How to Work From Home Effectively

The tricks you need to really work remotely.

Working remotely requires discipline and clearly defined goals.
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4. They invest in good office equipment. You don't have face time to proselytize for your efficiency. Your Internet connection vouches for you, and if it's regularly malfunctioning, you have a problem. Ideally, the IT department will issue frequent teleworkers comparable equipment to what in-office workers use. At USPTO, employees receive a universal laptop, docking station, mouse and keyboard. Additional equipment is also distributed depending on position and job requirements.

If you don't receive loaner equipment but you do plan to telecommute regularly, you need to stock your home office with the best supplies necessary to do your job well. And in either case, you'll need a contingency plan. Do you know whom to contact in the office if you have problems with loaner hardware? Where's the closest back-up coffee house/library with Wi-Fi so you can work if your Internet goes down? Find out.

5. They establish a routine. Do you like to start out slow by catching up on emails and tying loose ends, or are you an early bird who likes to crank out crucial tasks first? Figure out your modus operandi and embrace it. "Work your best hours," Pinola suggests. "I find I work best either in the early morning or late at night, so when I can, I save my most important thinking projects for those times."

Discuss and negotiate your best working routine with your clients, colleagues and supervisor, and if necessary, establish compatible hours when your schedules will overlap.

6. They take numerous breaks. The compulsion to shirk off at home is almost natural. And it's OK to indulge in a little TV or the occasional nap. Really. "Everything is fair game, as long as it doesn't hamper your productivity and it's not something your company would frown upon if they found you doing it," Pinola says. "For example, naps are great. The most productive people in the world take naps. But you can't take a nap and skip your daily 12 p.m. Skype meeting in the name of productivity."

Think of it this way: If you were in the office, you'd (hopefully) take a lunch break, walk across the street for a fresh cup of java and catch up with colleagues in the break room. Periodic short breaks are also important when your office is in your house.

[Read: Do You Fit the Mold of a Telecommuter?]

And it's a myth that juggling home duties with work duties—like doing a load of laundry while reading a work report, for instance—is a bad idea. "When you're a telecommuter, you might have to be even more available than you would be as an on-site staffer. So get your laundry done, go walk the dog, cook an elaborate lunch. But make sure during those times you're covered and people won't freak out if they can't reach you. Also, of course, get your work done," Pinola says.

Which brings us to the seventh secret of a good telecommuter...

7. They're transparent. The convenience you're experiencing thanks to working from home shouldn't inconvenience your employer. Tell your boss that you like to take a 45-minute nap during your lunch hour. Or that you work extra hours each night since you help your kids with their homework in the afternoon. Your employer will be more receptive to you having a flexible schedule if you keep your boss in the loop and she sees that your performance hasn't diminished.