I recently joined the growing segment of professionals and entrepreneurs that are working from home. Working from home has some obvious advantages: you get to spend more time with your family, you avoid expensive, frustrating commutes and you get to make sales calls in your jeans or sweats, depending on the mood of the day.
To have success working from home, you need to realize that your home is set up for your personal life, not your professional life. At the office you have all the resources you need to get your job done; at home, you have to decide between what you need, what you can afford and what space allows. At work you have co-workers; at home you have family.
As I was setting up my home office, I found an article by David Heilbronner, a principal at WorkteQ in Framingham, Massachusetts. I found his tips quite helpful for anyone considering telecommuting or working from home. Here are some ideas he mentioned to help you get off to a good start:
1.Set up a designated office – even if it’s just part of a room. When you walk in that area, consider yourself to be punching-in for the day. Make sure the rest of your family respects this area and treats it as your “Corporate Headquarters.” Set up your office hours and stick with them. This will help you distinguish between your personal and professional life and prevent you from getting sidetracked by non-work-related distractions.
2.Designate one outside space or third space as an alternative office or meeting space. Some people use coffee shops; others actually rent office and meeting space by the hour. While etiquette experts say it’s fine to work from home, clients may feel uncomfortable when asked to meet at your home (unless you have a separate office space with a separate entryway). Whether it’s the local coffee shop, or even better, a rent-by-the-hour meeting and office space, meeting with clients on the outside of your home office creates a professional impression while still allowing you to retain the freedom of the work-at-home lifestyle.
3.While one of the much-touted advantages of working at home is the ability to work in your pajamas, avoid that temptation and get dressed. Getting dressed symbolizes the beginning of the day and helps get you into work mode.
4.Install a separate telephone line for your business. If this is not possible, answer your phone in a professional manner during your business hours.
5.Avoid isolation by joining professional organizations, chambers of commerce, or a business networking groups. Also, consider renting space occasionally or even once a week from temporary office space providers.
6.Meet people face-to-face every so often. Even though technology has enabled us to work in virtual space, the power of the face-to-face encounter cannot be underestimated. If you have co-workers, go to lunch. If you work for yourself, be sure to find others who do the same and meet regularly for coffee or lunch.
7.Get broadband cable or DSL. These services are no longer considered luxuries. Your clients and colleagues expect you to have fast Internet access and the ability to view rich websites and receive large files in your email.
8.Consider going wireless. Why tie yourself down to one corner of your office? A wireless router and card for your laptop can be had for around $100 and will give you great flexibility. Once you have a card, you can stay connected while on the road by stopping by one of the growing number of wireless “Hotspots” available in cafes, hotels and airports.
9.Protect yourself. Make sure you have the latest anti-virus software and keep it updated. Anti-spy software is now just as critical as anti-virus software. Lavasoft’s Ad-aware and Spybot Search and Destroy can both be downloaded for free at download.com. Also, consider a personal firewall. Zonealarm, McAfee, and Symantec are just a few of the popular packages available.
10.Consider hiring your own personal “computer geek.” You have a plumber, electrician, and a handyman to maintain and fix all of your household appliances, so why treat your computer any differently? Computer technicians typically charge from $65 to $125 per hour (just like a plumber) and offer a range of services from keeping your computer and software up to date to installing wireless networks and firewalls. Best of all, they come to you in your home office. Call someone BEFORE you lose your hard drive so that they can be ready for any unforeseen events.
If you take the time to plan ahead and do things smart, you’ll find that working from home can be a convenient, productive and rewarding alternative to a traditional office environment.