by guest blogger, Katie Parsons
One of the benefits of technology is that it has allowed people to work from just about anywhere. Even classroom settings can now be simulated through web cams and other online student-teacher interactions. While freelance writers and small business owners tend to be associated with work-from-home scenarios, the truth is that more and more corporate employees are finding the benefits of working from a home office.
For people who have spent years in the office grind, the opportunity to ditch it (even just a few days per week) may sound like a dream come true. The realities of working in the same space where you eat, sleep and relax are not actually as rosy as they first seem.
I started working from home on a part-time basis when I worked for a major media outlet in Orlando and was a first-time mom. I was able to afford a nanny on the days I needed to be at my desk and thankful to spend the time with my daughter on the others. I found out quickly that though the flexibility was nice, I often felt like I was always “on the clock” in my own home.
This feeling deepened as my family grew and I became a full-time freelance writer. Instead of just eight hours on concentrated work time each day, I spent eight hours (or more) spread out between diaper changes, snack times, cuddling, cleaning and shuttling. I was not ready to trade in my family time for a nine-to-five position, but I was getting burned out.
About one year ago I set a few ground rules for myself. I do not always follow them, but I do my best. Whether you have kids or not, these simple tips will help you stay sane as you work from home.
- Set up an office. You do not need an entire room at your disposal to set up a home office. Any desk, table or corner nook will do. Make sure you have enough space to keep files and office supplies and ensure that there is a power outlet nearby for your laptop, smartphone and tablet chargers. I have a nameplate from my desk when I worked in Chicago and pictures of my family on mine (even though they are just in the next room). It may sound like fun to work from your couch in fuzzy slippers, but if you want to maintain your professionalism, a set office space is a necessity.
- Set a schedule. This blog recently discussed the way that busyness tends to take over lives, especially those of entrepreneurs. Small business owners know that they have to put in extra hours to succeed, especially in the first months and years of a startup. Even if you MUST work more than 40 hours per week, make a schedule that includes breaks, “clock out” times and days off. There will always be emergencies that pop up and unexpected issues that you must attend to, but during a normal routine it is imperative to separate your personal and work time.
- Plan for distraction. Being at home means that there is a lot to distract you. Kids are a given, if you have small ones roaming your halls. Even without little people interrupting your creative flow, there are thousands of other ways to get sidetracked when working from home. Laundry, dishes, a dog that needs to be let out, a neighbor installing (and testing) a car alarm, the television programs waiting for you on your DVR – you name it, and it will distract you while working at home. Allow some of it but know your limits. I often set a stopping point in my work when I plan to get up, attend to other household things, eat a snack, watch a show or peruse Facebook. It is sort of my way of rewarding my hard work at staying on task.
- Don’t work for free. Well, duh. But don’t work for cheap either. Just because you are saving money on gas, clothing and possibly child care by working from home does not mean that your time is not valuable. Find out what the competitive rates are in your industry and charge them. If a company is not willing to pay you a fair rate for your services, then it is not worth your time. Period.
Above all, remember that you have a life outside work. A job is what supports your family and social endeavors. Do your best to keep the two separate and you will be much happier in personal and professional realms.
Katie Parsons is a part-time writer for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes in business news affecting major markets in the U.S. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. She is also the administrator for a community blog for moms.