Big Lessons for Working from Home :: Cindy Frewen Wuellner
You’ve finally wrangled a few days of work-at-home from the boss. Or you’re now the boss and the grunt too. Like 47% of the population who want to work from home, you’ve found your freedom and now you’re faced with your first workday at home.
The freedom is terrifying.
To get you past that first Monday morning scream, you might want a few tips. Because at this point I’ve done it all. I’ve drudged through waiting tables, selling soap, sewing uniforms, and cubicle work; and I’ve owned the office. Now I gleefully occupy a corner of my house, having conquered the fears of the liberty-challenged.
1. Setting the Pace. You are the boss and the employee. We all know at the office, one or the other can be stupid but never both. Figure out when you hit your stride during the day and dedicate those hours to employee jobs, the real productivity, the big rock projects. The rest of the time, you can be the boss.
2. Home Alone. You are working alone. That is, unless you count the dog, fish, or couch. To kick my collaboration addictions, I create journal conversations, draw diagrams, take long runs and walks, post trial ideas on my blog, check the twitter clan, and have built a network of worthy reviewers and co-conspirators. You really are not alone. You just work alone far more than before.
3. Imaginary Time. You no longer participate in daily rituals like rush hour, water cooler chats, lunches with the gang, commutes, or even normal dress-up routines. All told, that’s easily four hours of saved time per day, right? That’s like going to Macy’s sale of 30% off, spending $100, and expecting $30 cash. Not in your wallet, is it? Same deal: that four hours a day is gone, poof! You will never know where it went. There is no savings; there’s only convenience.
4. Power Door. You are going to need a door. Or a crystal clear sign. I have an upstairs room with no external connections where I seriously work. Then I have a downstairs desk where I do everything else and quasi-connect to family life. So I see both situations. The door solves everything. If you don’t have your separate space, make a truly obnoxious sign that says: Do Not Interrupt the Interrupter in Chief.
5. Double Used Home. You’ll be buying more groceries, toilet paper, and electricity. Call these purchases work-at-home expenses. It also means that your house gets a little dirtier with more dishes to wash. Unless of course, you never notice dust bunnies anyway. Then it’s just normal. Will a future buyer ask: has this house been driven hard or been a ‘Sunday drive’ kind of house? You’re not going to squeal on me, are you?
6. Real Clothes Wednesday. More laundry, less dry cleaning. More tennies, fewer hard heels. More pony tails, fewer blow dries. As I sit here in my running shorts and hoodie, I remember when I thought I would always wear suits to work, even at home. *laugh* Trips are bundled to minimize days in full regalia. Hey, I’ll be in real clothes on Wednesday; lunch then?
7. No is Beautiful. I guard my time like I never did when I was working in a team. Saying no to a project was tantamount to putting people out hungry. We aimed for yes. Yes to that new police station, school renovation, downtown planning project, the neighborhood group, design juries, and various boards or committees. Now I monitor promises because I’m it. You’ll learn yes-with-limits and, sometimes painfully, no.
8. Structure or Not. We skipped the apprenticeship program for at-home work, didn’t we? You are making it up. What time to start, stop, and take breaks? When is something ready to go? In project teams and schedules, the rhythm set the office mood. Now the rhythm is my rhythm. At the same time, the family has a different drum beat. Two tips: put your major due dates and meetings on the family calendar. And don’t start the laundry on a work day. It will wait.
9. Not-Spent Money. Live-work at home is cheaper. Lunch at home, slouch clothes, minimal dry cleaning, less gas, parking, wear-and-tear on the car (or dump the car) will soon offset the added desk, computer, power, and groceries. Shall you splurge? The first check: scan it, frame the copy, and then go back to work. The first $100,000: nice dinner, then back to work. And start figuring out when you should sell the business – 2 years, 10 years, longer? Make a plan; build your assets. Even if you keep it longer, do it by choice. Invest in freedom.
Every day that you get up and work in your hoodie and tennis shoes is a good one. When you pick up your kids from school or stop for an hour to shoot a game of hoops or take a run, be happy.
Working from home just shrank your ecological footprint dramatically. No office waiting for you all night, no house sitting empty all day. It’s full occupancy.
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Dr. Cindy Frewen Wuellner, FAIA, LEED AP, founded and operated an architecture firm for 20 years before merging it with another design firm in order to shift her focus to long-term strategies for designing and building cities. Example projects are Kansas City Downtown Civic Mall Master Plan for 60 blocks of the central business district; Kansas City, Missouri Police Department Facilities Master Plan; Charles E. Whittaker United States Courthouse Interiors; and the Ilus W. Davis Park, a civic park in downtown Kansas City. She teaches in the Graduate Program in Futures Studies at the University of Houston as an adjunct professor and at the University of Kansas.