As someone who's been able to manage operating several businesses from home for quite sometime, it's safe to say I know what, um, can kind of suck about it. First, let me establish that it is awesome working from home; it's wonderful. I wouldn't change it and I am definitely ruined for ever working in a cube ever again. I just don't think I could ever say goodbye to lunches-whenever-I-want and running-errands-when-it's-convenient-for-me time.
However, when your home and place of business rub elbows, some issues can occur; even for the most disciplined.
1. Work expands to fill....as much time as you'll let it. I've found that a to-do list really, really helps. If you just get up and go into work without a clear picture of what you need to do, well, you'll likely end up doing everything but what you actually need to be doing. And, I've found that without a to-do list, your workday can sometimes double in length. But why is it so difficult to make those darn to-do lists?!
2. The office is just behind the door And so is everything that has to do with your job; like stress, frustration and a massive list of things to do. Can you live with that? Are you strong enough to quit each day at 5 pm? Honestly, I'm not, and that's why I keep a non-traditional schedule. I usually start working about 9 am and take a few hours off at lunch time to eat and do whatever. Then I work for a few more hours in the afternoon and maybe a few more in the evening. For me, I like having large blocks of off-time throughout my day, so this works for me. I just can't sit in one place from 8-5 because then it feels like...well...work.
3. If work sucks, it affects your home life even more If you've got a really terrible client, or an order went horribly wrong, just walking from one room to the next won't put it out of your mind. When I worked full-time in an office, my 15 minute drive home was my quiet time to decompress and deal with what was frustrating me. It was 15 minutes that I could push my frustrations away until the morning. Working from home, you're commute is only about 10 footsteps and for that reason alone, it's really hard to turn off 'work' mode and turn on 'home' mode. Many of my friends and colleagues who work from home exercise at the end of their work day because it helps them clearly separate the two main parts of the day. Not only that, but how you feel affects your family and in turn, that affects the people your family is around. If work is particularly bad, be aware that the bad stuff can leach over into the good stuff; your family life. Be aware of this.
4. It's lonely I am a very social person. I need to talk to people on a daily basis and the whole alone-every-day-all-day thing just doesn't work for me. Remember, when you work from home, you don't have someone in the next cube you can chat with. You likely don't even have someone in the same room to chat with. I have two small beagles, and yes, I find myself having conversations with them throughout the day. I think most of us work-at-home-warriors talk to our pets. In order to remedy my inability to be alone for long periods of time, I make a point to meet with people in person. Whether it be a client, a friend or a business acquaintance, I always suggest meeting for coffee. It gets me out of the office and gets me in contact with real live humans. Luckily, I live within walking distance to a nice little downtown area with coffee places and eateries.
The other thing I do is I chat throughout the day via Skype with other friends who work from home. Often times, I have multiple conversations that run throughout the work day. I might ask for a recipe, or ask someone to look over a design, or just talk about something I found on YouTube. It's like having actual coworkers and is really nice.
So what are my best practices for working from home?
- Make a to-do list each day, every day. Then stick to it.
- Leave the house regularly.
- Find people in the same boat you are and talk to them.
- Find a way to separate work from home; or a way to clearly end the work day.
- Have a clearly defined 'work' space. Keep it separate from the 'home' portions of your living space, even if that just means it's a separate table.
Here's what others have to say on working from home: Here's a post from Tanton Gibbs, a core software developer for Bing. He hates working from home. Here's another post, this time from Working Smarter, a blog on TypePad. And a post from Russ Krajec about the woes of working from home.
What works for you? Better yet; what doesn't? Share with us your best practices and mistakes!