'Oh, you work from home? You're so lucky.'

Nightingales at War

Nightingales at War

If I had a tenner for every time someone said that to me, I - well, I probably wouldn't have to work at all, from home or otherwise. And yes, I do appreciate how lucky I am when it's raining outside and I'm tapping away writing novels on my laptop in the living room. Home working means no commuting, no office politics, and no email inquests into whose ready meal messed up the office microwave. Bliss.

But there is a downside, too. It's hard to stay motivated when you're not under the boss' watchful eye. And as for the isolation - sometimes I envy Tom Hanks in Castaway, because at least he had a beach ball to talk to…

Anyway, if you're about to jump on the working from home bandwagon, here are a few tips you might need to remember.

1. Keep up the human contact

Never underestimate the importance of having someone to chat to, even if it's only to discuss the latest Britain's Got Talent. No matter how introvert you think you are, a couple of weeks of your own company and I guarantee you will be that weirdo at the bus stop, trying to engage stranger in conversation. Plan coffee or lunch with friends, or better still, find a homeworking buddy you can meet up with.

2. Stay off Twitter and Facebook

Yes, I know I said you need human contact, but social networking doesn't count. Working from home makes you paranoid enough, without feeling that everyone else is cyberspace is busier/happier/more successful than you (which isn't true, by the way - in reality they're all watching Jeremy Kyle and eating Weetabix too). Plus all those cute clips of yawning hedgehogs eat up valuable working time. Which leads me to…

3. Avoid distractions

I can't tell you how easy it is to procrastinate without someone looking over your shoulder. And it's even easier to kid yourself you're working when you're not. Be strict with yourself. No TV or radio while you're working. Check emails every two hours max. For a truly hardcore solution, try internet blocking software. A friend installed a terrifying programme that, after a certain period of inactivity, actually started deleting his work word by word. I shudder to think about it, but if it works for you...

4. Stick to deadlines

Set yourself strict office hours, otherwise I guarantee you'll start mooching off and before you know it you'll be on the sofa with a tube of Pringles watching Murder She Wrote and telling yourself that report will wait until tomorrow. Whether it's allotting certain time slots to certain tasks, or writing the mother of all to-do lists, get your time management sorted.

5. Dress to impress

Working in your PJs might be every would-be homeworker's fantasy, but it doesn't make for a very professional mindset. No one's suggesting you should turn up at your laptop in full make-up and heels, but at least try to put on some clothes, for heaven's sake. And no, yoga pants don't count.

6. Find yourself a decent workspace

You might not have the luxury of a home office, but you do need to set aside a physical space specifically for your work - preferably somewhere that can remain off-limits to the rest of the family. One tip - try to avoid using your bedroom as your home office, unless you want work-related stress dreams for the rest of your working life. Your bedroom should be a place of sanctuary.

7. Set Boundaries

Just about the hardest thing to do for any home worker, next to staying away from Farm Heroes during office hours. You need to drill into your family and friends that you are working, and therefore not available to run errands, walk dogs, wait in for delivery men, or generally act as a drop-in centre for anyone looking for a sympathetic ear. If in doubt, ask yourself - would it be reasonable for your friend to turn up for a coffee if you were working in a busy office? Similarly, would it be acceptable for you to leave your desk to go hang out your washing? Be strict with yourself, too.

8. Embrace your working style

Are you a morning person, or do you get your best ideas in the wee small hours? Perhaps you problem solve best while you're out for a run? One of my friends writes all night when everyone else is asleep. Another swears by an afternoon nap. I like to use the golden hours of the morning for writing, and keep the post-lunch slump for admin stuff. Whatever works for you - use it.

9. Know when to stop

What's great about working from home is also what makes it a nightmare, especially for workaholics. Because you work from home, your work is always there. And it's all too tempting to keep at it, or to feel guilty when you're not working. Establish a definite cut-off time, and try to do something else - some meditation, or a trip to the gym - to mark the end of your working day.

10. If all else fails, rent a desk

As I said, home working isn't all it's cracked up to be. If you find you miss the buzz of office life, then consider renting a desk in a shared space. You can hot desk for a day, a week, or for as long as you need, and it's cheaper than you think. Besides, you can't put a price on your sanity…