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Original Article by Chris (Admin) found here
June 4th, 2008
For the last 13 years, I have worked from home both occasionally as an employee and as a self-employed. I have a lot of experience with the pluses and minuses of working from home, there are plenty of both.
For people who work in an office with the ability to occasionally work from home, it can be a godsend for bringing home a stack of well-defined work you just need to plow through without interruption, and which needs limited contact with the office.
It can also be a great excuse to **** off and get nothing done while you answer your boss’s emails from the bar or movie theatre.
For people who work from home full-time, working from home poses a different set of challenges.
The main problem is that there is no longer the line between home and work. This is bad for both.
When you work from the office, you put in your time, your work contribution is measured in hours. On Friday, when you get out, you have this massively uplifting appreciation for the weekend and a sense of accomplishment – and you should – you hauled yourself out of bed early in the morning and put in 8 hours and came home – every day, whether you liked it or not. That is an accomplishment in itself.
When you work from home, especially when you are self-employed, there are only two real rewards like that – increasing your busness’s income, and producing a truly great piece of work you are proud of. Even still, at work when you pull off a home run, you get kudos from your boss and peers, which makes you feel really great. That is kind of absent at home.
My wife is definitely very encouraging when I tell her about something great I did while working, but the sense of appreciation is much more acute when you share it with work peers, because they intrinsically know what it took, and what it means.
Today I wanted to share some of my top tips for working from home that will make it easier, more relaxing, productive, and most of all more harmonious with your home life.
I want to point out, however, that I don’t claim to personally have the discipline to do all of these every day – however, I know they are good for me from years of experience – and I try.
1. Get up and get dressed at the same time as if you were going to a 9-5 job.
The proverbial guy in his boxers working from home may very well get just as much done – or even more, than the guy who gets up and dressed before working, but in terms of mental health the dressed guy is far better off.
Of course, the benefit of working from home is that you can wear whatever you want (I just have a pile of shorts, jeans, and t-shirts for work).
Working from home can seriously screw up your sleep schedule if you don’t stick to one, which can have all sorts of repercussions for your efficiency and mood.
There is nothing I hate more than being unshowered and in my pjs when my wife comes home – It wouldn’t matter what I accomplished in those pj’s, I still feel like a louse (and she will look at me like one when she gets home).
2. Eat your breakfast.
At work, we have already expended a good deal of energy commuting, and by lunch time we are dying to get away from our desks and have a nice relaxing lunch.
Working from home, the hunger pangs come later, and by that time you may have likely already started to suffer attention problems from not eating. So, eat your breakfast, and have a decent lunch at a decent hour.
I am going to start experimenting with keeping a big bowl of veggies, nuts and berries on my desk and grazing throughout the day. I am rarely hungry when I get up and hate force-feeding myself breakfast.
3. Keep your workspace clean.
Everyone (well, almost everyone) enjoys a clean workspace. It is even more essential when you work from home, as most people’s home offices are filled with both home management AND work materials.
If your home office is a cumulative mess, there probably isn’t anything more important you could do right now than just take an hour and clean it – you will be so glad you did. Also, when you finish working for the day, make sure your desk is clear and not filled with day-old coffee cups and what not. This will be the first time I encourage you to read this.
4. Keep the house tidy.
This is one I am pretty religious about, but it will vary widely from household to household. It is really difficult for me to focus on work when I know there is an unmade bed and a sink full of dishes upstairs. Laundry especially can be a real mental albatross. If you only work from home occasionally, this is no big deal – but if you do it regularly, household chores can linger over your brain in a way they could never do while you are at the office.
Your best bet is to set yourself up for success before you go to bed – get the dishes out of the sink, put stuff away, load your coffeemaker and set the autotimer. When you get up, make your bed and tidy up any morning mess before heading into your work area.
Whats most important is to be aware when its bugging you that its undone, and just get up and get it done so you aren’t thinking about it.
5. Try to leave the house every day.
Take your dog for a walk – walk to get your lunch – or just walk. Once a week, maybe treat yourself to a lunchtime movie matinee. But make sure you get out of the house – it is probably one of the most important parts to working from home, and the one I admittedly am worst at.
If you commute every day, you would be amazed how much exercise you are getting compared to someone who works from home. I had an on-site contract for 3 months last year on the lower east side, and lost 10 lbs. If you think the ‘freshman 15′ were bad, try switching to fulltime work-from-home.
6. Work off a to-do list, and update at the end of every day.
If you aren’t used to doing this, you should read this (read it anyway). It should the first thing you look at every morning when you hit the desk, and the last thing you look at before you leave it for the night.
There is nothing more depressing then ending your workday realizing you did everything *except* that which was most important. This is where you will actually MISS having a boss.
7. Set worktime boundaries with your family.
This will vary more from person to person. As I do a lot of writing and programming, minor interruptions are very disruptive. At the very least, you need to have a workspace of your own, preferably where you can’t hear the rest of your family. You should work out agreements with them as to when you can and cannot be disturbed, and everyone needs stick to it.
I have a phone with a DND button at home – I highly recommend it.
8. Consider getting a housekeeper and other home services.
Working from home, chores (besides the basic tidiness of #4) are always on my mind – housecleaning, lawn mowing, dog walking, grocery shopping. Since I work from home, I consider it my duty to get these things done during the week, so time with friends and family isn’t mixed with chores.
However, no matter how I planned to do it, these larger weekly chores always hung over my head like a dark cloud.
So, consider taking some of that money you save commuting, buying work clothes, renting office space, and eating out for lunch, etc, and put it into some home services – landscapers, dog walkers, dry cleaning pick-up, housekeepers, and Peapod for grocery shopping.
I have done all of these at one time or another, and can attest they are a godsend for getting this stuff off of your mind. In this way, your home becomes a ‘managed property’ like your office. Seriously, would you want a job where you had to not only do your professional work, but also mow the lawn and clean the bathroom before you go home? That would suck!
The other advantage is that these services, especially housekeepers and landscapers, usually do a much more professional and consistent job then homeowners do.
9. Consider renting a cube for occasional use.
A popular small business option growing in Manhattan is office space by the cube or partial cube.
It doesn’t cost much, and you get all the amenities of a regular office – socialization (with other self-employeds!), conference room usage, phone and mail, high-speed internet, kitchen, and location.
Prices range from $250-$1250 depending on whether you rent a seat in a quad-cube or get your own luxury cube – I plan on doing a full story on this soon.
For example, I work from my home in Fairfield County, but I also work with a designer in LIC, would like to attend business association breakfasts in midtown weekly and would love to spend more time – even if its just lunch now and then, with my Manhattan contacts.
Working from home, it just seems like a hassle to go into the city for a lunch here, a lunch there, and I postpone scheduling meetings I would have had months ago if I were in the city with a conference room.
But just as importantly, sometimes I just want to get dressed, get on the train, and join the rest of the human race for general mental health.
This is especially important if your family is often at home during work hours and need to get some serious work done. You can just hop on the train and concentrate on work, without getting frustrated with them.
10. Don’t take time away from your family to make up for your procrastination.
Procrastination is definitely the 800-lb gorilla in the room when it comes to working from home.
Unfortunately, some people get into the habit of working past their ‘work’ hours and using family hours to make up for that procrastination earlier in the day. This needs a zero-tolerance policy.
Before I was married, I took full advantage of being unemployed and single. I would work into the night, sleep in during the day, take days off during the week, then have 20-hour work sessions when I felt ‘into’ it.
Now that I am married, I have had to modify this behavior, and I am glad I did. There is a serious sense of well-being which comes with being on the rest of the world’s schedule to some degree, so when my wife comes home after work, I crawl out of my basement hole for the night.
Granted, I am usually affixed to a laptop for the rest of the night, and may tinker with minor work stuff all the way until bedtime, but so does my wife. I think its part of the evolution of home life in the 21st century, it is what it is. What’s important is that we do it together.
Monday, July 25, 2011
Overall, working from home can be a positive and rewarding experience for you, your family, and your employer, if you follow a few simple tips:
1. Understand your employer’s expectations.
Will your job requirements and duties be the same at home as in an office environment? How much support will you receive as a home office worker. Some companies have very stringent guidelines about what equipment and support will be provided by the company and what they will not. Companies will often provide a computer and telephone and will support each, but not a printer or a fax machine, for example. It is important to clarify where your company stands and what they are willing to negotiate on.
2. Be sure you meet and exceed your employer’s expectations.
You should also make sure your boss knows you are in fact consistently meeting and/or exceeding his/her expectations. You may work 9, 10, 12 hours a day, but it won’t matter if your boss doesn’t know it or you don’t get the anticipated results! How will you communicate your efforts and results to your employer? Don’t rely on them to evaluate this. Your performance, or lack thereof, may not come up until there is a need for a scapegoat or something goes wrong.
3. Set up a comfortable, separate space for your work area.
This is critical to your success as a home-worker. Your space should be relatively free from distractions such as family, pets, home telephone, the television, even an attractive view if you are new to telecommuting. You should have a good quality chair and large monitor if you are primarily working at the computer (who isn’t!).
4. Make sure you have everything you need to do your job at home.
A computer, workstation, phone, printer and fax are a given. BUT, you will also need paper, ink cartridges (you would be surprised how quickly these seem to need to be replaced, even in a “paperless” environment), possibly letterhead, pens, sticky pads, etc. Think about many of the things you use in your office and the well stocked supply cabinet there. Will you visit the office periodically to replenish these common items or purchase them and be reimbursed. Iron this out in advance.
5. Set boundaries with your family and friends.
This is pivotal not only to your success at working from home, but to your personal relationships! When you first begin telecommuting, friends and family may not understand the demands this requires of you. A friend whose sitter cancels may call you for a favor, “Can you watch the kids, since you are working at home?” You may get invitations to lunch or drinks, which down the road you may evaluate you can work into your schedule periodically. In the beginning, you need to be careful to set a tone for your family and friends as well as good work habits for yourself.
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6. Set specific work times or goals: Daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and beyond.
Goals are important to keep you on track, as well as to validate your progress. Working at home can be very positive in terms of autonomy and independence, but it can be lonely and unfulfilling without the regular feedback that comes from working in an office. The telecommuter needs to feel confident he or she is doing what is necessary to be viewed as successful and to feel secure in his or her job. Paranoia can set in pretty quickly without the regular input of fellow coworkers.
7. Stay connected.
It may be a good idea to start out telecommuting just a day or two a week and increase gradually from there. This will provide you the opportunity to slowly transition how you will communicate in a more natural way. You will find you and your coworkers may email or call more often to stay in touch. You will determine which issues and/or coworkers to attend to and which to not. Increased productivity due to decreased coworker distraction may be a major benefit to working from home.
8. Schedule daily and weekly breaks.
Many home workers find they spend too much time at the computer which can decrease overall productivity. Schedule breaks into your day. Take a regular lunch (at any time you want – no one is watching!) and stand up and walk around periodically. You might find it helpful to set an alarm in Outlook or another calendar to remind you to move away from the computer. Telecommuters may not realize they are squinting at the screen, are hungry, or, even, have to use the restroom when they get too engrossed in their work.
9. Understand your work style.
It is crucial for you to understand how you work best. Do you work best according to your moods? If so, keep track of your tasks according to task type: computer work, telephone work, meetings, etc. This way you can perform these tasks when you are at your best.
10. Track your work and progress.
Your employer may have a specific way for you to track your time. It may be as simple as emailing your supervisor when you start and stop your work. It may be a more elaborate time tracking system where you record your specific activities in time increments or journal style. It may be a good idea to keep track of what you are doing in more detail. It may come in handy if you are asked to justify your time or when you would like to ask for a raise.
11. Assess your progress weekly.
It is important to organize your work in such a way as you are able to quickly and clearly see what you have accomplished. Often, this is accomplished through effective use of a calendar system like Outlook. In some industries, the billable hour or journal system (even a combination) are standard. However you approach it, you need to be able to clearly determine you are on target to reach your goals.
12. Make adjustments to how you accomplish your job.
If something is not working, don’t be afraid to change it. As a telecommuter, you may be a pioneer at your office, company or industry. No one may have all the answers. Invest time researching ways to improve your productivity. Don’t be afraid to ask, “Is there a quicker, better, more effective way out there?” Seek it out, albeit carefully. Don’t jump on the first bandwagon that comes along. Try it out tentatively – not all solutions meet all users’ needs.
13. Ask for help or input.
Have regular meetings with your boss or coworkers. These meetings could be weekly, monthly or quarterly. The meetings may be more frequent to begin with. Talk to others from a similar field who also telecommute. Use social networking to stay in touch and obtain advice in answer to a question or before you ask it. Be selective about which groups or lists you sign up for or follow. You don’t want social networking to become a distraction rather than a way to stay in touch and obtain input!
14. Take care of yourself.
It is hard to do your best when you don’t feel your best and especially hard when you don’t have regular input from others! Get up at a regular time and get dressed. Have your breakfast and coffee before work if that is your habit. If you usually brown bag it, pack a lunch to eat when you are ready. Meet coworkers or friends for lunch periodically if you are in the habit of this. Set regular breaks and quitting time. Avoid the temptation to work when it should be family time and remember to exercise and go to bed at the appointed hour.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
2. Soaking clothes overnight in
a tub of water really helps loosen
dirt and grime and can be especially effective when your clothes have
that dingy-all-over look.
3. To keep brights their brightest
and blacks from fading, turn garments inside out and choose
the coolest temperature setting that will get them clean.
Plus: Super Cheap Craft Ideas
4. For stubborn food stains, such as coffee, soy sauce, or mustard, blot the troubled area with foam shaving cream and allow it to sit for half an hour. Repeat the process and if the stain remains, try leaving the cream in overnight.
5. If you’ve just washed a stained garment, examine the results before tossing it in the dryer. If the stain didn’t come out, the dryer’s heat will set it and make it even harder to deal with. Your chances of success are greater if you remove the item while it’s damp.
6. Your best chance of salvaging a stained garment after it’s been in the dryer is to soak it for thirty minutes in a solution that’s equal parts water and hydrogen peroxide. Be sure to wash it immediately afterward.
Plus: Sizzling Summer Sides
7. Adding a quarter cup of baking soda to a wash will take care of stale, musty odors common during the summer months and give your machine a fragrant boost to boot.
8. When conquering dried bloodstains, dampen the damaged garment with hydrogen peroxide, then rinse with cold water. If possible, set your washing machine’s temperature for cold as well.
9. When battling mildew and soap scum-stained shower curtains, don’t hesitate to drop them in the washing machine. For cloth as well as heavier vinyl and plastic curtains, use ordinary laundry soap and the recommended amount of bleach per load.
Plus: Capture This Whimsical Decor Trend
10. Whether you’re washing by machine or hand, vinegar is a must-have in any laundry room. A cup of vinegar is an effective fabric softener in the rinse cycle, adding a little bit to a hand wash will keep clothes from staying sudsy.