There and Back, Daily

Do you face opposition to working from home at your organization? What suggestions do you have to overcome these objections?

Punch the Ticket

Like many, I wake up in the morning and drive to work and back again when the day of work is done. Unlike many, there is very little reason to have me in the office more than one, at most two days a week. My job is all on the web. I’m not a manager or director. I don’t supervise people. None of that stuff that means I need to be around people. Even my cubical neighbors instant message with each other instead of speaking. I don’t have a ton of meetings, and when I do I could easily fit them into a single day.

I also know that I can do this exact position with these coworkers from home because I have done it before. Now, I don’t mind commuting. But I do have a real problem with commuting for the sake of tradition or because upper management likes…

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Walking the dog, and other productivity killers

barneyAbsolutely, hands down, the best part of telecommuting is the freedom.  I can come to work in whatever I want, work whenever I want (mostly), play whatever music I want, you get the drift.  However, for many, the freedom can be a killer when it comes to productivity.

Many tasks around the house get done on a schedule of nights and weekends.  Why?  Because you can’t do them while you’re at work.  But, what if you telecommute?    Imagine it, no more racing home to walk the dog who’s been left alone for 10 hours.   You can just walk Fido anytime you need to because you’re home, right?

The problem is that these thoughts, and the activities that result from them, can absolutely kill your productivity.  In fact, one of the hardest aspects of telecommuting is blocking out the temptation to cut the grass, run to the store, and even walk the dog.  While in most cases, you can get away with sneaking out to do one here and there, be careful.  Don’t make it a habit.

Here is what works for me:

  • Even though I’m not leaving the house, I act as if I’m “going to work” by following a routine each day.  This helps me establish the boundary between work activities and home activities.
  • I am an employee of a large company so the time you’re supposed to be working essentially belongs to my employer.  I value my time, so I try to value the company’s time as well.
  • I maximize the benefits of working at home by scheduling the cable guy or the plumber to be either the first or last appointment of the day, just as if I was working at an office.  I never make the mistake of saying “I work at home, come whenever”.  My time will be taken.
  • I recognize that sometimes I have to walk the dog, but I don’t make it a habit, I account for it in my schedule, and I resist the urge to do non-work things during work hours that could wait until after work or the weekends.  Thinking that if I just snuck out and cut the grass today during work, then I can hit the links Saturday,  is dangerous.
  • When I do decide to engage in non-work activities during the workday, I am always prepared to be called back to work in an instant.   If I am scheduling a meeting at my church, for example, I inform the participants that I may have to reschedule at the last minute if I can’t juggle my schedule to fit it in.

So, how well do I do at following my own advice?  Some days are better than others!  I do try to learn from my mistakes, however:

One spring, I decided that I really didn’t want to waste my Saturday cutting grass.  I figured I could spend an hour Wednesday afternoon and knock it out.  So, on Wednesday, I spent time cutting, trimming, and cleaning up.  Before I knew it, I’d killed 90 minutes.  But here was the worst part:  Next Wednesday, the grass was really long again.  Uh oh  I thought, if I let it go until Saturday, it will be really long, and a lot more work.  I better just cut it again today.  Now I’m on a cycle I don’t want to be on….I have to cut grass on Wednesday, when I’m supposed to be working.

What are some of the productivity killers you face while working at home?

Do you sit or stand?

A new trend in the office space is standing at your desk.  A coworker of mine has been using a standing desk for over a year now, and he really loves it.  So, I decided to give it a try.

I started by taking a table and setting it up on concrete blocks.  I figured I needed to see if I liked it before investing in anything.  So, for less than 5 dollars, I converted to a standing desk.  60 days later, I am still really enjoying it.  It took some getting used to, but in the end, I feel like I am better off standing most of the day, and taking periodic breaks in a chair.

What I have found in my research and experience is that to make this work you need to keep a few things in mind:

  • Your desk height should be just under your elbows, so that when you are typing your hands are slightly lower than your elbows.  If you’re too high, it just isn’t ergonomic or comfortable
  • Have a foot stool or box to step one leg on while your standing.It takes some pressure off your lower back.  Alternate between left and right foot.
  • Get a comfortable bar stool to sit on at your desk.  Sometimes, you will just want to sit and work. Of course, you could get a fancy convertible desk that can convert from sitting to standing, but they will run you close to $1000.
  • Try a cheap solution first to  see if you like it.  When you are ready to commit, then go for a more permanent solution.  See the picture below for the desk I built from IKEA parts. My cost was about $80 (because I already had the bookcase, so add $60 if you need it too).
Standing desk made from IKEA parts
Standing desk made from IKEA parts

Do you stand at work?  How long have you been doing it?  What are your experiences with it?

Staying connected

I have been thinking about starting a blog for 2 years.  As a long time telecommuter, I have learned a lot, and some of those lessons were learned the hard way.  I have worked in organizations with a lot of remote, home-based workers, but I really had no “training” in how to do this successfully.  

What really compelled me to make this a reality was a discussion with someone I met at church.  She had just started working from home full-time   and was miserable.  She was really struggling with the adjustment.  I thought to myself, how many more people like her are out there struggling by themselves?

What are your struggles working from home?  Is it separating work from your home life?  Focus during the day?  For me, it is the feeling of being disconnected from the company and my coworkers.

Luckily, we use SKYPE to communicate on my team.  When those feelings of disconnection bubble up, I can often have a video chat with my coworkers.  While this isn’t the same as being there, it does help.

How do you maintain your connectivity with your co-workers?

 

So you work from home? So do I…

I have been telecommuting either for a total of 20 years. These assignments have been mostly working for a software and services company, and also a distribution company. In my current assignment, I work as an Analyst in software development. However, I’ve worked as a salesperson, sales manager, trainer, project manager, and financial manager.

This blog will explore various topics for the at home worker.

Today is a snow day for many (Mid-Atlantic region), but alas, not for those of us who work from home!

So, you work from home, why do you do it?  What works and what doesn’t?  Share your stories and stay tuned for some of mine….

Musings of a serial teleworker

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