By Lea Hensel, UNI Business and Community Services
I have been working from home for almost eight years. I have a very love/hate relationship with the situation. And I’ve learned that giving advice about working from home is very similar to giving advice about parenting. What works for me, may not work for you because there are so many different scenarios for working from home. Those that freelance or consult. Those that telecommute and make their own hours. Those that telecommute and have set hours. Those that live far away from their office and never have actual office days. And some whose office is in the same city. Some are only part-time, others are full-time.
I fall into those scenarios in that I telecommute, full-time and live two hours from the office. I spend one day a week in the office, and the other four at home.
I was recently at a networking event and had multiple people ask me questions about working from home. Especially when people find out I have a toddler they get really curious how that works. For me, it’s four words - full-time day care.
Some moms and dads can swing working from home with their kids and I applaud them. If I worked from home for myself, I could maybe swing half-time day care but my hours are 8:00-5:00 Monday-Friday. I have conference calls and weekly commutes. I couldn’t manage the kiddo being home with work. If you can, please, share your secrets with me!
Anyway, one of the people at the event said she’s considering starting to work from home and was wondering how to make it work. Like I said before, what works for me may not work for you, but after eight years, here is some of the information I shared with her.
It can be lonely.
Since I live two hours away, I am only in the office one day a week. The other days I am at my house. My quiet, quiet house. This definitely involves the love/hate relationship. On my days at home, there are far less interruptions. Nobody is popping into my office randomly and since most communication is through email, I can choose what is high priority or can be done later.
However, it is very quiet. If you’re the type of person that needs the noise, even the background noise of working in an office, working from home will be a big transition. There are options though. Many communities now have coworking spaces where you can work as little or as much as you want surrounded by other people. So if your office is not nearby, it’s a great alternative if you need that background noise and interaction.
It can be harder to leave work at the end of the day.
This is definitely a personality one. If it’s hard to shift your brain away from work at the end of the day, having your work in your house can be difficult. Especially on challenging days, it is tempting to just keep working to get the project finished or problem resolved but that can also lead down a rabbit hole of being so focused on work that it’s hard to turn around until the next day.
The cloud makes it easier.
When I started working from home in 2009, the cloud wasn't a big thing yet. Since then my office has transitioned to Google for email and use of Drive and it makes a world of difference! When you’re collaborating on documents or just needing to share files, it makes not being in the office much easier. Being able to share screens or video conference when needed makes it a lot easier.
It takes a village.
Or at least your family or roommates. If it’s more than just you in the house, whether that’s a significant other, kid(s), other family or roommates, it takes everyone knowing boundaries. My husband is a teacher, with teacher hours and teacher breaks and my son’s daycare follows teacher schedules. So they are home often during my normal 8:00-5:00 working hours. Whether that’s at the end of the day, every day, or on holidays and breaks. When they are home, it is much more challenging to work because it is just more distracting. We have a general understanding in our house that during my working hours, they stay downstairs.
So if you’re considering working from home, make sure to talk to your family and roommates about what you will need in terms of space and reducing distractions.
Like I said in the beginning, what works for me may not work for you. Find your balance and stick with that. For me, it’s a love/hate relationship. I never forget my lunch at home, but I also miss the interactions and atmosphere of working in an office full-time. Do you work from home currently? What works for you?