If you're working from home, or thinking about doing so, here are some things to consider.
Working from home — making it work
After close to 20 years of commuting daily to a law firm office, I've been working from home for a few months now. Coincidentally (??), there have been recent discussions in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group about working from home. Since it’s a fairly fresh experience for me, I thought it was worth doing some investigating and sharing some ideas.
According to one article, “2.8 million self-employed Americans work from home, while another 3.3 million workers consider their homes their primary workplace, even though many of their employers have corporate offices.”
Lots of experts expect working from home to grow in the U.S. One article cites as reasons: “a mix of mobile devices, worsening traffic, rising prices in big cities, the ability to monitor someone’s performance remotely, or through technology.” All these things are contributing to a growing trend toward people working from home.
If you’re one of my non-USA listeners, I would love to hear what your experience is, in your country, about people working from home–whether it's a trend, or it’s a long-standing thing, how are things in your country?
Benefits of working from home
- No more commute!
- No interruptions from colleagues stopping in at your office
- More time with the people (or pets) you care about
- A more flexible schedule
- Absolute control over your work space
- Saved expenses (less formal clothing is needed, fewer lunches out, less dry cleaning, fewer costly conveniences needed to make up for time away from home)
- You can dress as you choose
- Choose your own chair
- Set your own temperature
- Have plants or candles
Challenges of working from home (and a few ways to address them)
Isolation and (sometimes) loneliness.
Schedule times to connect with others, especially if you are an extrovert. If you live alone and you work from home, it may become more important for you to make time and plan ahead for times to connect with other people.
Join a carefully chosen organization — maybe a local one — to meet people in your business or field. This is especially valuable if you’re in a new-to-you area. Find a local organization to meet and connect with other people.
“Out of sight, out of mind” syndrome.
It can harder to connect with colleagues or get the positive attention of supervisors/bosses/etc. who make decisions about promotions, advancement, and raises, and there are no colleagues down the hall to talk to.
If you’re not present in a workplace with your boss or your colleagues, you have to be very intentional about finding ways to connect with your supervisor and with colleagues you might need to draw upon for information or support. Think about things you can do to connect with them, to be part of the community and the company culture, even though you’re not in the building. It may be easier if you work for a company where lots of people work remotely, like a tech company.
Chat tools like Slack or Yammer or Skype chat for business or Telegram or Voxer for voice messages can help you stay connected. Similarly, video conferencing tools like Zoom or Skype can be helpful for getting a little bit of face-to-face time with your colleagues or your supervisor.
Less access to support people and tech.
If you’re used to having IT and secretarial support close at hand, you may have to adjust to having less access, or no access, if you are running your own business. You might be able sign up for services like Best Buy's Geek Squad (or find similar services from a local company) if you need tech support for your computer.
Distractions from personal life.
Household chores and distractions, pets, deliveries, repair people, and more can be tempting if you're not disciplined about your work time. Sometimes a break to do a manual task can give your brain time to think, but be disciplined about it.
Lack of boundaries between work and personal space and time.
My office is here in a room in my house, so my work is always here. There’s not the incentive of knowing that everyone’s going home for the day, to pack things up and go home. The work never goes away, and it can be tempting to work late and on weekends. I share some thoughts below on managing this challenge.
Fewer opportunities to network.
If that’s an important part of your career/business, be intentional in finding or creating networking opportunities. (See below for some ideas.)
Less external motivation.
Nobody’s watching whether you’re working unless your company has attached monitoring tech to your computer, so you have to motivate yourself.
The money you save on clothes and lunches out can get diverted to paying for supplies, equipment, internet access, postage, delivery services, etc. This is something to include in your planning if you’re thinking about going home to work.
Some suggestions for “best practices”
Here are some ideas I've had–or that have been suggested by the TPW community–for making the best of your working-from-home situation:
Set aside a place designated for your work/business.
If you can close a door on it, even better. That doesn’t mean you can’t work elsewhere. But having a place for “work” can help keep work from taking over all your space, help you feel more professional and more organized. One of the advantages of working from home is having a comfortable interesting place to work. But try to keep it contained. It’s going to be hard to relax and let go of work if your work is piled on the kitchen table, or your bedside table.
You need spaces in your home where you don’t see your work. For me, it’s a bedroom we converted into an office. At the end of the workday, I have to be able to turn off my computer, walk out of the room, and close the door. That’s the signal to my brain that it’s not work time anymore.
Invest in the right equipment.
What that means depends on what your work is. For anyone who works sitting down, a comfortable ergonomically correct chair and good lighting are extremely important. You should spend what it takes to get a chair that is comfortable for you.
Whatever your work is, make sure you have decent tools of the trade — for me, that’s a good computer with a big screen, a good printer, a scanner, and certain other tools.
Have a plan for managing the stuff.
If your business generates paper, where will you put it? If you need to create and maintain files, where will you store them? What about books and supplies?
How will you manage them to keep chaos from overtaking your home?
Think about your obligations to your clients, customers, or employer.
For example, as a lawyer, I have to think about my duty of confidentiality. I need to have systems in place to protect my clients' confidential information. So instead of trashing papers, I have to shred them. I need secure passwords on my computer and mobile devices, and a secure place to store any paper files, so people don't have access to my clients’ confidential information. Is there anything like that for your work?
Designate work hours.
To maintain boundaries between work and personal time, be very intentional about this. What time do you start? Are you part-time or full-time? Set aside work time, both when you'll start and when you'll stop. I try to be very consistent about taking a lunch break, where I leave the office and go to the kitchen for a few minutes, and maybe go outside, and focus on something else. Have those routines in place.
Get dressed to work.
You can be comfortable and still dressed to work. There are times where I come in in my pajamas and start working, and then take my shower later, but in general, especially when you’re first starting and getting those routines established, get up in the morning, get dressed, do your makeup if you wear it, put your shoes on, and go to work. That will help you establish that professional mindset in the mode of work.
Make time to socialize and network.
Join a local organization related to your business or profession. Find ways to connect with others in your field and/or clients or customers to network and build relationships with people.
If you’re an extrovert, you might want to plan on getting out of the house each day or several times a week — take your work to Starbucks, a park, even to the library, where there are other people around.
Be intentional about how you use that reclaimed commute time.
Plan for your work, but plan for your personal time as well. Otherwise that time you've regained can get eaten up quickly.
Enjoy the flexibility and all the other benefits of working at home, but exercise some discipline as well.
Create routines that help you be productive, effective, and efficient, and get the things done you need to do, but don't be afraid set those routines aside when needed, to take a break, to tend to your family, or whatever are the reasons you came home to work.
My experience so far . . .
I’m about four or five months in, and so far, I love it! I can’t imagine why I would go back to working in an office. I miss my colleagues, I like them, but I’m working with other people. I interact with people on the phone and via email every day and it’s been such a great experience for me that I’m glad to be working from home.
What do you think?
Do you work from home? If you’ve got any great tips or resources for working from home, please share them in the comments section below or post a comment or question in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or email me. I would love to hear from you and your ideas for how to thrive working from home.
Resources and Links
There are tons or websites, articles, and other resources for people who want to work from home. Here are a few I found:
Podcasts and Blogs
- Free Agents podcast, hosted by David Sparks and Jason Snell
- For women entrepreneurs:
- 7 Must-Read Work from Home Blogs — Work From Home Happiness
Articles about Challenges and Solutions:
- “10 Surprising Challenges of Working from Home,” by Kristi Dosh, Woman's Day
- “The five challenges to working from home and how to fix them,” by Katie Kelly Bell, Virgin
- “How Do You Overcome The Challenges Of Working From Home?” by Quora, Forbes
- “10 Challenges of Working Remotely (and How To Overcome Them),” Productivity, Time Doctor
- “6 Challenges of Working from Home — How to Avoid Home Business Failure,”
by Lainie Petersen, Money Crashers
- “7 Tips for dealing with the challenges of working at home,” by Inma Alvarez, Aleteia
- “3 Unexpected Challenges to Working from Home,” by Dr. Patty Ann Tublin, HuffPost
- “5 Challenges of Working Remotely & Ways to Tackle Them,” by Monica Tye Biebrich
- “Take breaks.— How To Successfully Work From Home,” by Forbes.com
- “9 Things Successful People Do When Working From Home,” by Bill Murphy Jr., Inc.com
- “6 Obstacles to Working From Home Successfully,” by Jeff Boss, Entrepreneur
- “How To Successfully Work From Home,” Bankrate.com, Business Insider
- “The Truth About Working From Home,” by Jeff Vrabel, Success
- “How to Work From Home Successfully,” by Vineeta Tiwari, CareerCast
Resources for Work-at-Home Women:
- “10 Great Work-at-Home Jobs for Stay-at-Home Moms,” by Jessica Howington, FlexJobs
- “10 Surprising Work-from-Home Jobs for Moms,” by Jennifer Parris, Working Mother
- Work at Home Moms — Home
- The Work at Home Woman
- “The Top 12 Best Jobs You Can Do from Home,” by Daisy Chan, Kate Ashford,
and Katina Beniaris, Woman’s Day
- “6 Work From Home Jobs for Family Focused Women,” by Essence Gant, Black Enterprise
Announcements & Reminders
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