Upon sharing that you work from home, you will typically receive one of two reactions: “I could never do that!” or “You are so lucky!” Most of the time, these very different responses are grounded in the same assumption: telecommuters are free to spend their days in their pajamas, working in front of the television. As an executive recruiter who has telecommuted for over ten years, I know that the reality is very different. However, the challenges of working from home are real: without the structure and social contact that an office environment provides, it’s up to you to stay focused, motivated, and connected with your colleagues.

Follow these five tips to stay motivated working from home.

Maintain a consistent schedule
If you work from home, a structured daily schedule can be a crucial source of motivation. It doesn’t have to be 9 to 5 – after all, some of us work better in the evening or early in the morning. Work when you are most productive, but maintain a consistent workday. This will prevent you from procrastinating, ensure that you are putting in a full day of work, and help you to maintain a strong presence in your workplace. If your colleagues know that you are available at specific times, they will be more inclined to reach out and keep you in the loop even when you are not in the office.

Avoid distracting websites and phone calls
Working from home helps you avoid the distractions of a busy office, but also poses new challenges to productivity: it can be nearly impossible to avoid the productivity vortex of Twitter, Facebook, and cat videos. Luckily, there are some great resources to help you focus, including programs that limit or track your time on social media, or even disable your web connection temporarily. Make it clear to friends that you are unavailable for social phone calls during work hours. Exercising discipline will not only make you more productive, but also keep you happier at work.

Set reasonable boundaries in your home
Especially for telecommuters with children, it can be difficult and stressful to set reasonable boundaries between your workday and family time. It doesn’t have to be, however – finding a strategic place for your home office and maintaining open lines of communication can make your home a great place to work. Create an office space that is as far from the bedrooms, the family gathering place, and the front door as possible in order to minimize distractions. Communicate to your family that, while you love spending time with them, they can help you to be productive by limiting visits during work hours.

Take your wellness seriously
Exercise and a healthy diet make you smarter, more focused, and more efficient. Luckily, the flexibility of a work-from-home schedule may make it easier to find time to get outside, work out, and eat right. Take advantage of this perk – even if you do 15 minutes of aerobics or take a short walk each day. Shop smart to avoid the temptation to snack during the daytime, and learn to prepare quick, healthy lunches at home.

Maintain social and professional ties
Telecommuters, whether they work from home full-time or part-time, can lose touch with their coworkers. Social isolation decreases happiness at work and erodes motivation. Make an effort to visit your office frequently, and invest time in forming friendships with colleagues. Even if you don’t see them often, a friendly rapport will make you a more connected member of the team and increase your engagement.

Working from home has many perks as well as many challenges. Strike a balance by making proactive decisions about your workday, and you’ll be happier, smarter, and more efficient in your work.

What is your biggest challenge working from home? What helps you stay motivated?