By Karen Hendricks
It’s always interesting to see the reactions of others when they learn that I work from home. They usually have a picture in their heads that falls into one of the following categories:
- “Awesome! I’m so happy for you.” (These people truly “get it” and are usually friends who are moms too.)
- “Really? That’s great. What do you do all day?” (These people think I just own a home office for the fun of it.)
- Oh, how nice—that sounds comfy.” (These people doubt that I am actually doing WORK. They probably think I wear fuzzy slippers all day. Sigh. I wish…)
The fact is…
More and more Americans are working from home. According to the latest numbers from the US Census Bureau, about 13.4 million Americans worked from home at least one day a week in 2010, an increase of about 1.6 million from 2000. That accounts for almost 10% of the entire U.S. workforce.
For me, working from home has provided a multitude of benefits. I feel very blessed to do what I love and love what I do. Owning my own business, a communications firm, has its share of challenges but the benefits are plentiful:
- Zero commuting! No driving, no gas money required, no parking costs or hassles, no wear and tear on the car except for appointments. You have more time to spend on work and there’s no loss of time from commuting.
- The ability to set your terms and limits. In terms of a workload, I try to stay between 30-40 hours per week. Owning your own business also means you can choose clients and projects. Not that I say “no” that often, but if a project or client doesn’t resonate with me or doesn’t represent something I believe in, I have the ability to “pass” and say “thanks for thinking of me, but no.” I enjoy maintaining a variety of clients who challenge my work skills on several levels, involving a mix of marketing, PR, and freelance writing, with a dash of photography.
- Being motivated has its rewards. Freelance work, especially freelance writing, relies heavily on skills like creativity and perseverance. Working for yourself can provide a great sense of satisfaction when freelance assignments are accepted by editors and magazines for example.
- All the comforts of your home office. It’s a wonderful feeling to be “at home” and at ease while you work. And you don’t have the temptation of co-workers bringing calorie-rich doughnuts or muffins into work. (But you can do that all by yourself if you wish!)
- Few interruptions. I find that my work flows better without the frequent interruptions experienced in a typical office setting. This is most beneficial for writing!
- Flexibility in scheduling. I try to pace myself in order to power through my work projects Monday through Thursday so that I can give myself every Friday off. It doesn’t work every week, but it’s a great feeling when it does. Friday serves as my “back-up day” to finish projects, make calls, or tie up loose ends. If I can complete my work by noontime on Friday, I still feel a great sense of accomplishment.
- Family flexibility. Being able to schedule around my children’s sporting events, doctor appointments, etc, is simply invaluable. Being at home when my children arrive home from school is also a bonus.
It’s not all fun and games
Working from home isn’t for everyone, however, and there are some pitfalls to avoid:
- Maintain a structure to your day. It’s helpful to set “work hours” for yourself and then stick to them. Be disciplined.
- That being said, build small breaks into your day or else you’ll burn out. Reward yourself with several small breaks, just 5 or 10 minutes to take a short walk outside, make a personal phone call, or grab a healthy snack. These pockets of time can also be very helpful with household chores such as throwing a load of laundry into the washing machine or popping dinner into the oven. Switching gears and taking breaks is reinvigorating, especially when you incorporate physical activity. Make sure you don’t “forget” to return to work.
- Set goals for yourself. Set daily goals every morning and weekly goals every Monday. Check them frequently to make sure you’re on task.
- Ask for family support. During your work hours, make sure your family knows your primary focus is on your work. (Would it be wrong to tell your kids to only interrupt in the case of a fire? Hmmmm…)
- Define your work area. Make is as functional and professional as possible so that it helps you set the tone for productive workdays.
- This is the big one: casual vs. professional attire. Just because you’re working from home, doesn’t mean you should wear sweatpants or fuzzy slippers. It’s great to have the option to dress casually, but this might impact your work performance (just as the tip above advises you to create an environment conducive to productive workdays). Be comfortable but not too casual. Now… where did I put my fuzzy slippers…. under my desk? Just kidding. 😉
Are you self-employed? Do you work from home? Please pass along your tips and strategies too!