What It’s Really Like To Work From Home

A year ago this month I was RIFfed from my long-standing corporate job. Oh, RIF? It means Reduction In Force. According to .gov layoffs are called reduction in force (RIF) actions. In other words, when an agency must abolish positions, the RIF regulations determine whether an employee keeps his or her present position, or whether the employee has a right to a different position. All fancy talk for a year ago this month I got the boot. I wasn’t needed any longer. Truth is I had been contemplating leaving the corporate environment for a while anyway. I had already built up a few private clients and felt strongly like I could work from home and still pay the bills. Don’t get me wrong. I never thought it would be about working form the comfort of my couch or going in to work at 11am and getting off around 2pm. I knew it would be challenging. But maybe I wasn’t facing the facts of just how challenging.

CONFESSION: I have been a remote employee for the better part of my professional career. I have maintained a home office and kept regular hours just as I would at a corporate office. I was logged in by 9am. I didn’t take extraneous or long breaks for coffee or the occasional episode of Price is Right. I often stayed in the office past 5pm and the in between hours were filled with conference calls, video messaging, group project work (via Google tools, etc), and other various tasks. Other than the fact that I was in basketball shorts almost every day, I was still surrounded by the noise of an office. And so perhaps that was the hardest things to adjust to. My days had become so quiet. Save for my 5-year old daughter occasionally wondering down to the office, I hardly heard more then the whir of my laptop processor fan. Within the first two weeks I realized that it takes a certain “toolkit” to work from home and to work away from any semblance of a corporate environment.

So here’s what I have learned in the last year.

FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS

Just because you can keep Facebook open 24/7 doesn’t mean you have to answer every private message that comes in. You’ve got to learn to resist the constant emails and message. You must stay on task. Distraction is everywhere in the home office. Unlike an away-from-home office, you have the ability at home to hit the fridge every hour, on the hour. RESIST! Stick to your two-cup-a-day habit and keep a water bottle on your desk so you aren’t tempted to get up for ever a few minutes.

I also find the days I conduct myself professionally to be my most productive days. I shower. I shave. I get dressed. Being prepared to “go” to work helps me transition from home time to work time much easier.

STAY ORGANIZED

Don’t let your desk get cluttered. Keep your mail sorted. Take dirty dishes to the sink or dishwasher daily. Don’t become a post-it note depository. Empty your trashcan regularly. I have found that keeping a small white board at my desk helps me stay infinitely organized. I can make to-do lists, jot down ideas, and even plot deadlines. Just take the time to find what works best for you and stick with it.

STAY CONNECTED

Working in a corporate environment means a daily diet of conversation and banter. You interact with *gasp* other adults! When I first started working from home, for myself, I found that I spent more time talking about 5-year old topics than anything else. Since then I have relished building relationships with clients, my next door neighbor, and even the post office lady. I don’t bore them or monopolize their time but I do take that extra second to listen to them and converse with them. It is so important to stay involved with the world around you.

SELF-MOTIVATION

Congratulations! You can now spend long hours playing Farmville or other random games. There is no boss to walk in on you. There is no colleague to rat you out. Heck, you can even take the day off to see an early afternoon movie at the cinema. But if you want to be successful even in this working situation you have to keep yourself motivated. Give yourself goals. I have alarms set on my calendar that help me maintain weekly, daily, and sometime hourly goals. My productivity runs parallel to my happiness.

 

STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES

Above all, see the fortunate in such a unique work scenario. When it is time to work, work. Work hard! Stay focused and keep your goals prioritized. But when it is time to clock out and play. Play hard! Remember, the goal is to work to live, not live to work.

What is your experience working from home? Have you ever had such a position? Are you currently pursuing one? What would you do if you could work from home? 

By Andrew M. Odom for the [Tiny House Blog]

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SethH - June 28, 2017 Reply

I agree with you about productive days seem to be when I follow a routine. I’ve worked from home since 2012 and I want to get into the routine of wearing my PJs all day. Plus I didn’t know how long it’d last but I eventually fall out of it and my work performance struggled when I’d roll out of bed 5 minutes before I needed to start. I’ve got back into it though and for he past 3 years or so, my day starts early and I shower and get dressed like I’m going into the office and the difference in performance and just overall how I feel through the day is completely different.

Hussman - June 29, 2017 Reply

Great piece. So, can I ask what you do, and how you got started? I’ve always wanted to do this, but know scams are rampant. Where did/do you begin in all this?

    Andrew M. Odom - June 29, 2017 Reply

    There is no one way I got started. As written in the article, I was working a telecommute position for a corporation. Through that I became more proficient at self-motivation, project management, etc. In my off time I would talk to people about their own needs in small business and marketing, etc. From there I picked up a client just for a little side money around Christmas. One thing led to another and I was running my own business. It truly was about the right place/right time. I don’t think there is a magic equation.

Johanna Elsner - June 30, 2017 Reply

Leaving work at work is our biggest challenge in working from home. Loving what you do doesn’t help that debacle either. I think being disciplined in both work and play is huge in this scenario as well. The benefit is you CAN stop and talk to your kid about guitar or Barbies as you wish, but the healthy balance in home and working from home is always a challenge. I guess it’s still a better problem to have then being “at the office” all day. 🙂

Kimberly Flores - July 2, 2017 Reply

Great post, and yes it seems focus should be first on the list.
While I don’t work from a “tiny house” I do live ad work from my RV which is a close cousin, I see a lot of value in your words.

Rob Myran - July 5, 2017 Reply

I have mostly worked from home since I was 24 years old. I am 66 now. I always referred to it as “The handmade life”. I would not say it has ever been a road to riches but it has always been a living. I always worked in several media. Jewelry design and manufacture was one. Commercial art (graphic design) in the era before personal computers and the internet was another. In 1980 I fell in love with ornamental ironwork and built a forge learned to work hot iron into gates and railings and tables, and ya, fireplace tools as well. I marketed the craft end mainly through art fairs and wholesale trade shows The graphic art was through connecting with area printers and their clients who needed logos, illustrations, catalog work, etc.

In the mid 1990’s my wife and I decided to go to massage school because we needed a change. We worked from home with that, too. Though I worked 2 days a week at home and 3 days a week in a solo practice office in the city about 35 miles away. After 20 years, I am closing that office at the end of this month and will be back to just working from home – finally (Yeah!) I will still do massage here but I am also working redevelop my graphic arts – digitally this time.

It can be done!

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