Sure, the short commute from bedroom to basement can’t be beat in terms of reducing your carbon slipper print. And who doesn’t want to watch reruns of The Office on their own living room sofa during the lunch hour? Heck, you can watch the show naked and no one would complain. Those insulting corporate performance reviews are a thing of the past, baby. When you’re working at home, anything goes…or does it?
Well, it’s clear there are lots of pitfalls. Just Google “pitfalls for working from home” and take a memo. Some people cite as negatives the inability to separate homework from paid work, a painful feeling of isolation, and too many snack breaks allowed by the boss, a.k.a. EMOTIONAL EATER, YOU.
But I like to accentuate the positives: saving rent and earning a tax deduction, total freedom from middle managerial scrutiny, and the gift that keeps on giving – taking adorable pets to work. My pug, Smokey, says, “Hi.” He’s waving. Can you see him?
These positives are important. Gloomy economists predict our jobless rate, now at 8.5%, will rise to 10 percent by the second half of this year, meaning those who can’t find new jobs will likely be setting up a spare bedroom with computer stations, a fax, phone, and perhaps, mini-bar.
If you’ve failed landing a job hitting the pavement, the alternative is to surf for something on the home turf. More of our friends will be in that spot as their job losses outlast their unemployment benefits.
Here are 10 inspired tips on making it work from someone who is managing a home-based writing career and getting out of her pajamas at least four out of five work days a week.
Consider yourself a professional once the lunches are packed and the children are off to school (if you have kids). Make your bed, brush your hair, eat a good breakfast, then grab your mug of coffee or tea and put yourself in work mode. It doesn’t matter if you are telemarketing, writing the great American novel or creating a new website from your house. Put on your face, slip into those pants, and get to work on time.
Location is important in real estate and in setting up a home office that you will use effectively. The more natural light, the better, as it saves on energy and lifts your mood. According to home office feng shui experts, if your body doesn’t get enough natural light, you will not enjoy working no matter how much you love your job. They also suggest bringing in a couple of air-purifying plants into your work space to up your blood oxygen. My recent post on this plant subject introduced research showing that plants also increase human productivity. Also, as a designer, I urge you to decorate your sunny spot in a pleasant way that makes you feel blissful when you sit down to work. Hit me up for office design tips, any time.
You didn’t have a fridge and pantry stocked with snacks at your old job, so why give your self total access to them now? If you do, you will pack on the pounds while you work at home, which will just make you frustrated and unhealthy. Eat a good breakfast and give yourself a snack and lunch break. You can cut up healthy snacks to keep by the computer (chopped veggies, raw almonds, fresh fruit). Otherwise, you might resort to stress eating. Also, postpone the happy hour to the happy hour.
You can’t sit at the computer or phone all day without moving your body and expect to stay healthy and in good shape. You have to stand up and stretch your neck, arms and back. And even take a break to walk the dog or mail some letters in the neighborhood. If you can keep to your schedule, walk down to a nearby cafe for lunch once a week. Or walk with a friend who also is working from home or at a nearby office. It burns fat, relieves stress and it’s free!
Today I will finish a post and write two more. Plan ahead what you want to accomplish and use the extra time to brainstorm, pay bills, do tax work, download some photos on your Facebook page. There’s more time to play when you have finished your work. It is very rewarding to get the job done and lightens your load considerably. Also, if you can write down your targeted goals, it will spare you the agony of tossing and turning at night as you plant it all out in your head. Type it on your home page, or jot it down in a good recycled daily planner, like the ones from At a Glance.
Taxpayers who use part of their residence for work purposes can take a home office deduction if they meet requirements such as using their place exclusively for business or meeting regularly at the house with clients or patients. The IRS says expenses that you can deduct include the business portion of real estate taxes, mortgage interest, rent, utilities, insurance, painting, repairs and depreciation. Check with the IRS for more information and contact your accountant to follow through. We all need those breaks!
Sure, it’s okay to multi-task, but there are so many distractions in a home, you could get pulled away from your work and never meet deadlines or stick to a schedule. I remember my mom scolding me: “You’re down in that basement working, why aren’t you washing the clothes at the same time?” The truth is, sometimes I do toss in a load while I work, but it’s not on my mind. Also, it saves more energy to do the wash at night when fewer homes are running their machines. I would never write if I started cleaning up the kids’ rooms (a never-ending battle) or cleaning up the kitchen. I do what I can before I sit down to work and finish once I’m done.
Just as it can be challenging to stay on task at home, it also can be hard to know when the work day is done. You can always run back to the computer to polish your work or send another email, but it’s important to give your children your time and attention when they come home after school and have done their homework. There’s really a small window of time that you can connect with them before bed, and people are right when they say it flies by fast. Make dinner together, get them to set the table, eat together as a family, assist with homework if they need it. Share quality time together tucking them into bed. You can always go back to the computer once they are asleep, if necessary. Don’t forget, your spouse needs you, too. If you don’t cultivate your relationship now, what will you have once the kids leave the nest? Will the computer keep you warm at night?
The adjustment to a home work environment can be tough if you’re a social animal used to chatting it up by the water cooler or doing coffee runs for your pals. There’s no reason to lose your connection just because your digs have changed. Share your work with friends in a medium that is comfortable for you. I often post my stories and successes on Facebook. I’m in a book club with other mothers that meets once a month. I like to attend design events, from showcase houses to lectures at the design center. And I get out and meet people after filing my work. There’s no reason to feel isolated just because you work at home.
I have to say that at least once a week, I stay in my pajamas until it’s time to pick the kids up from school. At our school, people talk if you show up in a robe and fluffy slippers. Snobs! Meantime, what an advantage to working at home. I never got to work in a nightgown at CNN. Ted wouldn’t have minded but those middle manager types were so unimaginative. Staying in the flannels reminds us of those days when we stayed home from school and our moms gave us soup and let us watch TV in bed. That’s exactly how I perform all day on my lounge day, typing away at the computer in my PJ’s, having a nice lunch on the sofa, sitting on the glider in the sun outside with Smoky during a coffee break and listening to the wind chimes – miles and miles away from road rage, carpet fumes and the fluorescent lights of the work world. I get just as much work done, if not more, but without being dressed to impress and stuck in someone’s else’s idea of an efficient work environment.
*An excellent source on how to set up a home office and make good money doing it is the book, Will Work From H0me: Earn the Cash Without the Commute, by Tory Johnson and Robyn Freedman Spizman.