and muscle problems that plague web workers.

7. Tell friends and family you’re not available during the day.

WWD says: Agreed. Also, use your IM presence indicator to let them know when you’re available for a chat or needing a change of scenery. Sometimes a light lunch outside the house is just what we need to refresh before an afternoon of web surfing.

8. Work from a local cafe on occasion.

WWD says: Yes. Of course. Definitely. Why not.

9. Give yourself a couple years to figure out what works for you.

WWD says: We don’t leave the cubicle womb knowing how to manage our work life when it’s moved into our home. Don’t despair if you’re having trouble initially finding the right balance for you.

Related articles:

29 Responses to “9 Best Practices for Home-Based Web Workers”

  1. Good points. I would like to supplement one point: Try to refresh after 2-3 working hours. You can break away from the computer (disconnect from online world) and walk around your home, see the street over the window or take some water (connect the life). Just 5-1 minutes but this method would help you work very efficiently.

  2. Very good points. I’ve found that it also helps to have a separate room that is only for work, a separate computer that is only for work, and even a separate mobile telephone that is only for work. The idea is that you create a complete mental separation between work and play.

  3. You are bang on the money with point #9. I’ve heard many comments from people who say “I could never work from home, too many distractions”. The truth is, they’re right. But what they don’t know is that over time, they too would settle in and feel comfortable.

    You really have to do it for a couple of years to feel “normal” about having your office life so close to your home life. Even back when I had a day job, if I didn’t feel like working, I would find something else to do like take out the garbage or go on a hunt for coffee and free donuts in the lunch room.

    Whether you’re at home or at an office, once you settle into a routine, the work will get done.

  4. Working from home is the best thing I’ve ever done, it’s more productive than having people in the office constantly asking questions and you can really focus on your tasks.

    It’s true you need to keep regular hours and a routine, it’s so easy to work late hours and not be up in the morning.


  5. It is a big adjustment when working from your own home office. and he internet is too tempting to get distracted… but you have to take controll. the tips above are spot on. its is WORK from home. so you have to treat it like your GOING TO WORK.

    One key thing I did was to put my self on a schedule that outlined my daily task in blocks of time. I set them in my MS Outlook calendar so that the reminders popped up on the computer screen to help move me along and be productive.

    I’m loving legitimate work from home.

    Arvell Lewis
    Don’t work alone on the internet…

  6. Most people get caught up into actions or busy work without breaking down which actions are really important.

    Try this. List all actions you need to accomplish. Pick the top 2 that will earn you money today. Actions that if you do them they will pay you. Set a side specific time for these actions or gold time. Then move on to the other action that need to be done. Your first actions must be geared towards earning your income.

    All the best,

    GB Mentor

    About the Author:
    Patrick Spielmann was a Green Beret Army Officer, Rated as a Future General within the top 2% of Army Officers. Left the Army and became one of the fasted promoted managers within a Fortune 50 company and now left the Corporate World to enjoy his life. He is an expert on developing business solutions, business Systems, Business Software Systems and Developing Marketing Platforms. He is also a motivational speaker.

  7. Hi,

    I find it quite natural when working from home for it to blend in with family life. When the kids are at school I work away from the house but after school I work on my paperwork or Internet.

    I have an 0845 number so that customers and prospects are kept separate and that works very well especially as I can collect my messages from wherever I happen to be.


  8. Admin

    I think all this advice is great however the best part of being a web worker is not having to comply to different traditional work place rules, regulations and policies. Having this freedom allows you to have more creativity and passion about what you do.
    Blog – On Web Startups

  9. I have to disagree on the second phone line. There are still many occasions when I have to give people a phone number. Sometimes it’s a gesture to show that you are available, and sometimes it’s just more practical than IM or email.

    Of course you don’t have to get the folks from AT&T to hard-wire you a second line. Just get Skype-In, and you also got yourself a globally available answering machine …

  10. Hiring child care is a good idea, but your kids aren’t dumb. They know you’re there, and will almost certainly try to spend time with you. Last thing you want is to sit in your home office, listening to your child beat on the door crying.

    Secondly, not all child care workers are comfortable if a parent is there all day. It would be like sharing an office with your boss — someone always looking over your shoulder.

  11. roberthauk

    My wife and I have 5 kids at home (at least after school) which makes it very interesting to manage our work (both from home). It’s more the distraction like getting things done in the household, looking for “this book” you didn’t read for ages and so on. We managed to get the message to the kids that if we are sitting in front of the computer we’re working and not playing Diablo or WOW. So for me it’s hard to discipline myself – but after 5 years I’m improving… Some of your tipps I will definitely try out – thank you.

  12. I work from home for the flexibility. If I wanted to hire someone to watch my kids, limit personal tasks, not take impromptu lunches with friends, and generally be treated like a child I’d work in an office. :-) That said, I don’t answer the home phone line and I do keep fairly regular hours (mainly because I work with others who do).

  13. I find it very hard to stop working now that I work at home. There is no clear distintion for my work time and therefore it is always on my mind. Ultimately I think I would like to be in an office environment but still working for myself.