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How to Make Working from Home Work for You, by Joy Alvey, Owens & Minor
10/02/2017 12:20 PM
When I was offered the opportunity to work from home, almost 15 years ago, my prayers at the time had been answered. I was working onsite at a customer location, and we lost the business so my job would have been cut. I was fortunate enough at the time to have a boss who knew my value and fought for me. Over the last 15 years, I have held many positions, worked on many projects and met some fabulous people – all while working from home (and very remote I might add – the nearest “office” is almost 3 hours from where I live). Working remotely is not for everyone, but can be very rewarding. I’d love to share with you some tips on how to make working from home work for you.
You will need childcare
Let me repeat this for us supermom types – you WILL need childcare. When I first started working from home my youngest was a newborn. I obviously couldn’t care for him and get anything done. However, once he got a little older and we put him into preschool my thought pattern changed a little. I could surely do a few hours a day with him until my husband got home. I was WRONG. Three year olds do not care if you have a conference call, if you need to get a project done, or quite honestly if the President of the United States is on the phone. Three year olds want you when they want you and cannot be entertained by a TV for long. Do yourself a favor and make arrangements for childcare just as if you were working outside the home. You need to dedicate those hours that you’ve committed to your employer to work.
Set boundaries with your family and friends
Working from home gives many the impression that you are always available. This has taken me years to perfect. I have been asked to sit with sick kids, take care of family members after surgeries, come to school and volunteer; the list goes on and on. Be firm, explain your commitment to your employer and after a while people will get it. FYI – teenagers have the hardest time with this concept.
Do have an established work area
You need a place to go to and separate yourself from the hub of the home. If you don’t have an extra room, get creative. Pinterest is full of ideas for small office spaces. I’ve seen some pretty cool “closet offices” that you would never expect! Make sure you have an ergonomic chair and desk setup along with any office supplies you need. This is where you will be spending the largest part of your day – make it yours! Also, establish a normal schedule. For example – I’ll start work every day at 8:00 and finish at 5:30. It’s very easy to blur the lines between work and home and having that separate work area does make this a much more manageable task.
Establish a routine, and DO get dressed
I think one of the things I hear most often when I say I work from home is, “Wow, you can work in your pajamas!” Sure, I could and I will readily admit that I HAVE, however, to make the most of my situation and get the most productivity out of my day, I normally do get dressed, and sometimes I might even put on some makeup. I dress more casually, but I am presentable in case someone wants to do a video conference; the school calls to pick up a sick kid; etc. Also, take breaks! Get up and go for a 5-10 minute walk a couple of times a day. In the office, you take many more breaks than you probably realize and you’ll be amazed at how much you can get done at home.
Stay social and get out of the house
For me, this is one of the biggest downfalls of working from home. I miss the social aspect of working in an office, so I have two days a week that I meet up with friends for lunch, and most every day I take a break for lunch and go into the living area of my home. Get out and go to lunch with a friend or coworker, go to the gym, work at a Starbucks for a couple of hours now and then, join a group like PWH. Networking events are a great way to meet other professionals in your geographical area. Figure out what works for you and make sure you are staying connected.
Remote doesn’t have to mean removed from the action
Don’t become out of sight, and then out of mind. I have been fortunate enough to work from home for almost 15 years for Owens & Minor, from a small town in Indiana, so I am always sure to maximize my time at the corporate office or when I visit a customer site. When I travel, I make sure to reach out to coworkers, customers and virtual acquaintances and schedule a face to face meeting. I also have always made a point to get involved in special projects when possible to stay engaged and make new contacts. It’s YOUR job to make sure people know who you are!
Your employer is trusting you to work in an environment that could pose many distractions, has little supervision and provides a lot of flexibility. Make sure you are maximizing your time and working efficiently. Do the work that is expected of you. If you do need to be “out of the office”, let your teammates and your boss know. I use my outlook calendar to share my scheduled calls and activities, even my lunch hour. Communication is probably the most important aspect of being a successful telecommuter.
Telecommuting is definitely trending upward. In fact, I find more and more that people I interact with on a daily basis work at least part of the time from a home office. It’s not all jammies and fluffy slippers, and will require some strong routine and discipline, but can offer some huge rewards for employers and employees alike.