Editor’s note: This is the second installment in a two-part series about best practices for salespeople who work at home. Part One is published here.
Houston, we have a problem … when the words “work from home” conjure images such as sinking into the couch, lounging at a trendy coffee house or sunning yourself in a beach chair. All of these are common stereotypes held by people who don’t work from home about those who do.
Miriam Carey is a business owner who has worked from home for the past three years. She’s now transitioning back to a traditional office space with coworkers, donuts and all.
She rejects the slacker image of the employee who works from home while dispending advice about how to organize a telecommuting workday to acheive optimum productivity.
Carey was featured in the book “Telecommuting for Dummies.”
“I’ve recently been working on-site and find the office environment full of distractions,” she told LifeHealthPro via email. “It’s a hard adjustment.”
At home, she notes, you can control your environment. In the office, well, let’s just say that headphones tend to be necessary to block out unwanted noise. (You can read about this an other workplay annoyances in 10 bad work habits that you might be doing right now (& how to stop them).
During Carey’s stint as a remote worker, she had to set a number of rules in order to insure productivity. Here are some of her recommendations on how to plan your work from home routine:
1. Establish a start and end time.
“Otherwise, you will roll out of bed to get an early start on a project, eat a sleeve of crackers for lunch at your desk, and then remember that you haven’t showered after you finish that one last email, only to come down at 6:30 p.m. to your starving family,” Carey says. “Without rules and structure, (working at home) gets old and ugly really fast.”
2. Always get up, get dressed, and be at your desk at an appointed time.
You want to dress as though a boss or client could knock on your door at any moment.
3. When you’re working, you’re at work.
Don’t let friends or family impose on your work time just because you’re at home.
4. Create a work space that’s just for work.
Try to have a computer for work and a separate computer for personal use. Designate a separate area of the house for handling household business such as organizing and paying your bills.
5. Turn off any mobile or desktop notifications…
… that are personal such as email, Facebook or news headlines. That way, your brain is always in “work mode” when you’re working.
6. Don’t get side-tracked by adorable pets.
If your dog is a distraction, and you can afford it, consider dropping off your pet at a doggy daycare or having a dog walker pop by during your workday.
7. Chores are chores.
These are “home things” that need to be done outside of work hours. If you must cook, for instance, use a crock pot during work hours.
Pros that can quickly turn into cons
Working remotely can come with many advantages and disadvantages. And then there’s what we’re calling “murky pros,” which are aspects of telecommuting that can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how you manage them.
Here’s are some of the “murky pros” of working at home.
Less social interaction:
Even though there may be fewer daytime distractions at the home office than at the “corporate” office, there’s also less social interaction. “So you miss that at the same time” you may appreciate the quiet time, Carey says.
Develop a support system by enlisting other remote workers who you can IM/text/call or somehow connect with when the day is lonely or rough. “You don’t have the built-in energy and dynamics of an office, so you need a system to help you feel connected,” the expert adds.
You are in control of your calendar and time, and you can organize your time working at home just the way you want it. But that also means that work hours can creep into family time or your “R and R.”
You don’t have to add in the time it takes for you to get to and from work. But one upside of commuting is that it allows for the mental and emotional space to get geared up for work, leaving your home life behind for a more productive day.
“Home workers have to build that in somehow,” Casey says. “The 30 seconds it takes you to turn off the computer and walk into your kitchen don’t allow you to leave work behind and be ready to engage in your home life.”
No office politics:
Low morale and political tiffs are like viruses in a traditional office; they catch on quick. You get to skip crummy office politics when you work at home. But you also miss out on colleague camaraderie and the chance to participate in office events, Carey says. You may need to find creative ways to stay positively connected with your team.
Some people fail to take the idea of working from home seriously. “They assume you can grab coffee or have a non-work meeting anytime because you work from home,” Carey says. “I don’t work less just (because I) don’t have a company paying for an office for me!”
Some companies are great about setting you up with office equipment such as a phone, Internet, shipping supplies and other workday necessities. At other companies, you may have to push to get what you need.
When considering such needs, Carey cautions: “As with everything else, ask yourself: Do regular office employees have this at hand? If so, then set up a system for yourself and get it reimbursed.”
That also means that you’re paying more for electricity, office supplies, Internet service and other equipment. Make sure to account for that in your tax return or talk to your boss about the expense.
Is working from home for you?
Working from home is not for everyone. If you like to have people around and the buzz of the office, you’ll be lonely. If you’re not motivated and self-disciplined, it can be tough. Carey recommends considering a co-working space or a coffee shop. “But be careful, they’re noisy,” she cautions. “I’m in a coffee shop right now listening to the guy next to me work out his phone bill on speakerphone.”
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