Monday, April 27, 2009

Should You Work From Home?

Since I posted the couch below that made me think about working from home more often, I've been thinking about the perfect work from home situation. I think it's really relevant now in this economy as more people get laid off, more people start consulting businesses to keep overhead down, and more people choose to make their careers mold to fit their lifestyle situation.
I HOPE that no one is doing it because of ridiculous ads on TV. You know the ones.... with the middle aged couple sitting in a gross restaurant (supposed to be in Italy) smiling about how they paid for the whole thing after working from home for 30 minutes. Yeah, don't buy those tapes.
Anyway, my last business was out of my home and I have the option to sometimes work from home in my current position.
Working from home seems like a dream come true. You're in the comfort of your bed, in your pajamas, Cops or Real Housewives of NY on TV in the background..... and in a lot of ways, it is great to set your own schedule but it's also the most difficult adjustment you'll ever make. We have a few people where I work now that work from home a few days a week that can probably back me up on this one.
Here's the rundown after training myself to make working from home work for me.
1) Get in Touch With Your Inner Slave Driver. You don't have to be up at 6AM or even 10AM. You can take an afternoon off if the weather is nice. The thing is, you have to be even tougher on yourself when you work from home because no one will yell at you if you take time off. Or a lot of time off. You will have to learn to do every annoying thing a boss has ever done to you. And guess what? You have no scapegoat either. And some of your friends and family won't like it. Get ready.
2) Get Dressed. You can work in your pajamas. But don't. When I had a radio show that started at 5AM and ended at 10AM, I could show up looking however I wanted to. So I donned my slippers and sweatpants every day. And I got depressed. I was essentially talking to myself in a tiny room with no windows every morning for 4 hours. One of my mentors finally pulled me aside and said "get dressed dammit. you look like crap, and your show sucks because of it." It was harsh but it was true.
3) Get to know your local coffee shops. I have been a coffee shop rat since I was 15. Throughout my life I have had times where I feel like I'm accomplishing nothing and sometimes even packing up my things and working from a coffee shop gives me a nice schedule to work from. Plus you'll get some people watching in.
4) Hit up networking events. A lot. Remember all the contacts you made working at a large company? You'll have to make those yourself now. The contacts you had will dry up. People will not come into your life in a business setting unless you seek them out. This is hard because you feel like you know a lot of people and maybe you do but now you'll need people in your life that understand that you work from home. I think networking events are always a good thing but if you are shifting to working from home in some fashion, you'll need to get out and mingle more.
5) You will go crazy for a while. This is one of those things that seems obvious but it's really true. Be prepared to not balance things right for a while. You will feel like you should be having family time at your house but now that you need to work there, it's going to be rough. When do you work, when do you watch TV and what can you do simultaneously? I remember sitting on the floor with a bottle of wine, my business partner had shingles from stressing out and we were both drowning in a pile of tax paperwork and watching Tyra in the background. It was also almost 4AM. We had also been out earlier that night. We figured that it was a good time to do our taxes since neither of us could sleep. It gets better after a few months. Just warn your friends and family in advance that you are taking leave of your senses for a while.
6) You will become a zen master. Since you will start thinking of every single thing you could do that's not work. The light in the fridge that's been out for 8 months will suddenly become urgent. You will stare at a crack in your wall and it will become an obsession that you fix it immediately. You will call everyone you know and check on them, wish people happy birthday. You will probably fill out online surveys that you normally wouldn't do. In other words, you will be distracted by EVERYTHING. I am distracted by everything normally so this wasn't totally a new thing for me but know that the volume on pesky to-do knick knacks will go way up. You will learn to zen them out. In fact, the more you know about how to meditate and tune things out, the easier this part will be.
7) Get someone to help you. Having someone who works from home a fair amount tell you you're not insane and write out a schedule works wonders.


Blogger JR Moreau said...

Awesome post Caitlin.

I work from home in my current position at least once a week and plan my side business to grow into a home-office and coworking based operation. Coffee shops are great, but coworking offers atmosphere and networking in a singular package as well as a neat lil' place to bring clients.

Self-motivating is key though, you hit that on the head.

April 27, 2009 at 3:05 PM  
Blogger Milissa said...

I work from home two days a week.

Agreed self motivation, organization and discipline are key.

Another suggestion I would add includes designating a special area in your home as your "workspace." And I try to--at all costs--NOT work from my bedroom--bad karma.

Also make sure you are as available to colleagues as you would be if you were in the office. (IM, email, phone, etc.) And be responsive.

Great post!

April 27, 2009 at 3:38 PM  
Blogger Caitlin said...

JR- I think coworking spaces are a brilliant idea since I think people need others around to bounce ideas off of. Even if they don't work in the same business.... especially if they don't, offices can get rather stifling without outside perspective. Maybe individual working but in coworking spaces is the future?

Milissa - I agree with the home working space but lord knows that's a whole other design post! :)
Being available is another biggie... good add.

April 27, 2009 at 4:37 PM  

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