Finishing an article for the local newspaper, Mary Smith sits at her computer. When Jeremy Rogers pressed "send," a computer problem located a thousand miles away was resolved. For two years now, DeeDee Ankins has used her computer to check the inventory of the small company she started. When Dennis Franks clicks on "print," his novel is instantly printed from the laser printer located in a corner of his office. All four people have one thing in common: they all work from home. People working at home, whether self-employed, a writer, or a remote employee for a company, will face different problems than those found in the workplace and must set ground rules for themselves and others.
One must first determine the reason for working from home. Someone starting their own company may not have a choice, or may not be able to afford office space elsewhere, for a writer. Those who work at home need strong motivation, for it is essentially the equivalent of having a second job. Family needs will interfere, friends will consider a home-worker as mainly at home and not working, and more possible interruptions will occur.
For a home-worker to be successful, it is important to have a separate, well-prepared workspace; the further away from family areas, the better. No matter where located, a person needs a productive work space with necessary storage and organizational items; however, this is essential.
A computer with enough memory and the necessary accessories is required to facilitate telecommunication, writing, file keeping, and other needs. Having internet access has become essential for researching, networking, and/or connecting to a corporate network. Having a phone for colleagues, customers, or managers to reach you is essential.
The person must set goals and adhere to them. Achieving those goals will aid in staying on track and bolstering one's self-image. Time management is a key goal when working from home, as it is easy to lose control of time without the structure of an office environment. Many times, late nights become the norm as a person tries to make up time lost during the day until a routine is thoroughly ingrained. A major goal should therefore be setting a routine.
Creating a routine or schedule can help a person stay focused, inform others when they can interrupt and when they should not, and create a more professional atmosphere. The following are some strategies for creating a routine:
Begin your work every day at the same time. Karen McCoy, in her article "Rules for Writing at Home," states that while it is feasible to spend the entire day writing in one's pajamas, it likely won't lead to a productive outcome. She does go on to say that although you don't necessarily have to put on a dress and high heels (especially if you’re a guy), getting showered and dressed will make you feel more professional, and that children will appreciate a parent picking them up after school without wearing bunny slippers.
Get up, get dressed, and start work just as if you were reporting to an off-site job; therefore, do so.
Create a schedule. When one works away from home, they must adhere to a schedule set by another. A person needs to set up a schedule around other appointments and family needs without compromising job time, even though working from home does give flexibility. Sometimes the routine is disrupted and extra time needs to be set aside during the evenings or on weekends in order to make up for it. Adhering to the schedule as closely as possible will result in more being accomplished; however,
Minimize distractions. To limit distractions for home workers, controlling the telephone, pretending not to be home, and learning to say no are a few options.
If possible, controlling the phone may involve turning off the ringer. An option, however, may not be not hearing the phone ring. An alternative suggestion would be to have an answering machine to screen calls. A person needs to check messages regularly if voice mail is being used to take them. It is suggested that a home-worker can set specific times for when they will take and/or return calls.
Making the decision to pretend not to be home might be the hardest one for a person. Someone working in an office away from home wouldn't indulge in activities such as jumping up to load the dishwasher, running the vacuum, or doing a load of laundry. The worker needs to set aside times for housework when working from home, separate from job, writing, or corporate work.
There is a notion that those who "work" from home are not actually working. Often, home-workers are requested to volunteer, babysit, or fulfill other duties. The home-worker should not feel obligated to provide an explanation for declining. If you're too busy, don't take on additional responsibility unless you really want to.
Home-workers, just like those who work on-site, need to recognize that sometimes schedules and routines may be disrupted, and that distractions are inevitable and can't always be avoided. If the worker does not have a deadline, the only option is to be flexible and adjust the amount of production accordingly. The worker has to adjust their work hours and, if necessary, do without sleep, in order to make the deadline if it looms.
The pros and cons of working from home must be weighed. One must evaluate the pros and cons of each option and make the choice that is best suited to them.