When I worked for IBM, it was rare for anyone to work from home. We commuted into city or suburban offices where we spent the day and sometimes evening working, doing, finishing whatever we were working on.
And then the home office happened. I think it was evolutionary, i.e., it took a long time to arrive. But it is here now, and it is welcome and working (no pun intended). According to Forbes Magazine, almost 30 million Americans now work out of their homes. And that number is likely to increase.
I worked for so many years in a downtown or suburban office many miles from my home, my children and my community. And that was often challenging. So, the home office – personally and professionally is a very welcome concept to me.
After my years in corporate America, I now own my own little consulting business and I teach at two local universities. (Face-to-Face and on-line courses). And so when I work in an office – it is in my home office. And I really like it.
Yes, there are things that can derail productivity, but there are more positives, including:
I see my Family and People more often
No Daily Commute!
The Things to Watch out for:
Boundaries (time and space)
Office Equipment and Supplies
Dressing for Success
Managing Distractions and Setting Some Boundaries
First, I think it’s important to know your work habits, and personality preferences. For example, I tend to be easily distracted. Problem. Think of the movie “Up” – squirrel!
So, for example, I might go to the Kuerig to get a cup of coffee, and when I pass through the kitchen, I see the newspaper, with an interesting article, which I then read. Then I cut another article out to mail to someone, and I walk past the laundry room on my way to get a stamp, and I stop to throw in a load of laundry, and ….wait! Where is my coffee?
So I do things like set a timer. If I have a project I am working on, I set the timer, and I can’t get up until the timer goes off. It forces me to focus and to “chip away” at the project. And for opposite reasons, sometimes I set it to limit my boundaries. It is not unusual for me to put in an 18-hour day. So sometimes I set the timer to remind me to stop, or walk, or move to the next project.
I also keep physical lists, iCAL calendar and Notebooks. I have a Daily List, and a Weekly List and a Project List. I write everything down somewhere.
Communicate With All Your People
Like most work-at-homers, I share my house with my family. Thus, it is important that we have
frequent, respectful communication about hours, boundaries, expectations, and rules.
It is a good plan to do work when there is least activity in the house – that might be during school hours, early in the morning, or late at night.
And if I am working on an important project - such as developing a new class or course, I communicate to my family to DO NOT TALK TO ME OR LOOK AT ME until I come out of my office.
It is also important to stay in touch / communicate regularly with clients, peers, and associates. Being out of sight could lead to out of mind – always stay in touch. Be proactive. Keep a tickler / reminder list to follow-up, email, call, visit, meet.
Have occasional visitors to your home office – that will inspire you to keep it tidy, professional and visitor-ready.
If you work at home, you definitely need a workspace that is dedicated to what you do. And it should be organized, feel good for you, and reflect what you do. If you are a minimalist, clear off your desk! Everyone should have all necessary supplies nearby. Don’t skimp by trying to share a desk, or stapler or printer. If you’re serious about working from home (i.e., it’s not a hobby), you need to invest in the right and reliable office equipment; Computer, Phone, Internet Service, Meeting Technologies, and cool pens!
And one particularly important piece of equipment for work-at-Homers = Headphones! Invest in a good set of headphones. These will serve multiple purposes.
Provides hands-free for typing or writing when talking to a client
Great for listening to a webinars, Webcast, TED Talks
Great for teaching on-line courses
Serves as a signal to family members – I’m working – no interruptions!
What to wear
I have friends and associates who wear sweats and jamies, and that may work for you – as long as you’re not doing Face time. But there is something about dressing for success. My husband, who is in sales, has worked for European-based companies for many years. And they seem to be a little ahead of all of us – in terms of telecommuting. So when he is working at home, his workday begins getting dressed for work. In the past – it was a suit or sport coat. Today, it’s a collared shirt, and khakis. For him, it sets the mental attitude that he could always go out and make a face-to-face call, and he is always ready to go pick up an order. He is somewhat a creature of habit – but this works for him.
My last tip - Get out of the office!
There are many reasons to flee your office space. It is important to stay in touch with people, information, trends – the whole outside world. You should join organizations or groups or clubs where you meet up with other people in your profession. My business regularly brings me to customer locations where I deliver training and workshops, and that helps to keep me in touch with industry trends and needs. And since I am physically in the classroom, teaching college classes – that keeps me connected to a lot of things. If you’re not required to go out, make it a point to join classes, attend meetings and gatherings. This will help keep your social and conversation skills sharp, and it will make you grateful for your home office should you occasionally get stuck in rush hour traffic…