It’s about time I addressed the enigma that is working from home. My friend once called me around 1PM to tell me about the amazing 3D dinosaur movie he was watching on his new 3DTV. I said “aren’t you supposed to be at work?” He simply stated that he was working from home. That’s not working from home, that’s what I like to call “watching a movie.”
I work part time from home and to be honest, I do more actual work now than I ever have done at my previous full-time jobs.
Let’s outline a typical day for an office job:
- 8a – get to work
- 8-8:30 – drink coffee, eat breakfast (do whatever you skipped at home to sleep an extra :30)
- 8:30-9 – catch up with co-workers regarding the previous day’s TV shows, sporting events, news, etc.
- 9-10 – surf the web reading whatever news & weblogs you read daily
- 10-10:30 – discuss with co-workers where to go to lunch today
- 10:30-11:30 – maybe some actual work
- 11:30 – sneak out a little early for lunch
- 1p – arrive back at work
- 1-2 – “space out for about an hour” during a food induced coma
- 2-3 – attend a meeting
- 3-5 – possibly more actual work
By my count that’s 3 hours of work. Nowadays if I do 6 hours of actual work (which to my brain feels like a long day), I’ve doubled my output and I have a couple extra hours to do whatever I want – not to mention time saved with no commute.
I’m not sure why, but companies seem intent on holding their employees hostage at work, regardless if there’s anything to be done. At one job my boss actually had said “We don’t expect you to punch the clock [… but] we expect everyone to put in 45 hours a week.”
Nowadays I do punch a clock… I keep a religious record of what I work on and when, because I only bill for time that I’m actually working. This gives me motivation to work and ignore the distractions. To maintain focus, all you have to do is a little preparation.
Keep a routine
Set your alarm clock. I used to not have to set an alarm due to the human alarm clock (my infant son) living in the room next to me, but now I have to wake him up so I can get him to daycare and begin work at a reasonable hour.
If you’re a shower in the morning type, do it. Just because you don’t need to wear pants anymore doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. No pants to me means you probably didn’t shower. If that’s your thing, then fine. If you’re not wearing pants because your home office is too hot, you should probably address the problem differently (see below).
What you want to do is mentally prepare yourself for work. You’re getting ready for your day the same way you would normally, except instead of commuting, you just walk into your home office.
Work Comfort & Quelling Distractions
Have a dedicated office space free of distractions. I suggest no TV in the room (unless you get paid to watch TV) – many people like to leave it on as a force of habit when they’re at home, and that can be a huge distraction.
Get a desk that you like and is the appropriate height for you. Do yourself a favor and don’t cheap out on your chair. I’m not saying you need to take out a loan for a Herman Miller Aeron Chair. I have a fabric high-back chair from Office Depot. I like it because it’s got good lumbar support, and I was also used to sitting on it for 3-years at my previous job.
You’ll want to be comfortable, and it’s your house so adjust the thermostat to your liking. You can run as many fans or space heaters as you’d like. Leave the lights on or turn them off, this office is your oyster. Want to listen to the radio at a reasonable volume? Go ahead!
I like to wear “house shoes” (slippers with soles) since my office is in the basement. If I were at someone else’s office, I wouldn’t be comfortable barefoot or in just socks – so ask yourself, would you?
The 21st century may very well transform the way the employer/employee relationship is bonded. There are jobs like construction and manufacturing that will always require people “on site.” But for those that have the tools to do their job at home, I hope employers will loosen the reigns on imprisoning their employees. The cost of fuel may help influence this. Plus if employers switch to hourly wages for work-at-home employees, they may stand to save some money. Let’s face it, we’re all slaves to the clock, hourly or salaried. I don’t want to be a slave to the clock as well as some employer’s building that’s on the other end of town.