I need your opinions on working from home

I currently work for one of a kinda wacky group of government agencies in Indiana. I’m applying for a job with the not-for-profit organization that serves these agencies. While a goodly part (say half) of my time would be spent on the road visiting individual agencies, the job itself would be based out of a home office.

Working from home sounds really awesome –
[bouncy head bobbing] I could go to work in my jammies! My commute time would be zero! [/bouncy head bobbing]

and at the same time, it scares the bejeezus out of me.
[genetically programmed worrying] But what if I have trouble getting motivated to actually work? How am I going to draw the line between home time and work time? [/genetically programmed worrying]

If you currently work from home or ever have worked from home, I NEED YOU! What do you think are the best and worst things about working from home? What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in working effectively? How have you coped with it? Anything else I should know / consider / run away from whilst screaming at the the top of my lungs?

The biggest productivity-killer, for me, is the notion that since I’m home anyway, I can take breaks from work to noodle about in the garden, clean house, catch up on phone calls, walk the dogs, go online, do laundry…

To be productive, you need to strict with yourself about setting work hours, and sticking to them!

The best thing is no commute. That means two extra hours a day for me, plus reduced wear and tear on my car and the environment. I grab my coffee, fire up the computer, and go. Another benefit is that I can crank the stereo to my heart’s content while working. I can work from five in the morning until around noon if the mood strikes, and have the rest of the day free. And, indulging the archetypal subconscious uber-dream, I have attended meetings while wearing no pants.

As Carina pointed out, it’s very easy to become distracted. On the days I work at home, I have to battle the siren song of Win Ben Stein’s Money and Kids In The Hall. If I go shopping or anything, I count that as my lunch break and act accordingly.

Another drawback is possibly not having all the tools that you need at home. My company has been very generous in setting me up with equipment at home, but they haven’t provided a roll plotter for printing proofs, and it would be impractical anyway.

To draw the line between home and work, it helps if you have a specific place in the house in which to do your work. Set a schedule, and keep an eye on the hours. As far as judging the success of working from home, just keep an eye on the results. Are you still completing everything you need to complete in a timely fashion, and with the same level of quality you achieve at the office? If you can answer yes to that, you’re probably doing ok.

Great question(s).

This is the hardest part of working from home and it’s good that you’re thinking about it before you even start. I have a few thoughts for you.

Working in your pj’s may be fun for a while but IMO it’s one of the things that starts to blur the lines between work and home. Sometimes I even change clothes work/home to convince my brain that they are different things. If I don’t guard against it I start to feel burned out.

Watch out for Regis & Kelly, The View, soaps, and so on. The ability to watch TV at work is just one of the double edges swords you will have to deal with.

Make sure what ever phone you use for business is cordless, nothing embarrasses me more that talking to a customer when the UPS guy rings the doorbell and my dogs flip out. If you are cordless you can walk to a bedroom/office to talk.

Enjoy it! You will have the freedom to do things that will make your friends puke if they find out.

I love, love, love telecommuting. I second the points everyone else has made - maintain self-discipline (I never turn on the tube; I couldn’t possibly concentrate enough with the distraction), including a schedule and a designated work place. Surveys indicate two drawbacks frequently cited by telecommuters, in addition to the need for self-discipline: a tendency to not know when to stop working, and being omitted from the workplace grapevine. You can read a lot about telecommuting, and find a lot of links to other sources of information, at http://www.gilgordon.com/

I just started doing it 3 days a week, and I agree to everything previously said.

I’ve found that the best discipline thing for me is a kitchen timer. I set the thing for an hour, plunk my butt in a chair and really work. When the timer goes off I go be distracted for a little bit, then come back and start over again. I started putting hash marks on post-its to track the number of hours.

I find that this works much better for me than setting specific hours. I’m a writer and sometimes you just get stuck, so it’s nice to be able to go sleep on it for an hour or two, or go take a yoga class or something. I like to get up and put in my first hour or two immediately, then go for a walk or eat breakfast. I find that I can do my most focused learning at that time, then take a break and digest it, and when I come back it’s easier to move on to my next task because the gears have been spinning for a while.

The other advantages are that I seem to get a lot more done on the at home days. I can schedule medical/dental/whatever appointments at any time and it doesn’t matter. I can run random errends in the middle of the day when the lines are shorter. I think telecommuting probably gives me back 4-5 hours of life back per day.

The ‘disadvantage’ is that I am definitely not on the office grapevine or social calendar. I’m starting to not see it as a disadvantage any more either because that crap is really draining and distracting - and in the end doesn’t really affect my life anyway.

I can see it being a problem if you are really social and like having work buddies and people to hang out in the breakroom with. It could get lonely.

I gotta be the other side of the coin here. To be frank, working at home has cost me dearly.

For years, I’ve only done the bare minimum to get by. No structure will kill you in a weeks if you let it. your friends doing something that’ll keep you out late? Who cares, you can work whenever tomorrow. Your friends want to take you to the afternoon ballgame? What do you care, take the day off. It goes on and on. I’m so quilty of slacking, it’s downright wrong.

I don’t have any good advice, cause I don’t follow any myself. What they have said previously is all good, and I myself have thought about things liek that alot, it’s just the inititive to do them I lack. I used to get up at noon, do what I had to do then piss the rest of the day off. The guilt has caught up to me though. I make much more than my friends, and I spend about a quarter of the time doing it in. But, like I said, the guilt and the feelings of total worthlessness has set in on me though. I do try harder now, 10:00 is the latest I’ll sleep and I just gotta feel like I’m a part of the outside world…Just don’t start down the road to taking advantage of your position, you’ll end up like me.

Really, I think it depends on the person.

When I’m at home, unless I have a deadline looming (for a freelance piece), I almost always find other things to do. For a really good example, I should probably be working on a newspaper article right now, but instead I’m typing away here on the SDMB!

When I was off of my regular job for a week after knee surgery, I thought I’d get a lot of reading done (I write book reviews as a freelancer). Know what? I didn’t get a single page read. Instead, I propped myself in front of the TV and watched a whole bunch of stupid shows (I did find out that the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon was back on the air, though, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time).

This is, frankly, one thing that worries me about whether I can progress to a full-time freelancer. (The main thing is $$$$$, but this is a close second.)

One thing I forgot to mention:

You may also hear from friends/relatives/whoever that since you work out of the home, you obviously have time to go to lunch/visit/whatever. If you belong to non-profit groups, they will almost certainly try to hit you up to do more work. If you live out of town from your family, they may expect you to be able to visit more. Etc.

Thank you all very much for your advice. Sparteye, thanks for the link. I poked around the site a little – it looks really great, and I’ll take a more thorough look a little later today when my brain is more functional. AmericanWarMachine, that’s what I worry about, and that’s why I’m looking for help now. Thanks for showing me the other side of the coin. If I am hired, I would be working to help all of my current colleagues – pretty much all of my professional contacts. Screwing up would not only hurt them, but my chances for future employment would be nonexistant.

The official position announcement should have gone out yesterday. I’m taking notes on the great advice offered above – keep it coming!

I’ve worked about 50-75% from home for 4.5 years (it varies depending on the time of year how much I’m at home). Last fall, my husband started working from home full time as well.

We’ve found we really need a schedule that we can stick to as much as possible to get things done. Sure, stuff comes up, but try to do your work during certain hours if you can at all. It doesn’t always have to be 8-5 but having regular hours can be a help.

Keep in touch via phone/email/whatever frequently with the office, especially if you’re the only one in your job who’s telecommuting. That way, they know what you’re doing and you stay visible AFA job performance, etc goes.

Having a special office helps a lot. I had one, but we’ve since remodeled and it’s now an extension of our living room. If you have one, you can close the door on the dishes,laundry, and TV and get to work.

HTH! I’ll add more if I think of it later :slight_smile:


I could never do it. I’d love to, but I couldn’t. I just know it. I don’t have the self-discipline.

Mr. Cranky is a different story. He’s been doing this for some time.

As others have said, self-discipline is important. Mr. Cranky almost always gets showered and dressed (no working in jammies). If he screws around during the day, he does some work in the evening (this was before we became parents, though.) In fact, for a while he got so he’d nap during the day and then get up in the middle of the night and do work for a couple of hours. He was fantastically productive from 2-5 a.m.

The big downside for him was lack of contact with people. It sounds like you might still get this on the days you travel. I hope so. Mr. Cranky isn’t a social extrovert or anything, but there is something to be said for interacting with people at work. When I come home he’s sometimes starved for stimulation and talk.

Oh yeah, here’s something I never knew (until I was home on maternity leave)–he has to field a LOT of telemarketing calls every day. It’s staggering. I never knew how many (and how disruptive they can be) because I was always gone during the day.

It does take disipline. Get up as if you were still driving to work, get dressed in “office clothes”, no jammies. Make sure to remove the TV, VCR, DVD players,and any books you’ve been meaning to read from your work space. Restrain yourself from saying “of course your kid can come play at my house after school”.

I do all the office stuff for my self emplyed SO, and contrary to my original belief, my workday does not end at 5:00. Basically, if I am alive, I am at work. So, to compensate, I do not do any of the above. However, I am glad to be here. I do not miss having to get dressed up, commuting or office politics. And I get to sit on the boss’s face and not get into trouble. :slight_smile: