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online-business-work-at-home-1I’m writing this just as many people here in the United States and also around the world have started to work from home.

They are the lucky ones, of course, because many others have simply been laid off or lost their customers. My heart goes out to them and I hope the situation will return to normal as soon as possible.

But for those who are “teleworking,” it occurred to me that my experience of working at home for the last almost 30 years could be helpful.

Similarly, there are many online entrepreneurs who have figured out how to work at home (with or without children) and still be productive and happy.

Why and how I started working at home

online-business-work-at-home-2-scaled.jpgI started my first website ( in 1999 but even before that, I was working at home. My children were small and I was doing technical editing for IDG Books (now Wiley & Sons). Then I started writing books for them and for McGraw-Hill and needed a website as an author platform — to show my expertise and promote my books.

That website grew and grew. I started an email list. I started selling my own products. And my kids were growing up.

We started in a university-provided trailer, then moved to an apartment, and finally to our own house. Now, I finally have a dedicated office!

Tips for working at home

If you have been working at home for a long time, I invite you to leave a comment with tips for people who are just starting to experience this mode of working. These comments will be VERY useful for them!

Here are my tips…


online-business-work-at-home-3Have a dedicated area to work:  Even if it’s a table in your bedroom (as my first “office” was), you’ll be more productive for many reasons. You can keep all of your supplies nearby so you never have to get up or search for them. You will have fewer distractions, such as food, the TV, etc. The dining room table isn’t a great place unless you never use it for eating. Keep your work area neat, just as you (hopefully) do at work.

Keep regular working hours: It’s easy to work 24/7 but it isn’t an efficient way to work. In general, I recommend keeping the same working hours you had at the office, but if you now have children at home, you might have to make changes. Do let the children know when you’re working (if they’re old enough to understand) and give them activities to do during that time.

Block social media and email notifications: You’re probably working on your home computer now, although some people bring home their office laptop. Your settings will be different. But pop-up notifications and bells are SO distracting, so make sure they go away. You just have to find the settings. YOU have to decide when you want to check email and social media.

Work with the best technology: If your home systems aren’t up to snuff, you might want to make some changes.

online-business-work-at-home-4For example:

  • If you’re used to having 2 screens at work and now you’re on your laptop, you can probably get an inexpensive screen and add it to your laptop
  • You might also have to relearn how to use your printer
  • If you’re on slow wifi, get a long Ethernet cord and connect directly to your modem/router
  • If you don’t have easy access to your passwords, get a password manager (like LastPass).


Communicate a LOT with your boss, team, and subordinates: Maybe you’re used to speaking with them personally. You still have email but now you’ll have to add something. Zoom is a great option so you can all see each other. Slack will help filter out irrelevant emails.

Don’t forget about your goals: Continue to focus on your goals, just as you would at work.


online-business-work-at-home-5Get some exercise and/or go outside every day: When you’re working at home, you’re a lot less active. Even if you don’t regularly exercise, now you have to include some time for exercising. Even in these “social distancing” times, you can go for a lone walk in most places.

Take regular breaks: As I mentioned above, it’s easy to slip into 24/7 work. Be sure to set aside a full hour for lunch and some time off in the evening — whatever works for you in your situation.

Enjoy family and friends: Whether you have children who are now home from school, parents who need a few extra calls, or friends who are also feeling isolated, find ways to contact them. Video calls using Zoom, Skype, or Face Time are great.

online-business-13-steps-successful-online-business-opt-in-image-with-videosAre you interested in starting an online business?

If having more time at home has gotten you thinking about starting a new online business, here’s my best training, “13 Steps to a Successful Online Business.”

The report comes with 4 valuable training videos that go into more detail. If you’re a beginner, start with the report and then move on to the videos.

Get started here.

YOUR tips for working at home while staying productive and happy

Please leave a comment to help others who are in this situation for the first time!

And please share this post using the social media buttons below so that others who are at home for the first time in a while can benefit.

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    12 replies to "How to work at home productively and happily"

    • Patricia Iyer

      Great tips, Ellen, especially about pacing yourself

    • Kit

      We are definitely going through scary times and I know many impacted by the current crisis. My husband is one of them with his manufacturing business.

      He’s scaling back and spending time at home social distancing. But he is still able to strategize during this crisis and plan for the future.

      I work at home so it’s nice to have separate areas to work in now. He has his man cave and I have my cubby desk area.

      I would advise those knew to being home to time block to be sure they get things done. It can be disorienting for those who are use to leaving for work. But you need to get work done, even if you are one of those applying for unemployment.

      So eliminating distractions that don’t serve you help. But do embrace the good distractions …family, pets and reaching out to others.

    • Jackie Thorn

      These are awesome tips. Reading about it makes me feel less stressed. Thank you!

    • Hank Thomson

      I sometimes work from home so I have some idea how it works and how to do it. But it’s different these days. I guess it’s the psychological aspect of it knowing that we have to do it now because of some grave situation happening outside and all around the world.

    • Raghavendar Adepu

      Great article Ellen! I’m a virtual assistant and work from home. From my own experience, working from home gives you the freedom to work from wherever you want to and you don’t have to commute to work saving a lot of your time. One can even spend a quality time with family working from home.

    • Katheryn Santiago

      I think it would also help if we eat on time. I’ve been working at home for 12 years now and there came a point when I’d just eat once a day because of the many deadlines I have to finish. This led to me having GERD and other health concerns. So since then I’ve been setting an alarm to remind myself to eat. Oh, and I also live alone.

    • Carolyn Ortman

      Thanks for the article, Ellen.
      I’ve been working at home for 15 years. Distractions were (and still can be) a factor in trying to stay productive. Those times when I meal prep ahead of time is helpful; I just grab and eat for breakfast and lunch. Also, reach out to colleagues and friends during the day, but put a timer on these conversations!!
      Have scheduled time blocks for working also. And try to “batch” similar activities if you can: like phone calls, research, virtual meetings, checking email, etc. Stay safe everyone!

    • Shan Rees

      Fab idea, Ellen. Here are mine: 1. If working alone from home, make sure to validate yourself regularly – keep your self-esteem high. Congratulate yourself on getting things done/sticking to your plan etc. 2. Sometimes, working alone, it’s easy to lose track of intentions and why you are doing what you are doing. Positive words and messages in my work diary help to keep me motivated and on track. 3.Again, if work mates are not around to remind you, it’s useful to regularly tune in to your values – the wider picture and reason you do what you do. 4. Make it a beautiful environment, where you work. What an opportunity – it’s your space and you can make it as you wish. Make it somewhere you love to be and do. 5. Exercise – Ellen has mentioned this. And, apart from doing something specific like walking/yoga etc, every 20 minutes or so, stand up and stretch/wiggle/do a little dance, crouch, something which relieves you from being in a constant sitting position.6. Eye exercises – exercise these muscles too!

    • Susan Joy Schleef

      I’ve been working from home for about 6 years, and I am really grateful for that right now knowing that I continue to get paid for the work I’m doing remotely. One of my challenges is always finding a schedule that accommodates online meetings and/or conference calls with the rest of my time around the country but still trying to align with my preferences. Sometimes that means I’ll eat while I’m on a call and then take a break later. Most of our team, incl our VP, are on Eastern time and I’m on Central so I have to adjust sometimes.

      Plus, since I also have my online “side hustle,” I will sometimes take a little time to watch a webinar or to take care of a personal business task. But I try to make sure that I make up the time for my job, sometimes working later into the evening. The thing I have to be really careful about is not to work too few hours OR TOO MANY HOURS on my job. Since I’m salaried, it’s more about getting my tasks done, but I try to be conscious of the work hours as well.

      That flexibility may seem disorganized to some people but, for me, it is one of the things I like about working remotely.

    • monique

      Thanks for his, Ellen. Great comments too!

      I’ve been working from home for about five years and have always appreciated the flexibility. One thing I’ve tried to be careful of is work creep. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you’re always at work! Log out and turn off work devices at the end of your “shift.”

      I open my windows and flood my space with fresh air at least once a day, especially now that I’m spending more time indoors.

    • Rohi Shetty

      My Top Productivity Tip:

      Set, Prioritize, and Schedule your top 3-6 goals for the next day so that you have a daily roadmap prepared in advance. Specify the outcome for each goal. (Setting a daily schedule is the most important and difficult part of this step.)

      The next day, do nothing else until you have completed the most important goal. Then the next important and so on.

      Once you have completed all 3-6 goals, you can take the rest of the day off or do anything you want.

      Review at the end of the day, preferably in writing – what worked, what didn’t and what you learned. Also, what one thing you are grateful for.

      Finally, set, prioritize and schedule goals for the next day.

      This plan-act-review loop is the failproof and foolproof formula of success.

      Bonus points for scheduling a weekly plan and review session.

    • Grace

      I often work from home, but never continuously, and novelty of this de-railed me. I noticed that a lot of my habits and routines are harder to maintain in this season of “sheltering in place” – I decided to address that quickly and made for this week a daily checklist to get myself back on track with water consumption, daily exercise, stretch breaks, dietary conventions, etc. I plan to give myself gold stars or a virtual high five to make sure I don’t lose the progress I’ve made in my health over the years.

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