What do the following three people have in common?

* A parent who wants to add to the family income

* A telecommuting cube warrior

* A successful retiree who’s starting a second career

They each need a home office, or at least some space that can be set aside for it. Ideally, there’s an extra room somewhere in the home that can be converted to a work-at-home environment, but it’s not always the case. Many who work from home have to squeeze office furniture into rooms that are already being used for other activities, yet they’re successful at it. Here are 5 things they know that you may not:

Source: Fabio Bruna

1. Use Physical Barriers to Set Aside the New Office Space

If you’ve chosen a spot in the family room, rearrange the furniture to set your new work space apart from the rest of the room. Use a portable screen or even a curtain hung from a rod to create the illusion of privacy. You might even put a piece of masking tape on the floor where the “office door” should be and ask roommates or family members to pause there and knock politely before entering.

It’s sometimes easier if space in the laundry room or a walk-in closet can be converted, but the idea remains the same. Mark the space as clearly as you can so everyone knows it’s now your office.

2. Treat It Like an Office

This is sometimes harder than it seems, especially if the space is in a room with lots of other traffic. It’s up to you and those who live with you to respect the new space as work space. The children shouldn’t leave toys in there, and laundry shouldn’t pile up on your printer stand. You go to your new office space because it’s time to go to work, not play computer games or chat with friends online. It’s a mind set that can help you make the transition into a work-at-home career more effectively.

3. Make It as Comfortable as You Can

If you can afford to get ergonomic office equipment, do it. A comfortable chair, a keyboard and mouse that are easy on the wrists, and effectively placed lighting are just as important at home as they are in a corporate office.

4. Declutter and Stay Organized

This is especially important for small spaces. Invest in some shelves, filing cabinets, plastic organizers, anything that will fit comfortably in your new office space and provide containers for “stuff.” Once you get it all put away, train yourself to put things back when you’re finished with them. Do all your filing every day so it doesn’t stack up around you. Good organizational habits can make a huge difference in productivity at home.

5. Eliminate Distractions

Ringing telephones, chattering roommates, blaring television, barking dogs, nosy neighbors or spouses – these elements of everyday life can be “death by a thousand cuts” for productivity. If you’re in a room with a TV, you might ask that it not be on during your working hours, or choose to wear a good set of headphones that can block out noise. Turn off the ringers on the house telephones, or set up a caller ID system that will allow you to see. What do a parent looking to add to the family income, a telecommuting cube warrior, and a successful retiree now starting a second career all have in common? The need for a home office, or at least some space that can be set aside for it. Ideally, there’s an extra room somewhere in the home that can be converted to a work-at-home environment, but it’s not always the case. Many who work from home have to squeeze office furniture into rooms that are already being used for other activities, yet they’re making it work.

The challenges that come with the choice to work from home differ from those of working away from home, but they can be met with some of the same strategies. The most important trait you can bring to it is the determination to take your new work seriously and to succeed at it.