I’ve been working from home since 2003. I spent a decent portion of my life commuting to work either via car or via train often 2-4 hours a day. The last job I had before making the switch to working from home forced me to commute 4 hours a day, 20 hours a week. I’d leave for work at 6:00 am, come home at 8:00 pm, eat dinner, go to bed and do it all over again the next day.
I was commuting almost an entire day of the week and had decided I had enough. To me, I was wasting time sitting in my car or on a train when I could be more productive if I didn’t have to commute. I didn’t actively pursue a work from home position, but I am happy that I found one.
Many people fantasize about working from home, sitting on the couch all day with a computer on their lap, bag of chips at their side wearing just underwear. Though I imagine that happens with some people who work from home, it isn’t necessarily the case with me. Working from home is not for everyone, though, and a lot of people I speak to find it challenging. I’m here to tell you based on my experience the good, bad, and ugly truths of working from home.
Working from home takes focus. There are many distractions at home, including the television, couch, bed, kitchen, and just about everything else you can imagine. You can’t be the type of person who “takes a minute” to check Facebook or YouTube, and then two hours later you’re in a wormhole of drum solo videos, and you don’t even play drums. If it doesn’t make me money, I try to avoid it until after work.
I’ve found that when working from home, you should use the same rationale, you would if you went to a “real office.” Shower when you get up in the morning, and for god’s sake, could you put on some pants! I’m not suggesting you put on a suit but change out of what you were wearing the day or night before. You will feel more prepared for work if you shower and get dressed and, believe it or not, may even feel more motivated. I go to the gym at 6:30, and I’m at my desk by 8:30 at the latest ready to go.
There are distractions in a corporate office as well. I find the years I have worked from home to be my most productive. I no longer get caught up in idle office chatter about last night’s “big game” or stuck in birthday celebrations for Toby in human resources. Instead, I put my head down and focus on my day ahead.
I take breaks throughout the day and utilize the Pomodoro technique to stay fresh and focused throughout my workday.
Not working with other people can be very difficult for some. I won’t lie; you do miss the interaction at times with other human beings. I talk to my dogs often, and they look at me as if I’m crazy, and maybe I am. There is a certain camaraderie that occurs in an office environment that you may miss from working at home.
I stay in touch with my sales team and headquarters regularly. This communication, coupled with client outreach, does provide me some connection to the outside world. It’s almost like when you have children and spend so much time talking in baby gibberish, that adult time seems so gratifying.
The worst thing for a salesperson who works from home is generating numerous emails and phone calls and not getting a return call or email. Often I pick up the phone to see if there is a dial tone hoping that’s the reason no one is calling me. It hasn’t been the case yet in all these years.
There is a fine line that we walk when working from home — a line between having peace and missing human interaction. The goal is to find your balance and connect with others in your situation to keep your sanity.
When working in an office environment, there is a certain etiquette you need to keep for your office, desk or cubicle. Things need to look neat and organized at all times. No one wants the boss coming over to their desk and seeing yesterday’s sandwich sitting on your keyboard and files everywhere. When working from home, it is easy to fall into the trap of being unorganized because no one is watching. Except maybe your spouse when they get home from work and ask why your socks and breakfast are on the counter.
If you take out a file, put it back in its’ correct place. Make sure to take impeccable notes and use whatever system you use to file them. I am a bit old school and like to take notes in a marble notebook and then transpose them into my computer. It helps me to remember better, and it works for me. Do what works for you, but do something. The most successful people you see in business and life are ones that are organized.
Communicating when working from home is very different than an office environment. When working in an office, it’s easy to get an answer to a question. Walk down the hall, and your boss is there to speak. You may even stand outside your boss’s office until he or she is free to talk with you. When working from home, you need to navigate email and dare I say, the telephone much better.
Emails should have specific call-outs in the subject line so that your boss knows this is important and needs attention. If not, your email will get lost in all the others they sort through daily. Be very specific in what you are asking, don’t ramble on as you might on the phone. Be specific with your “ask.”
That’s why communicating by phone is always best when working from home, especially if you are part of a larger team. A weekly call is the best way to stay in touch with everyone. I speak with my boss several times a day to check in and let him know what we are working on as a team and individually.
If you aren’t the type of person who can motivate themselves then working from home is not for you. There is no hand-holding in most jobs where you are working from home. No boss breathing down your back at all times (unless you work for a micro-manager) who can walk in your office at any time. The temptation to slack off is everywhere when working from home. The chance to run a quick load of laundry, mow the lawn, sleep in a bit and start later, but I urge you not to fall into these traps. These are bad habits that will be hard to break, so instead set positive habits.
Set a routine and stick to it. Get up at the same time every day and be at your desk on time or early. Get your workout done and out of the way before you start working so you can focus all your efforts on your job. Break your daily tasks up into smaller segments and goals. Use a technique called time blocking to help organize your day and set you up for success.
Working from home can be the best or worst thing to happen to you in your professional career. Working from home has allowed me to be more productive and focused. For some, the distractions of being in your home all day can be too much and cause their work to suffer. If you follow some simple guidelines and remain focussed and organized, you will find the rewarding results of a work from home position.
Do you work from home currently, or have you in the past? What did you like most or dislike most about it? Let me know in the comments below.