Working From Home: Yes, You Can

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CarolBryantby: Carol Bryant

"You work from home, that must be really fun and easy," is a quote I hear from time to time, and I am the recipient. BlogPaws' co-founder, Yvonne DiVita, penned a very interesting and conversation-ensuing blog post recently titled, "Home Office or No Office." As a follow-up to that post and because many bloggers/writers work from a virtual environment (or strive for this), allow some of my nearly 10 years of virtual trench experience guide your way.

Since 2002, I have been a proud card-carrying member of the home-based workforce. The journey has been a rollercoaster, but one I  would not trade for all the shoes in Miranda Priestly’s walk-in closet (reference: The Devil Wears Prada). In fact, I wish I knew someone like the me I am now way back then when I started my home-based career. I decided to interview myself as someone who has been there and done that. This article will highlight questions I had when I first explored the idea of working from home. Oh, and I switched careers because I was miserable, and I won't go there again: Life is short.

Q: What are some key questions I should ask myself when I am considering working from home?

A: Am I going to work for a company as an employee, as an independent contractor, do I know what type of business I should form (LLC, for example), how will I get paid, who will do my taxes, and what is my business plan? These are just a few to get started. I went into this a bit naive and quickly learned that working from home is as involved as working outside of it. Do your research.

Q: You take a lot of breaks and can do chores and answer the phone whenever friends call and need something, right?

A: Quite the contrary. I have a lot of home-based friends who are both employees and Independent Contractors, a few who even own their own business. Working from a home office takes discipline. I set a schedule, I generally follow it, and allow myself timed breaks and lunches. A work hazard has become easy access to my office, so not allowing myself to get sucked into the "drift" (as was talked about on the BlogPaws community recently) is elemental to my mental well being. I give my work the same respect someone working outside the home gives theirs.

Q: How do I combat the sense of isolation I am feeling during my working hours? Domesticated 626

A: If you have the financial and emotional resources to do so, adopt a dog or cat from your local shelter. One of the biggest disappointments my office-based counterparts complain about goes something like “I wish I could get a ____ (fill in the pet) but it just wouldn’t fair to the animal. I work all day and wouldn’t want to leave a pet alone.” This is yet another perk of working virtually. Your pet will have a buddy and so will you. Statistically, people who own pets feel less stressed and less lonely. We know this.

Q: Are there any "rules" I might find helpful to apply to working from home and being successful?

Home-Based Working Rules to Set Early On

Dress for Success: Would you drive to work wearing a cute nightshirt and spend 9-5 in the same? Of course not. So establish a habit of not working in your jammies. If you dress for success, you’ll feel more professional. At the very least, get dressed. 

Get Involved Year-Round: Did you know BlogPaws is not only a yearly conference but also a year-round social media force and media company? Do you miss the feeling of being with your friends and associates at BlogPaws conferences? Stay connected in the Community. If you've never been to a BlogPaws conference, the community is the best place to get involved. Oh, and it's free. I just learned about protecting my blog's photos from a discussion there yesterday.

Separate Not Equal: Keep a home office separate from the rest of your abode if at all possible.

Unchain Yourself: DVTs (deep venous thrombosis) aka blood clots are a leading cause of death in those with sedentary lifestyles. Get up and move about. There’s no invisible chain keeping you tethered to the desk.

Reach Out and Touch Someone: Have contact with people outside your home, join a book club, visit family, call an old friend for a power walk. Work from home does not mean never leave your home.

Never Stop Learning: Keep up with trends, changes, and educational advancements in your field of choice. You’re never too old to learn.

What Part of No Don’t You Understand: Inform family and friends of your hours, that working from home is the same as working in a real office. Ask that they respect your wishes.

Have a Plan: Make a schedule of your day, hour by hour. Work a lunch break in and plenty of stretch breaks. Stick to it. Would you fold laundry at the office in town? Probably not, so don’t let household chores interfere. 

Sit up Straight: Do an ergonomic assessment of your work station and be sure you are seated properly to avoid health problems that come with sitting and typing (i.e. carpal tunnel syndrome)

Bone bowlFor me, it doesn't matter where a person works. If they are quality, dedicated, and get the job done, location is not as important as it was in say, the days of Don Draper (reference: Mad Men). Of course, if you are a surgeon, I would think that's not an ideal virtual career, but the way the world is moving, one never knows.

 

 

  • http://www.somethingwagging.com Pamela

    Good reminder that working from home isn’t all fuzzy slippers and meeting friends for drinks in the late afternoon. 🙂
    In my work as a housing counselor, I learned a lot about how different people structure their lives. In my small college town, many people work from home in a variety of jobs. They might spend a few hours working for someone else, run an online business, and do some consulting.
    Many people devise these different income streams because they are a trailing spouse whose partner came for a job or grad school. But it has the benefit of being very flexible and creative.
    Unfortunately, it doesn’t work so well for getting a mortgage. 🙁

  • http://www.robbihess.com Robbi

    Great topic, Carol… and timely as I am in the midst of baking cookies (I work from home so I can do that) the caveat is that rather than taking my hour-long lunch and yes, I do make certain I get away from the computer and have lunch and other breaks, if I decide to mess around with baking and other tasks, I either “make up” my work day in the beginning or the end to get a full day in. I also have a to-do list that I set up the night before to make certain I am getting through my tasks for my clients.
    As for getting a mortgage, Pamela, my accountant told me to set myself up as an LLC and to pay myself a wage through the payroll company. This helps me prove that I am drawing a salary and can apply for credit, etc. if I need it.
    Working from home requires discipline but I wouldn’t change it for the daily commute!

  • http://www.fidoseofreality.com Carol Bryant

    “As for getting a mortgage, Pamela, my accountant told me to set myself up as an LLC and to pay myself a wage through the payroll company. This helps me prove that I am drawing a salary and can apply for credit, etc. if I need it.
    Working from home requires discipline but I wouldn’t change it for the daily commute!”
    Exactly!!!
    Excellent advice, Robbi. Telecommute is the way many are going now and in 5 years the percentages of folks that will telecommute is supposed to explode.

  • https://twitter.com/ericDshannon Eric Shannon

    Yes, this is right on point. I’ve been self employed for 5 years now, rotating between offices and working from home. I love the term “the drift” because it’s so true. It’s easy to get sucked into a whirpool of non-productivity at home. Great tips on avoiding it, although I disregard the “dress for success” part – I’m dressed like a total slob right now.

  • http://www.fidoseofreality.com Carol Bryant

    Eric – love it “dressed like a slob.” There is something about my mindset when I get dressed – not dressed up, mind you. But out of my “Minnesota Vikings” bedshirt and into jeans that mentally changes me 😉
    I’m not the only one either and good to hear from folks telecommuting. http://www.inc.com/articles/2010/02/the-office-telecommute.html

  • http://puppyintraining.com/ Colby

    Those are some great tips. I’ve been working from home for about 6 months now and I actually prefer going into the office versus working at the home office. Maybe I just haven’t hit my stride yet. The one huge advantage is I get to spend a lot more time with the dogs. My biggest issue is separating work from non-work. I tend to always be working. I think I just need to set my work hours.

  • http://www.fidoseofreality.com Carol Bryant

    That was one of my biggest challenges, Colby. I love the flexibility and yet, indeed one can merge the two world quite easily. I shut my office door, going so far as to have a door hanger on it that says “are you working now?” Good luck with everything.

  • http://www.DoodiePack.com Kristin Elliott- Doodie Pack

    Loved this piece Carol! I do agree…discipline, and working and knowing it is OK not to work after 5. Sometimes I let the “office” stay open into family time. IT is a balancing act- which, when orchestrated, can be a successful experience.

  • http://www.romeothecat.com Caroline

    I have five pairs of black yoga pants and five white t-shirts – my work uniform!

  • http://opcatchat.blogspot.com caren gittleman

    I’m more with Caroline…when I read the “get dressed for work” or something to that effect I was thinking “uh-oh”…
    Also…sometimes I HAVE to do laundry or whatever in between, I have a husband who does NOTHING and I mean NOTHING around the house.
    It is important to point out also that working from home doesn’t end at 5pm or begin at 9am….it is EASILY a 16 hr day. At least in my world!

  • http://www.fidoseofreality.com Carol Bryant

    Amen to that, Caren. I can relate to the long days but I love what I do and have such a passion for it, that it fuels me. I do have to set a stopwatch to step away.
    For the dress up part, I just mean out of pj’s. I was doing that in the beginning but putting shorts or jeans on changed my mindset. I think it was psychological more than anything.