Working From a Home Office

 The home office

The home office

I don't talk much about my day job, though I may start in the next few months. I manage marketing content for several hundred digital signage units across the country. For the past few years, I've been doing this from home.

Schedule

Initially I got up, walked a few feet, and plopped down in my office chair in my pajamas. I though this was pretty cool until I started noticing that I was working long past five, still in my pajamas. After dinner, I'd sit back down at my desk and either work, or screw around online. Obviously, that wasn't going to fly long-term. If I had kept that up I'd have ended up being known as the elusive hermit digital signage guy.

 My commute

My commute

The solution was to treat working from home almost the same as working in an office. Now, I get up in the morning, shower, get dressed, have breakfast, etc. then plop down in my office chair. At noon, I get up and have lunch--anywhere but my desk. Preferably, I go out for lunch. It's good to have a break from the house. When I'm done working for the day, I kill Windows. (Our digital signage software only runs on Windows, so I have Windows installed via Parallels on my MacBook.) Shutting down Parallels is essentially the same as closing my work laptop. There have to be clean lines between work time and personal time.

I actually used IFTTT to make the Phillips Hue lights in my office flash at Noon and again at 5pm. That way, no matter how focused I am, I know it's time to either take a break, or knock off for the day.

Productivity

When I first started working from home, I worried whether or not I had the discipline to get everything done amidst countless distractions. Eventually, I relized I had the opposite problem. It was difficult for me to separate work time from home time and I was working far more than I should've been.

Distractions were actually less frequent at home than they were in the office. Nobody stopped by my desk to chat (other than the dog or the cat,) and being able to crank the stereo without having to wear headphones was awesome. I've never been able to find a set of headphones that didn't eventually give me a headache after a few hours.

I deal with large video files on a regular basis, and downloading them through the proxy and over our corporate network was maddeningly slow. Additionally, I would hog branch bandwidth when I was in the office. Now if I have something large to download, I can do it outside the corporate network. This speeds things up substantially throughout the day.

Generally, I work 8-5, but since our corporate office is on the East Coast, there are days I find myself working 5-2. I've never been a morning person, but I actually enjoy being off at 2pm and having the afternoon to get out of the house.

Communication

This is one area I haven't mastered yet. We don't do a lot of video conferencing, so there are actually new people in the Marketing department I've never seen. I do have an office phone, so calling is simple enough, but I'm working on making video conferencing more of a standard than an exception.

There is something to be said about being surrounded by colleagues all day in an office setting. Creative collaboration is more of a side effect, and not something you have to schedule as a conference call. If you work from home as part of a corporate group, it's important to keep in touch with the other group members.

There are entire days I actually don't talk to another human being. I don't recommend this. If noon rolls around and you haven't used your voice, call your mom and say hi. Talking to the dog or the cat helps a little, but is no substitute for human interaction.

Evernote Business or shared notebooks are a huge help as far as communications go. Keep information pertinent to the team in a shared notebook so everyone has it at their fingertips.

Conclusion

Despite some of the drawbacks, I love working from home. I save a fair amount of money by not having to drive into work every day, I get a flexible dress code (no pajamas, though,) and am able to be more productive by not being throttled by a corporate network.

What about you? Do you work from home? What tips would you offer to someone who is struggling to make it work for them?