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Working from Home (Successfully)

07/31/2014 22:31 ● Published by Sandy Kauten

Sometimes just a little break is all you need....

The ability to work from home is often considered to be the ultimate in job flexibility for those businesses that support work/family balance, and the reality for those who are self-employed, freelancers, or contract employees. In some cases "working from home" can entail as few hours as, an occasional half-day to more than full-time. However, mastering working from home can be a true balancing act. With temptations like the television, game station, the soft bed just down the hall (or across the room), interruptions from friends, neighbors, children, and the ever-present list of household to-dos beckoning, it's sometimes very easy to fall prey to having to work late hours to just catch up. Add in the next day of responsibilities, and working from home has just become quite tedious, and often counterproductive.

Can you effectively manage your time throughout the day?  Can you meet your deadlines despite the daily crises that will crop up in your home - like the water heater going, or the dryer breaking, the basement flooding, or the school calling about your sick child?  Do you have a dedicated space to work in - especially when you're working at home for more than a few hours per week, or when you have an extensive project to work on?  Moving it from the dining room table each evening gets old pretty quick!

If the opportunity presents itself to work from home, there are a few things that should be considered before you make the leap. Ask yourself the following questions:

Do you enjoy working alone?

While the email, Skype, IM, Face-time, etc. have made it much easier to communicate with coworkers while working from home, the reality is that most of your working hours will be spent on your own. If you crave the office camaraderie and face-to-face meetings, working from home may be a big adjustment.

Is your home conducive to you successfully working from home?

Do you have a dedicated workspace? Is it temporary, like a kitchen or dining room table? Will you be in the midst of daily chaos, if you have children or a spouse at home? Will you be able to have uninterrupted phone calls or meetings throughout the day?

How are you at time management?

Working from home is the ultimate test in time management.  With your work being just a few steps away, it can be difficult to draw that proverbial "line in the sand".  Just one more phone call to the vendors, or one more hour of work, or when you can't sleep because that presentation is looming - it's easy to pull an all-nighter to tweak the final draft.  What about when the laundry is backed up and just a few loads "won't hurt", or a friend drops by for a "quick" cup of coffee needing a chat, or your children need a little extra "mama love" that day?  Either way, the work/life balance gets knocked out of whack. 

In order to work from home successfully, there are a few key areas that should be addressed from the onset. 

1. Make sure working from home is not going to disrupt your family and home life. 

If you have a spouse who is already working from home, or retired, you moving your job into the home will change the dynamics. If your children are preschool aged, or perhaps, home-schooled, then you working from home may distract them from their work, or disrupt their existing routines. Think of vacation time.  When you're off for holidays/vacation schedules go out the window.  Working from home is just like that - only it's permanent. If possible, try to phase yourself into the equation gradually by working from home a few hours/days per week and letting it become a full-time gig.  Making a change during a school break may also help the transition.

2. Be realistic about your work from home expectations.

If you are the primary caregiver in your home and you have little ones with you during the day, you may have to hire someone to help out, or perhaps, the bulk of your work will have to be done during nap time or after bedtime. While you may be able to complete some laundry during the day, you may not be able to run the household and take care of errands, while you cater to your clients. You need to be realistic.

3. Designate a dedicated workspace, or be sure you're okay with not having one.

There's nothing worse than not having enough room where you need it. Think of a crammed cubicle, or a shared office space. If you don't have a dedicated area in your home for your work, it may start to take its toll. If the potential exists for interruptions, having an office with a door may be a necessity. Being home with your children is great, but there are times you will need a quiet environment. Your fellow meeting participants may not want to hear "Itsy Bitsy Spider", or see your cute naked baby streak by on the web cam. It should also be functional for you, with all the tools, software, etc. you need to perform your work.

Realize the job is the same, just the location has changed. When you work from home, you can often complete your job in a fraction of the time it takes you to complete your work in an office environment. Part of the reason is fewer distractions (especially if children are not part of the equation), another part is convenience and the last is typically motivation. In your home office you can often map your day to suit your needs. If returning calls during nap time works for you, or if want to work at 2AM, you have that control. Many people are most productive outside of traditional office hours, and working from home offers you that flexibility. If you don't work on an hourly clock and have tasks and deadlines, the payoff of getting your work completed as quickly as possible to for more free time is a huge plus!  That alone if often prime motivation to get your work done in a timely matter. 

Tips for successfully working from home

Children

1. If they are young and quiet is needed, a babysitter for part of the day, or an office door is a necessity.

2. Keep special toys on hand for them to play with if they are sharing your office space.

3. Keep office hours posted for older children, so they know when they can interrupt you for non-important matters.

4. Teach children to respect your office space. The items in your office area should not be disrupted.

5. Make sure your children are taught to not answer your work phone, IM or Skype.

Boss and Coworkers

1.  Working from home does not mean working non-stop, but you must remember that you get out of it what you put into it - especially if you're self-employed.

2. Make sure your home office environment is professional - especially if others will be "dropping" in virtually.

3. Be sure to always provide your clients (including your boss/coworkers) with the best representation of your work.

4. Unless it is specifically part of your job to take every call/email immediately, don't let them interrupt your "flow".  Multitasking is overrated. 

5. Use auto responders and voice mail to acknowledge calls and emails, and whenever possible state when you will get back to your contact.

Others

1. Reiterate that your work is just as important as everyone else's.  You have responsibilities and deadlines to meet.

2. Just because you are home make sure your neighbors, family and friends respect your work time and do not impose on you with their to-dos, like carpool duty, pick-ups, drop-offs, deliveries, etc.  (Learn to say, "No!")

3. Make your work hours known to the masses an let them know you can only play after your work for the day is completed.  Use your calendar and pencil them in.

4. Sometimes working from home can be lonely. A coffee shop, bookstore or library can be just the place to ward off the isolation and keep you on top of your game. 

5. If you need help - ask for it.  You might be able to barter babysitting with a neighbor and maximize your productivity.

To successfully work from home requires a great deal of coordination and a serious commitment from both you, and others in your home and professional lives. There may be times when you question, your sanity and reasoning skills, but more often than not, the freedom is well worth the daily dilemmas that will crop up! Expect them, deal with them and embrace your coveted work from home status!

Parenting, In Print work from home home office self employed contract employee august 2014
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