Wish you could work at home? Thinking it would be great to roll out of bed and be at your desk in less than 90 seconds?
Working at home does have its perks. Convenience, low overhead and freedom are the first few that come to mind. Being able to throw in a load of laundry or run to the grocery store are a couple more. But it also has its perils. Discipline, discipline, discipline. Highly necessary. Even then, some days are better than others.
Perk: Indeed, there is no commute and no traffic. You can literally work in your pajamas. You’re on time because you didn’t have to sit in traffic.
Peril: You don’t have the mental transition time from home to office. You lack the “quiet time” your commute offered. You don’t have time to read the day’s news.
Perk: Yes, the cost of doing business is more reasonable at home – especially if you’re a service business and don’t carry any inventory.
Peril: There is that pesky personal property tax that comes around every year, along with the annual $300 required by the state of MD for the right to do business here. The high-speed internet connection may or may not work, and you don’t have an IT department to call to fix it.
Perk: Working at home saves your employer money by not having to furnish all the office luxuries like a desk, chair, phone or filing cabinet. You also are saving money by not buying coffee, donuts, lunch or snacks every day from the handy vendor in the basement.
Peril: You aren’t getting donuts, lunch or snacks every day from anywhere.
Perk: If you don’t like structure, you’re in luck if you work at home. You are free to do everything but work. Or, you are free to do nothing but work. It’s up to you. Yes, you can sort the laundry and go to the grocery store. You can also attend the straight A ceremony at your child’s school without having to take personal time off.
Peril: You are free to do everything but work. You are also free to do nothing but work.
Perk: You can stay in your pajamas and fuzzy slippers on that chilly November morning, curled up in the big easy chair with your laptop on your lap and your steaming mug of hot chocolate warming your hands.
Peril: You risk laziness, falling back to sleep, watching TV, or doing any number of things that don’t require being dressed for work.
Perk: Working from home allows you to make your own schedule. If your child has a field trip in the morning, you can schedule your work and phone time for the afternoon and join her at the museum. Or, if you need to get to the grocery store for tonight’s dinner, you can go at off-peak hours because you are not tied to an office.
Peril: People who know you work from home may take advantage of your flexibility, and you may find yourself doing the car pool more often, or rearranging your schedule to accommodate a friend who works in an office.
After working at home for more than 10 years, I like to think I have a successful strategy to get the job done. Sure, I have days that are less productive than others, but by developing some positive habits, you can be productive. Here are just a few that work for me.
- Experts recommend getting dressed in the morning like you would for work so that you look and feel professional, even if you’re sitting on your couch. You’ll sound more professional on the telephone. You’ll sit up straighter at your computer. A few other good reasons I’ve learned that this is a good habit: Sometimes Fed Ex or UPS actually does arrive before 10:30 a.m. Second, being dressed for the day sends a message to your own brain that it’s time to start working, and it also sends a message to anyone else in your house who might be inclined to challenge your time. Third, getting dressed first thing in the morning might be the only time you’ll have all day to get ready for a meeting. If you wait until right before the meeting, you could be distracted by phone calls, delivery people, or worse. Last, if a client, co-worker or boss calls you and needs you to be somewhere “pronto!” you’ll be able to leave immediately, not lose 30 minutes taking a shower and ironing your skirt.
- Review your day’s schedule the night before, as well as first thing in the morning. Note times and places of meetings and make sure you know how to get there. Set your cell phone to notify you five minutes prior to an important phone call or meeting, so that if you are distracted, you have enough time to regroup.
- Have at least one place to go each day, and vary the times that you go out. It can be a trip to run errands, go to the gym or just take a short walk. Just get out! The break will clear your brain, let you experience the weather outside, offer opportunities to talk to others and get you on a schedule.
- Organize your office or work space. Make sure you have all the materials you need, including printer paper, pens, pencils, calculators. This will keep you focused and on-task.
- If you have a laptop or tablet, consider using other work spaces throughout your home. It gets you up and moving and a new location can foster inspiration.
- Keep lists. Whether it’s monthly, weekly, daily or all three, know what you need to do and check off when tasks are completed. Include household and/or personal chores, as well, so that they don’t get overlooked. At the end of the day, you feel more in control and accomplished.
- Unless you’re on deadline for an important meeting or presentation, establish a hard stop time at night so that you don’t feel like you’re constantly working because your computer is right in your home.