Far too many people treat working from home - whether it's a member of your team or you're a sole trader - as some kind of mysterious dark art or habit only taken up recluses. That's not true, and businesses stand to benefit when offsite workers can communicate effectively - even if it's not for serious work related purposes.
So, you're in a home office, whether there's a boss breathing virtually down your shoulder, or a client with expectations to be met. Rule #1 of working from home is not to be distracted by all the shiny new things on the Internet, right? Shiniest of which - at the time of writing - are social network services such as Twitter or Facebook. Don't go near the Twitter, says the boss. You won't get work done, and it won't be private, as Jon Honeyball wrote on this site just recently.
I'm not quite convinced, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, if you're a sole trader - and having spent seven of the last eight years working out of a home office as a sole trader, I've got some experience there - social services such as Twitter and Facebook can be effective low-cost word of mouth style advertising.
Even leaving that aside, there's countless approaches to virtual workplace communication that can be used to talk to clients, or in the case of small distributed workforces, keep teams together both professionally and socially. Over the last eight years, I reckon I've used most of them, from a simple "email only" workplace that just used email - with the expectation that it would be read and replied to rapidly - as a communication system, to those that used IM clients (both secure and insecure) for rapid chatter, and up to those that used group solutions such as 37signals' Campfire to create virtual chat rooms for both serious business and water cooler chat style purposes.
It ultimately boils down to a matter of management and knowing your people; a younger workforce with more of a Twitter-style expectation may perform better with an IM-style client, while those of a more traditional bent may find the virtual postbox of a private email system to be more beneficial.
What you're doing is enabling communication, not distraction, and whether that's communication that keeps a project on track or simply allows staff to let off a little (appropriate) steam, bonding as a workforce even if they're not face to face, it's a situation where the alternative - locked down staff who neither know each other or have an appreciation for the workforce and your businesses' goals - is much worse than allowing a little controlled conversation.
How do you stop yourself being distracted when working frrom home? Add your comment below.