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Ask Slashdot: What Are Your Tips For Working From Home? 480

ichard writes "In a couple of months I'm going to start working from home full-time. I've been thinking about the obvious things like workspace ergonomics, but I'm sure there are more subtle considerations involved in a zero-minute commute. What are other Slashdot readers' experiences and recommendations for working from home? How do you stay focused and motivated?"
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Ask Slashdot: What Are Your Tips For Working From Home?

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  • Close the door. (Score:5, Informative)

    by GiorgioG ( 225675 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:07PM (#39407799) Homepage

    If you don't have an office in your home, get a different job. Close the door and make sure your spouse/family knows that between XX:XX and XX:XX hours, you're working, you're not home.

    It takes some getting used to...but they'll get it eventually. Just keep the door closed.

    • Re:Close the door. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Finallyjoined!!! ( 1158431 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:08PM (#39407827)
      Absolutely, you beat me to it.

      Working from home is nigh on impossible unless you have a door to close.
      • Re:Close the door. (Score:4, Informative)

        by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:35PM (#39408163) Homepage

        Working from home is nigh on impossible unless you have a door to close.

        I get by just fine without a door. You can put your headphones on and tune out the rest of the world.

        You can also rent space in one of those shared offices. It's cheap and a lot easier to claim the deduction. The IRS rules really need to catch up with the internet age. A lot of people are working at home but can't understand the bizarre rules and trying to slog through an 8829. If you work at home give people a standard office deduction. It doesn't matter if you work in a bedroom or the garage.

        • Re:Close the door. (Score:4, Informative)

          by PRMan ( 959735 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:40PM (#39408207)
          The lack of door may be fine for YOU to ignore your family. But it's not nearly as good for keeping THEM from bothering you. Out of sight, out of mind. I can actually lock my office door (previous owner). Sometimes, my youngest was coming in so often I locked it.
        • Obviously you've never worked from home. Headphones - my arse!

          Also I take it you've never rented space at a "Regus" shared office either? Not even headphones will insulate you from the nickel & diming that goes on. "Pencil sharpened? That will be 2 bucks please", "wiping sweat from your fevered brow? That will be 30 bucks please, up front of course".
          • Re:Close the door. (Score:5, Interesting)

            by WaywardGeek ( 1480513 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @08:49PM (#39409133) Journal

            I am the least wanted presence of any employee I know. When I sold most of my stock in the small company I founded to our new CEO and major share holder, the exiting CEO said things would work out better if I worked from home. Six years later, they keep an empty desk which is theoretically mine to honor my employment, but I've been working at home all this time. Now, I don't disagree with them, but it has been quite an adjustment. The first two years I would have agreed with the other posters about having an office and a door - I did. We've got a stupidly large house, a mistake I will not make again, which was motivated from years of too little space in Silicon Valley. Eventually, I missed the personal contact with people, and I love my family. I've given over the office to the kids, and we call it the "Children's Lounge". I put an Xbox 360, and hi-def TV, and a computer for each of them in there, and they love it. I work in a lazy-boy chair with my feet up (I got blood clots in my leg and lungs from working too long without moving). I now work in the family room, and life is much better than when I was closed off in my solitary office.

            Part of the adjustment was training my family to understand that for 8-ish hours most days I'm going to sit in that damned chair and ignore whatever it is they want from me. There was about a year where I'd say my wife seemed to resent me "always being at my computer", though it was only about 8 hours a day. Now days, I like working from home. I know a lot more about my kid's lives just from casual listening while working.

            Now, I take issue with the guy who thought headphones were a dumb idea. I was blessed with exactly Steve Job's shaped ears, so even though I hate Apple, I go through about two pairs of iPod headphones a year, which I power with my Linux/Windows dual boot laptop and my awesome Galaxy Nexus phone. I listen to audio books I create with TTS synthesizers, and it's just a huge improvement in my quality of life. They don't block my hearing like "in-ear" headphones, so I can keep them in a lot of the time.

            Another major issue is training your co-workers to work with you remotely. For example, software I've been working on with a team remotely will be installed on some sales guys machines tomorrow for the first time. I've asked that before installing our software, that each machine have the latest Skype installed, and that voice and remote desktop sharing tested. I can do better support with Skype than standing in someone's office looking over their shoulder. Getting people to actually switch to on-line communication can be pretty hard. I've been commuting twice a week to a pretty remote office (3-4 hours driving a day) to build relationships with our excellent but naturally social phobic engineering team, partly so they wont feel so weird talking to me on Skype. Also, having your team mates just a click away all day is wonderful. It makes it almost feel like you're at the office. I have my family and my team mates. However, I don't get away very often for an after work beer or two.

      • Re:Close the door. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DJRumpy ( 1345787 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:40PM (#39408209)

        I see this type of post every time, and after a decade of telecommuting myself, I can tell you it's pretty much bunk with a few provisos. Unless you are easily distracted buy any sound, then you don't need a work cave to work in. Your first few weeks at home will seem like a holiday. Enjoy them while they last, because while every noise will initially be distracting, movies on TV, tunes on the radio, eventually reality sets in and your deadlines start looming and all of that will become background noise.

        If you are concerned initially you can invest in an office and then work your way out of it to a more comfortable setting. if you are typical worker, then you already face typical distractions at work and being at home is no different. Depending on your tolerance level you may need to abstain from things like a TV in the background. Test your limits.

        Communication is key. Is is very easy to become isolated at home. Avoid doing everything by email. Odd as it sounds, that becomes more attractive the longer you work from home.

        Take breaks. Although it's common to take breaks while in an office, it's much more difficult to do at home oddly enough. You tend to be 'on' for your full 8 hours, even when eating. Stop every so often, get out for lunch. Make yourself do so at least a time or two a week.

        Avoid scheduling service calls while working if possible, especially with dogs (of applicable). It tends to throw your day into havoc with dogs barking, door bells ringing, maine people in your home asking questions, all while trying to do 'business'.

        Ensure you have a phone with a mute button. You will be surprised how often it becomes necessary when a family member or a pet is making noise while on conference calls

        Get the necessary gear for an IP Phone. Your cell bill will thank you.

        Ensure you have local admin on your workstation. This isn't always necessary for an office user, it can be very necessary for a home user with a need to tweak a setting without driving into the office to get some desktop person to 'fix' something you could easily do yourself.

        Organize everything in your calendar for both home and work. It is unavoidable that you will start scheduling things during your work day. Make absolutely certain you give yourself plenty of warning when there are possible conflicts. Also ensure that your work-mates will know when you are avail or not. IM is ideal for for presence. Make sure you use it. Ensure people honor your availability. It becomes VERY easy for people to assume you are always available since you are at home. Be polite but firm.

        Last but not least, enjoy it a little. Work in your PJ's, or even naked often, but be prepared for a video call at a moments notice if so equipped.

        Lastly, Avoid touching yourself while on conference or video calls. That's just creepy.

        • Re:Close the door. (Score:5, Informative)

          by DJRumpy ( 1345787 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @07:10PM (#39408467)

          Just realized I forgot one tidbit. If you do get an IP Phone, get a decent office quality bluetooth headset. I use a Plantronics CS50-USB. Makes walking around easy while working. Has at least a good 75-100 foot range in my home. Also has a mute button on the headset which is a must-have feature for household noise from family, pets, etc.

        • by marnues ( 906739 )

          Get the necessary gear for an IP Phone. Your cell bill will thank you.

          More than your cell bill, it will ensure that business calls route to the business phone, not your personal cell phone. If necessary, use call forwarding to your cell. I've learned from experience that there's nothing worse than passing a personal cell number around the office.

        • Lastly, Avoid touching yourself while on conference or video calls. That's just creepy.

          Yeah, and don't shit on your computer keyboard. That's just messy.

          Seriously, did you actually need to offer that piece of advice? Have you ever actually been on a video conference call when someone was having a crafty one off the wrist?

    • Re:Close the door. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Maniacal ( 12626 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:15PM (#39407921)
      Big +1 on this one. It's essential that your family/friends/etc recognize that when you're in there you're "at work" and need to be treated as such. That being said, be flexible if your company is. Sometimes when working from home I'll run and pickup my kid from school even though my wife usually does that. Just because he'll think it's cool that dad picked him up and it's a nice break in the day. My work is based on accomplishments, not hours so I have that flexibility and I use it.

      Couple of other things:

      1) Get ready for work! Don't just slump out of bed and jump in the chair. Eat breakfast, take a shower, get dressed. You'll be more productive, I guarantee it.
      2) Don't get caught in the trap of working too much. When your work is at home it can be hard to walk away from it. If you're done for the day, stay done.
      • Re:Close the door. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:25PM (#39408059)

        Sign up at a gym or something that gets you out for a reason and then schedule it. It can be flexible but don't spend all your time at work.

      • Re:Close the door. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:36PM (#39408173)

        Not me. I'm most productive immediately after I wake-up until I eat lunch. It makes no difference how I'm dressed. (Though I do need breakfast.)

        I'm not sure why working from home is such a "big deal". Our farming ancestors (or tailers, bakers, storeowners, etc) did it for 5000+ years. It's normal.

        • Farmers don't work from home. They work outside the home, frequently a rather large distance away (depending on how big their farm is). While this is obviously a little different from a 1-hour commute, it's still not exactly the same as being holed up in one of your house's bedrooms while your other family members are in the same house.

          The others are kinda similar: their work spaces and home spaces are physically separate, frequently with living quarters on a second floor over the shop.

      • Re:Close the door. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by frisket ( 149522 ) < minus herbivore> on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:40PM (#39408197) Homepage
        Add to that:

        3) Make your place of work (study, wherever) comfortable and pleasant to work in. You're going to be in there for many hours, so make it habitable.

        4) Arrange for whatever level of activity logging you need. At some stage, a PHB is going to ask why all these slackers work from home, how do we know they're working, etc etc ad nauseam; so you're going to have to be able to print off logs or a summary or something to show when you started and stopped throughout the day (I find regular commits and the svn log useful: YMMV).

      • 1) Get ready for work! Don't just slump out of bed and jump in the chair. Eat breakfast, take a shower, get dressed. You'll be more productive, I guarantee it.

        We're all different. I find that in the early morning I get more done if I jump straight into it. I eat an hour or so into things. I'd work in my underwear if the back of my chair didn't feel weird. If the above works for you, by all means do it. But it's not necessarily the best for everyone.

        2) Don't get caught in the trap of working too much. When your work is at home it can be hard to walk away from it. If you're done for the day, stay done.

        Again, we're all different. My middle of the day tends to be a lot of down time. No idea why. I kick off the day strong, sag in the middle, and then I get some great work done after the kids are in bed. If you

    • Re:Close the door. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:25PM (#39408049) Homepage

      It takes some getting used to...but they'll get it eventually. Just keep the door closed.

      I don't have a family, but the last time I looked for an apartment (in San Francisco, where everything is expensive) I made sure to look for one where at least the bedroom has a door, for pretty much the same reason. Then I don't keep anything that resembles a workspace in the bedroom. The idea being that once I'm up and at 'em, I've transitioned into "work mode."

      There's another reason to keep one specific area of your home reserved as an office, too: Taxes. You can often write off that portion of your rent.

    • Re:Close the door. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:26PM (#39408067)
      Communicate 10 times more than you think necessary. Out of sight, out of mind. Everyone will forget you are there. So you'll be passed over for bonuses and promotions, and if there's any conflict with someone working in the office, they'll bad mouth you 1000 times and you'll never hear about it.

      I did it for a year, and it was great the first 6 months, but then my boss changed, and it was all downhill from there.
      • Re:Close the door. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by PRMan ( 959735 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:42PM (#39408225)
        Also, make sure you go in the office or at least video call them. They need to see your face in order to remember you are on the team.
      • Re:Close the door. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by wrook ( 134116 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @08:38PM (#39409085) Homepage

        For me the most important thing was having a presence. I had an IM client going all the time and was religious about updating my presence. If I was at the keyboard, it was obvious to anyone in the office. If I was away, it was obvious to everyone in the company. I was scrupulously honest about what I was doing. If I wanted to take a nap (which is easy to do from home), my status said, "Having a nap". Nobody cares what you do, but it can bother them if they don't know what it is. At work my manager can look over the cubicle wall and see that I'm at my desk. It can be uncomfortable if they can't do the same when teleconferencing.

        A couple of other people mentioned IP phones. I agree with this. Video is great too (as long as you have clothes on). You want to make your home office as approachable as your work cubicle. People can look to see if you're there, they can wander in to ask a quick question, or just shoot the shit. Even small things like checking in your code frequently (every hour or so) makes people realize you are there and gives them an indication for what you are working on.

        Sometimes you might think, "They don't *have* to know what I'm doing all the time." This is true, but the more different you are from the rest of the team, the harder it is for them to think of you as being on the team.

        One more quick tip. In my office there were a couple of shared responsibilities like cleaning the kitchen, etc. I used to come in once every couple of weeks for a face to face. When I was there, I always took a turn on those shared responsibilities. I don't benefit from them, but its just another way to show that I'm part of the team. Small things like this made a big difference, I think.

        I'd love to work from home again. I was incredibly productive. Right now I'm doing a different kind of job, but if I go back to programming (considering it) it would definitely be nice.

    • Re:Close the door. (Score:5, Informative)

      by ngrier ( 142494 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:42PM (#39408221)
      I'd say it you don't have to close the door but it's certainly good to have a door to close. A big part of that will depend on how much you have kids/spouse/partner around and how much you're normally on your own. the important part is to have a defined space. This helps you mentally and helps those around you know that when you're there, you're working. Knowing and establishing boundaries is important for both you and anyone else around. For some, moving a load of laundry might be a good break and help keep the household running. For others it might be too much of a distraction. Definitely stay away from the TV, inclinations to clean (I don't have this, but I know lots of people who say they would!). Other items to keep in mind:
      • *You need to up your communication with others in the office. You lose nuance as well as key day-to-day stuff that happens in passing. Not only to you want to make sure people are thinking of you, but that you're not caught unaware when all hell breaks loose at the office. Similarly, people need to know if you're going to be out - don't just disappear.
      • *Establish a routine. That way both you and those in the office know when you're "at work" and when you're not. Otherwise, you risk always being on call. An important part of this, as others have mentioned, typically includes, breakfast, showering, etc.
      • *Make sure you take breaks, lunch, etc. Just cause you're at home doesn't mean you should be working more than you were before. Most folks have small breaks built in - you chat en route to the bathroom, you linger a minute after a meeting, etc. It's important to give yourself a chance to have mental breaks as well as physical ones.
      • *Stay connected with colleagues in "meat space". Make sure you go to lunch, conferences, trade shows, whatever makes sense. If you're in the same geography as your office, check in (physically) regularly. If you're remote, make sure you seek out colleagues/friends in your same area so you can get out of the house every now and then. This also keeps your network up as you never know when you'll be looking for that next job or trying to win some client.
      • *Recognize that it's easy to get stir-crazy. This can be completely normal. Depending on how extroverted you are, you may get mildly depressed. If this happens, make sure you're meeting with people regularly. Make sure you call instead of email or IM. Suggest experimenting with video conferences. We all need some level of human contact and going for days on end without seeing a person isn't good.
      • *Recognize that you'll probably want/need a short mental break to read Slashdot, etc. This is fine. You're most likely not robbing the company of any more (and probably less) than you would in the office. On the other hand, know what's reasonable. If it starts to get to be an hour of your "working" day, folks may well notice a drop in productivity. Since you're less likely to have someone peering over your shoulder, you're going to have to self-enforce. If you can't do a good job, then look at getting software that limits your browsing, game-playing, etc. And if you can't figure that out, working from home probably isn't for you.
      • *Understand you'll need to be that much more careful about exercise and eating. Even if you drive to work, you're still going to walk from the car to teh office, walk around the office, etc. At home, you might do no more than go to the bathroom across the hall and wander into the kitchen two rooms away all day long. Sedentary !=healthy. If nothing else, go for a stroll around the neighborhood on lunch or in the evenings.
    • Re:Close the door. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by barc0001 ( 173002 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:48PM (#39408289)

      And as a corollary to that, make sure YOU know between XX:XX and YY:YY you're on the job. And more importantly, after YY:YY you're NOT on the job. This was something I always had trouble with when I worked from home. I'd sit down in front of the computer and start working, then go and throw a load of laundry in since it was there, and then work some more, then go have lunch in the kitchen, then work, go get the mail, do a few other 10-15 minute chores around the house and as a result of that feel that I should put more work time in and then next thing you know it's 9PM and even though I took breaks I still probably ended up working 9.5 hours and I feel burnt because I've been (mostly) sitting in front of a computer for 12 hours.

      That's why I like working outside of home, it gives clear work/home delineation (for the most part).

    • Two essentials: an office with a door, and a timeclock.

      And it'll really help if you develop a second personality: that of "team leader" who thinks of your other personality as a bit of a goof-off.

    • Re:Close the door. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Monday March 19, 2012 @08:01PM (#39408855) Homepage Journal

      It takes some getting used to...but they'll get it eventually.

      You presume much. I love my wife dearly, but after nearly a decade of frequent telecommuting, she'd still think nothing of asking me to run some long-and-involved errand in the middle of the workday:

      Her: If you're going to be at home, would you run up to Home Depot and look at paints for the hallway? They might have some nice colors at Sherwin-Williams, too. See which one you like best.
      Me: You remember that I have to do that project today, right? The one that I was telling you about last night when you asked why I looked stressed?
      Her: But you're at home today.
      Me: [bangs head on desk]

      A lot of it probably came from her father, who I sincerely believe thought that I was literally unemployed. He went to work every weekday of his life, by God, and that's how business works and that's all there is to it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:07PM (#39407807)

    For me, the most important thing was to still have a morning routine. I still showered, had breakfast, got dressed, etc. Casual business attire isn't necessary, but you need something more than pajamas to work in all day. When your morning routine is done, you know it's time to work. It still gives your brain a launching-point for the day.

    • by aoteoroa ( 596031 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:11PM (#39407867)
      Fully agree. I liked to get up have a shower, get dressed, then step out of the apartment walk up the street and grab a coffee, then walk home...and start work. The process of stepping out the door had a psychological effect of getting me ready for work.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:17PM (#39407957)

      First, I get up and fuck my wife.

      Then I drink a bottle of scotch.

      Then I program.

        I say Fuck you. I'm getting my work done.

      Kiss my ass.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:17PM (#39407961)

      My brother-in-law works from home and has a very set routine. He gets up at the same time every day, showers, shaves, dresses, eats breakfast, and then he takes the kids to school. On the way back, he stops at the 7-11 and fills his commuter mug with coffee. He goes back home, comes in the other entrance, and walks straight to his home office. When the day is done, he reverses the process, picking up the kids, and coming home, with them, through the front door.

      He claims it's the transitions from home mode to work mode and back again that makes it doable.

      • by Anne_Nonymous ( 313852 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:40PM (#39408205) Homepage Journal

        My brother-in-law has almost the very same routine. He gets up at the same time every day (about 10:45), thinks about showering for about three seconds, changes t-shirts, eats breakfast in front of the tv, eats lunch in front of the tv, has a massive dump, has a Red Bull at 3 to keep his strength up, goes outside to yell at the kids walking home from the bus stop, walks up to the packie for beer, starts drinking on the couch on his front porch, moves back inside before sunset and turns the tv back on, drinks himself stupider, and then calls it a good day's work.

        He claims it's the transitions from home mode to work mode and back again that makes it doable.

    • IIRC, Alan Cox explained how before starting his working day he would walk around the block, and after the work he would walk around the block in different direction.

  • Get a dog (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Captain Kirk ( 148843 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:08PM (#39407821) Homepage Journal

    You need something to make you get out of the house and walk 20 minutes at least twice a day. Get a little dog. I've 2 Bichon Frieze and without them I would need surgery to get off my computer chair.

    • Re:Get a dog (Score:4, Informative)

      by dubbreak ( 623656 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @07:15PM (#39408497)
      I agree. Exercise is never a bad thing and getting out of the house clears your head. If I didn't have a dog, like you, I'd be stuck in my chair most of the day.

      I have also found drum breaks a good way to clear my head if I'm feeling demotivated. Get a little energy out beating on the drums and I'm refreshed ready to tackle what was killing me before.

      It's funny how you can feel like you have no energy sitting all the time, but in reality you are full of energy that needs to be released. Get up, get out and do something active.
    • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )

      Or, buy an older house.

      Seriously. This is more true if you're married.

      Within weeks of signing the papers, you will find yourself doing one (or more) of the following:

      * laying stone or bricks
      * tilling a garden
      * tilling a flower garden
      * fertilizing what was going to be a garden and is now going to be a flower garden
      * re-staining the deck
      * starting a small flooring patch repair in the bathroom, which turns into a massive "this floor, and wall, needs to be replaced right now" project
      * put in a swing set for the

  • by theJML ( 911853 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:09PM (#39407833) Homepage

    Seriously, don't have a significant other or children at home. It's my biggest hurdle. I used to be all about working from home, but trying it after having a daughter means "Daddy's trying to do work" turns into "Yay! Daddy's Home!!! Let's bug him ALL DAY!".

    If I got a job that required working from home, I'd probably build a small shed in the backyard with insulation, power, and ethernet and just work out there so they're less likely to bust in every 5 minutes or be screaming down the hall or whatever.

    • Mod parent up (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Shandalar ( 1152907 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:14PM (#39407899)
      Not only will there be endless distractions, but your significant other may resent you being present but not helping around the house. Even a very intelligent and rational significant other can fall into this resentment, and probably will. I don't recommend it.
      • Re:Mod parent up (Score:4, Informative)

        by billcopc ( 196330 ) <> on Monday March 19, 2012 @07:07PM (#39408439) Homepage

        I have it easy. We're both lazy, useless slobs around the house. We hire someone to do the cleaning, and we take turns cooking / ordering take-out.

        But yes, the one day where my wife is off work, it can be difficult to get much work done. For me, it's all about unhinging my brain so it can solve the puzzles. Having her there, even though she mostly sticks to the TV or tablet, is a nuisance because she is a human being and expects attention. For example, I might be stuck on a problem, so I'll "juggle" it in my head, walking around, maybe throwing on some music to feed in some entropy, fixing a drink, or going for a bike ride. It's all very spontaneous and rainman-ish, doing mindless stuff to help me focus. Any sort of interruption will snap me out of that trance state, even if it's wifey asking me where I'm going as I step out the door. It's all about maintaining that mental bubble.

  • Don't (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:09PM (#39407835)

    Your wife and/or kids will not be able to understand that working hours mean you are unavailable. You will have to be a jerk to try to enforce your working hours, leading to the dumbest fights you've ever been in. Like the classic - "Why didn't you fold some laundry when you were on the phone?" That you were trying to concentrate on your biggest client is not an acceptable excuse.

    Rent yourself a storage closet up the block, steal some wifi, and build yourself an office 3 minutes from home. AND DON'T TELL THEM WHERE YOU ARE.

  • If you cna have a home office, with no TV or distractions, as you'll get nothing done. Also if you're wire/significant other has a job, keep the same work hours as to not b disturbed when you need to get work done.

  • ...there's not enough customers, and I have to cash out to my GF.
  • by phallstrom ( 69697 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:10PM (#39407849)

    (been working from home for 6 years...)

    You don't realize how much you walk during the day until your office is 20 feet from your bedroom. I find it helps immensely to take a quick walk in the morning, lunchtime, and after work to clear my head. Also... you don't realize how much "de briefing" you go through on your drive home. You still need to do that instead of jumping right into family/kid/dinner time. Maybe not as long, but something to detox...

    And lastly, if you've got wife/kids at home, it will be an adjustment for *everyone* and can take a long (6mo - 1yr) to get used to.

    • by w3woody ( 44457 )
      (Worked at home for 9 years about a decade ago, and recently started working at home again, and has parents who worked at home for nearly two decades.) Absolutely! I would highly recommend getting out of the house in the morning and in the evening, at the very least; in the morning it helps organize your thoughts and in the afternoon or evening it helps organize your thoughts. And getting out helps with the "cabin fever" as well.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:43PM (#39408229)

      I would only add one thing, if you're celibate and your friends are married with kids, it will be twice as hard because your social life is going to take a hell of a plunge. We socialize a lot at work and we tend to take that for granted.

      I've been working from home for 3 years now, and I need to get out of the house at one point, to walk like the above poster suggested, but also to see other faces, being surrounded by people.

  • by Dark$ide ( 732508 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:10PM (#39407851) Journal

    Make sure you know what you're going to do when your VPN or phone line or cell phone fails. It doesn't happen to me too often (thankfully I've got two different ways of connecting to my companies VPN) but when it does it's a PITA. You need a plan for whether you phone in and take the rest of the day off or drive in to the local branch office and use the backbone network there.

    You also need a very reliable ISP. My lovely ISP in Aberdeen, Scotland are fantastic, when BT make my ADSL break Internet for Business [] are straight on to them. I get a nice warm body to speak to that speaks English and addresses me by first name - I don't get some random call centre in the Sub-Continent.

    • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

      Make sure you know what you're going to do when your VPN or phone line or cell phone fails. It doesn't happen to me too often (thankfully I've got two different ways of connecting to my companies VPN) but when it does it's a PITA. You need a plan for whether you phone in and take the rest of the day off or drive in to the local branch office and use the backbone network there.

      Anther option is to use a cellular internet device as backup (either something like a Mifi, or a cell phone with a tethering plan). Then even if your primary connection goes down, you always have a backup

    • by dmarcov ( 461598 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:43PM (#39408239) Homepage

      +1 to this, that's for sure.

      VOIP, cell phones, etc - are simply not reliable enough if some important portion of your job depends on you being on a conference call. I spend $20ish/month on a regular, low-frills analog phone line because it always works. I know when I can't understand someone on a call, it's because of a problem with their phone, and not mine.

      That leads me to another point, if you do spend a good amount of time on conference calls, invest in a good desktop phone, like a Polycom. They're expensive (you get to write it off as an office expense, in the States, at least), but just another one of those things that lets you communicate clearly and effectively and not be the "that guy/gal" that nobody can ever understand over the echo.

      Definitely also have an internet access backup plan, even if it's just having your phone ready to tether or knowing how fast you can get to Starbucks. I've found that there's some slack for the occasional ISP issue, but you have to be ready for that "emergency" where you have to be connected, *now*.

  • set up a work office (Score:4, Interesting)

    by a2wflc ( 705508 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:10PM (#39407853)

    And only use it for your job. When you're in it, you are "at work". I'll "work from home" evenings or weekends at my kitchen table or couch. But there is a physical difference between when I'm "at work" vs "working from home" even though it's in the same house. Been doing it that way 8 years. I'd spent months at a time working from home before that and this is much better.

    • by dwye ( 1127395 )

      Also much easier when it comes time to deduct the home office use from your 1040. Not using your kitchen for work or your home office for your WoW raids makes the documentation much cleaner when the inevitable tax audit comes, somewhere in the next few years.

  • Rule #1 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stevegee58 ( 1179505 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:10PM (#39407857) Journal
    Don't have children.
    • Re:Rule #1 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by The Optimizer ( 14168 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:26PM (#39408071)

      Mod this up.

      I was about to say if you have a wife and young kids - DON'T WORK FROM HOME. Your work won't be taken seriously, and you will be CONSTANTLY interrupted and your marriage will likely suffer.

      Seriously, this has happened to myself and EVERY other guy I know who has young kids and tried working from home (admittedly, 5 guys total) . Their wives didn't respect the need for isolation, and saw them as available to watch the kids and do anything else they wanted to. They would interrupt any time they felt like it, and ignore repeated requests not to. To them, it was like "Hey I work from home too! He's just sitting here on the computer not doing much. If that was me, then I would be able to stop and do something else. He can take the kids while I take a nap and then go to a movie with my girlfriends!".

      • by PRMan ( 959735 )
        True. You need to have an understanding spouse that will understand the closed door--I'm at work situation. If not, get a lock. Of course, that doesn't keep your kids from flushing the toilet on a conference call the moment you leave your office to find a piece of paper you were looking at downstairs last night.
        • I should clarify that I am talking about guys with wives who are stay at home moms and have kids in the single digit age range.

          If the wife has not ever held a similar job (in terms of work demands, etc), and especially if she has never worked at all, she usually will have a huge misconception of what it's like for her Husband, which fuels the lack of respect. When you are waiting for something to compile, or thinking through a tricky problem, she will see you as just sitting there motionless, so to her of

          • Another problem with regards to stay at home moms (and presumably dads too though they are far more rare) is they just have a really skewed idea of how hard they work. They seem to feel that dealing with kids (when applicable) and some household chores is a ton of work, because they don't have real job experience to compare it to. As such they expect more help from their spouse and find it unreasonable if they can't have it.

            A friend has that problem. His wife is a stay at home mom who has never worked any s

      • You need to know your partner and they need to be able to understand the concept of working at home. One thing that will help is there's an office. Make a room an office and have it for work ONLY. You only go in there for work hours, and nobody else gets to come in.

        You need to clearly explain that when you are working at home you are WORKING and everything related to that needs to be respected. If your partner can't handle that then you either need to not work from home, or find a new partner, I'm not telli

      • Re:Rule #1 (Score:4, Insightful)

        by billcopc ( 196330 ) <> on Monday March 19, 2012 @07:19PM (#39408543) Homepage

        I don't have kids, but this is also the #1 reason why the guys I used to work with would refuse to work from home.

        Solution #1: hire a sitter. I shit you not. You're working, the sitter's sitting. You're making $40/hr, she's costing you $10. You cannot do meaningful work AND care for your kids simultaneously. If you try, your income will drop to $0/hr because those little shit factories won't give you enough time to open a single file.

        Solution #2: swing space. It's cheaper than you think. Downside: hipsters either drooling over your mac, or berating you because you don't have one.

        Solution #3: informal swing space (coffee shop / bar / resto). It's not as cheap, but it gets you out of the house, and you can move around when you get bored. Plus, being waited on means you're not spending time cooking or cleaning. Still cheaper than renting an actual office. Fuck office space.

        Solution #4: co-working. Find a childless buddy who also works from home, and go work at his home. Then you can have office-like banter and bounce ideas, all while escaping the wife and kids. Take turns making/buying lunch and cleaning (or hire someone).

  • You definitely need to schedule some outside activities like sport or walking or whatever gets you out of your home. You also need to have social activities, it gets quite weird after months of working alone, even though you have a wife. No outside activities and no social interactions make the home worker go CRAZY. Trust me.
  • by rbowen ( 112459 ) Works for SourceForge on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:10PM (#39407863) Homepage

    Dress professionally. Keep regular hours. Work as though you were at work.

  • by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:11PM (#39407869) Homepage Journal


    Also, good time management is a must; sitting around the house can make it tempting to attempt to multitask (i.e., clean the garage while your code compiles), but every divergence from the job you're being paid to do will negatively affect your ability to do said job in an efficient, timely manner.

    At least, that was my experience working from home. YMMV definitely applies to this one.
  • They're either too distracted to comment or too undistracted to comment.

  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:13PM (#39407891)
    Have a room devoted to being a home office, and don't use the home office for anything other than job-related work, otherwise there won't be enough of the job/play disconnect.
  • by gestalt_n_pepper ( 991155 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:14PM (#39407895)

    Put out the cat. Put out the kids. Put out the girlfriend/wife/paramour/needy friend. Put on the headphones. Focus, focus, focus...

  • by Americano ( 920576 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:14PM (#39407897)

    Here's the first few things that spring to mind from my experience, working from home about 50% of the time:

    1) Construct a sturdy firewall your work time and personal time. Don't allow family and friends to treat your work hours as "free time," and don't allow your workplace to say "since your workplace is your home, you're always at work!" Honestly for me, the hardest part was telling family and friends, "yeah, I'm working from home, but that doesn't mean I'm not working," and getting them to accept that they can't just pop by whenever.

    2) Video- and/or voice- chatting can be super helpful, if you can get your coworkers used to communicating that way. Also, a consistent & constant instant message presence allowing people to reach out and get in touch with you quickly and easily can be helpful. You won't be in the office, but availability via other methods will help dilute the "out of sight, out of mind" phenomenon.

    3) If you like a little social interaction during your day, investigate co-working setups - with people you work with, or at commercial/public co-working spaces. Or, find a coffee shop/library etc. that might allow you to set up camp for the day. A day like that now and then I find to be fairly energizing. Your mileage may vary.

    • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )

      Honestly for me, the hardest part was telling family and friends, "yeah, I'm working from home, but that doesn't mean I'm not working," and getting them to accept that they can't just pop by whenever.

      Then don't tell them you're working from home. Tell them you're a contractor. Contractors, for the most part, are respected as having deadlines, and (importantly) need to account for their time fiscally. It's a small distinction, but IMO working in IT is more akin to salary contractor work than it is typical salaried work. You're always behind the gun...

  • by bastafidli ( 820263 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:14PM (#39407903) Homepage

    If your company give you stipend, use it. Get both DSL and Cable so that you are not cut off when one goes down. Thats what I did. Do the same with phone, have cell phone and regular phone so that you are reachable.

    • Yep, vitally important if you intend to work from home for any significant time. I use an ADSL connection as my primary connection but have a 3G USB modem I can plug in if it goes down (which it hasn't ever, really, but you never know).

      Sadly my phone line is quite long (>4 km) so my 3G connection is actually faster than it! (Get 10-12 Mbit down from it, as opposed to ~6 Mbps from the DSL). Latency is worse though obviously.

      • by bedouin ( 248624 )

        Another thing: get a load balancing router and use those two connections simultaneously. Not so easy with 3G, but with cable and DSL an added perk you'll feel deprived without.

  • Have a plan (Score:4, Insightful)

    by obi1one ( 524241 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:17PM (#39407965)
    I've been telecommuting for ~20 months now. For me, the key things to do to stay focused and productive are: separate work from the rest of your life, have a plan of what you are going to do next, and have a plan for dealing with the inevitable times when you become unfocused.

    To keep life and work separate, you can have an office that is only for work (no gaming/web surfing), or, if that isnt in the cards, have a different computer. I really like having the work computer run a different OS. Linux is for work. Windows is for play. That way I am not tempted, and I have that sense of 'being' at work/

    Having a plan is crucial to keeping going. If you finish something and think 'what should I do now' youll be reading slashdot within seconds. I try to do my planning at the end of the day, so I have a nice list of bite sized tasks for the next day already waiting for me.

    Despite my best efforts, sometimes I realize I am not focusing on work. When that happens, I have a few things I can do to get refocused. The first is to change desks. A change of scenery and position (sitting vs standing) is nice sometimes. Next, I can make coffee. It takes a few minutes, so it gives me a chance to psych myself up, knowing that when the coffee is ready it is time to get back to worrk. Finally, I have ear protection, usually used while chainsawing etc. When I put it on, I cant hear anything but my own breathing, and focusing on your breathing is a common meditation technique, so maybe tat is why it works. Anyway, it really quiets the mind and gets me back to focusing on work.
  • forget promotions (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geo3rge ( 937616 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:23PM (#39408033)
    You need to be very careful or you will soon be "out of sight, out of mind". I worked from home for more than 15 years (recently involuntarily retired), and except for the people who had to deal with me, it was as if I did not exist. This may be fine with you, but if you are at a place where you need to schmooze to get ahead, it's bad. Also, you need to have the company finely delimit what is *their* IP and what is your own. My former company's attitude was that if I thought of it, it was their idea. Working from home blurs the lines. On the bright side, I was *much* more productive as a programmer/ software designer at home than in the office.
  • by The Dancing Panda ( 1321121 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:24PM (#39408039)
    Note that I live by myself in a small apartment, so YMMV. Some things I do:

    1. Always wear pants while on the phone. I like to imagine everyone else is wearing pants while I'm talking to them, so I do so myself.
    2. Find some noise maker, because silence will make you go a little nutty. I used to do music, and still do sometimes, but I've found sports talk radio is best. Doesn't matter if you like sports, It sounds like there are people talking, which will make it not seem so lonely. I don't mean lonely like "I'm so sad", I mean "fuck, there's no one here all day". lonely.
    3. Go out to lunch fairly regularly. You need to remember to leave your home sometimes, and interact with people (especially outside your normal comfort zone, like your family). Otherwise you fairly quickly forget how to interact in a group.
    4. Work hours change a lot. I find myself working in the middle of the night a lot, and taking the afternoons off. Don't forget to take advantage of the perks, it's not just a 0 minute commute. You can go grocery shopping in the middle of the day now. Banks are open just for you. Same with post offices. Just make sure your workmates vaguely know your schedule, and how to get ahold of you. Communication is key.
    5. More perks. Those times where you just can't get past a mental block, you can go to your home PC, or to your musical instrument, or to your TV, and just blow off some steam. It's OK! Don't feel bad about it, just don't spend too much time away, and don't let your IMer show you as "Away" for too long. I always come running back if I get an IM or an Email.
    6. Work hard. Make your managers feel like you're an integral part of your team, even when you're not in the office. In my case it's helpful because everyone works from home, but you can do it even if that's not the case.
  • by Zapotek ( 1032314 ) <tasos.laskos@gm a i l .com> on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:27PM (#39408081)
    ...and say that I do the exact opposite.
    I've no set hours, no routine, no dedicated space, I play guitar when I'm blocked and have a movie or TV series playing all the time to provide a distraction (for some reason not multitasking doesn't work for me).

    So what I'm trying to say is that this is completely subjective, just do what feels natural.

    The most important thing is to be passionate about the projects you pick up, if you are then never mind staying focused, you'll go into overtime without even realising it.

    Good luck man.
  • by trongey ( 21550 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:28PM (#39408087) Homepage

    Just like when you worked elsewhere:
    - Set the alarm and get up
    - Take a shower, brush your teeth
    - Dress for work (this one is important). I've known people who did the work-in-your-pajamas thing, and everybody could tell the difference.
    - Keep proper food around for lunch, or if you can afford it go out for lunch most days.
    - If you have a spouse/significant other you SERIOUSLY want to sit down ahead to time to make sure everybody is clear that just because you're home all day it doesn't mean that the cleaning, laundry, and dishes will be done at the end of the day. We all know that housewives used to do all that and more, but they weren't on somebody else's clock when they were doing it.

    Also, be sure to set up a proper work environment even if the best you can do is to put a decent computer desk and chair in your bedroom. A couch or kitchen table is not a workplace, and you don't want it to be one.

  • by DFJA ( 680282 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:31PM (#39408119)
    I've been home-working for 2 years now, and for most of the last year have been living somewhere far more interesting than my normal home (and about 5000 miles away). It's not often you get the opportunity to do this, so if living in another part of the world is something you've always wanted to do, why not combine the two?
  • by opencity ( 582224 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:32PM (#39408127) Homepage

    My wife doesn't get it and my kids are in early elementary school psycho stage so I ended up taking a cheap share on a semi office. It was either that, sit around cafes (too old) or only get 4 hours a day.

  • counterpoint (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:41PM (#39408213) Homepage Journal

    Everyone seems to be telling you to act as if you wouldn't be working from home. If that is so, then what's the point?

    I'm currently running my (small) company from home. It was founded recently, so it's too early to say if I'm doing this all wrong or all right, but here's my experience so far:

    Do take advantage of this style of working. I absolutely enjoy being able to have breakfast and lunch when I feel hungry and not when the clock says it's the time and my co-workers are waiting for me at the usual place.
    I enjoy the company of my pets - lots better having them there in person than having photographs on your desk. Children might be more difficult to stuff back into the cage after a few minutes of raising your spirits, so you may want to develop a protocol, but if you have any, they are probably one of the reasons you are working your ass off, so do what you couldn't do at the office - at the very least, have lunch with your family or something.

    Do enjoy the flexibility. Doing grocery shopping during the day, when the shops are empty, is so much more relaxing compared to doing it in the evening when everyone does it after work (YMMV depending on how shops are open in your place).

    Keep time. Software or good old watch, doesn't matter, but keep a record of the time you actually spend working. This will help you much, much more in keeping in line than some arbitrary "working hours". And it will help you in both directions, stopping you not only from working too little, but also from working too much.

    My personal opinion is that pretending that it's just like work at the office isn't the best way to do it. The number of comments advising it suggest that it is definitely a workable way. Still, there is quite a bit of potential for making it better than work at the office, at least in some respects.

    Our ancestors often didn't have any seperation between work and private life. If you are a farmer or something like that, that is still pretty much the case today. Then again, your job probably doesn't feed you and doesn't have the same kind of immediacy and direct meaning. Still, it's a point to think about when people tell you to keep the two strictly seperated.

    • Running your own small business from home is far different from telecommuting into an established business. Like you, I am lucky enough to be working from home running my own business. That means I get to work in my pajamas every morning, be home when my son gets home from HS and spend time with him. I get to nap in the middle of the day if I feel like it or work late into the night if that is what I want. But do not think that what we have is what most people here have.
  • by adosch ( 1397357 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @06:44PM (#39408251)

    Where work-from-home at my place of work has become highly scrutinized because of people using it as a free vacation day, I've never ever had a problem with it at all. I think there's some prerequisites to this advice, though. Firstly, if you haven't proven yourself at work already as a reliable person that doesn't have to be micro-managed, or managers have an wishy-washy feeling about your 'work' character, then ignore my advice, because it's just going to be an epic fail or a bit harder when you start out.

    1) Be available when you're suppose to: For shit's sake, I see so many of my co-workers who are 'suppose' to be available during core hours, who, when they WFH, cannot be reached by inner-office instant message, e-mail or phone, don't call into the meetings they are suppose to. I repeat, you do not want to be one of those people. It makes you look bad and it will catch up with you sooner than you think.

    2) Set realistic daily work goals: Myself, I accomplish more at home because I'm not being fucked with or getting cube drive-by's, but that doesn't mean I don't kill myself in the process because I am more productive. Test the waters for the first day and see what you get done. At times, I've gotten what I needed to get accomplished in 5-6 hours and I called it a day. There's nothing wrong with that if you're showing production and results.

    3) Have what you need to succeed: I have a very nice VPN solution, so I can rely on my own personal computing environment that I'm comfortable with (and also mirrors what I have at work with my desktop). But if you are issued a work laptop that they only allow you to connect into 'their' network with, then get what you need to 'feel' that comfortable productivity. I've never been at a place that wouldn't pay for a wireless keyboard/mouse set or get me a decent enough laptop to take home. Also, if you have books, paperwork, materials, bring that shit home. Don't think that you can get to everything 'digitally' because rarely does that play in your favor.

    4) DONT abuse it: I always laughed in my younger, insubordinate and rebellious years when I'd hear "WFH is a privilege, not a right" and now that I'm a bit wiser, that's 110% the truth. I'm just like any other person, I have the TV on sometimes or stereo going, or use my lunch break to go to the hardware store quick for something. See it as your work trusting you do be independent but still a very reliable asset that they depend on. There's no reason to be uptight, you're at home, but don't be a douche and not do a thing get paid for it. It makes you complacent and lazy, and IMHO, that'll see you right out the door in time.

  • by holophrastic ( 221104 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @08:27PM (#39409015)

    Working from home doesn't mean pretending to not be home. If you try to work 9 - 5 from home, you're either going to fail, or are missing the point.

    By sacrificing what, for the sake of conversation, we'll call the motivation of having others around, you get to chunk your time. Time chunking is an awesome thing once you get used to it. And it's a scary thing until you do.

    For example, today, I went out mid-afternoon to buy running shoes, toothpaste, and to enjoy the wonderful weather. Right in the middle of the work day.

    The trick is this: chunk your time. Take whatever work you have to do, and chunk it up into manageable chunks. What's manageable? The smaller the better. The first thing that you'll discover is that you'll have varying sized chunks. Some as long as 10 hours, and others as short as 1 minute.

    Decide how many chunk you want to do, or how long you want to spend working, or just start. But you get the feeling that you've accomplished something, start again -- either get up and leave, or start another chunk. Some chunks aren't whole invoices, or even entire tasks. Some are just minimal things like readying a new environment, testing something, calling someone, or designing something. Others are full blown work efforts.

    The goal of chunks is really to make the task so small and atomic that nothing can stop you from doing it and getting it done. So there's no fear in starting. In truth, some bits of work hit walls of horror, and when they appear, you don't get up until you reach the end of your chunk. Otherwise, start subdividing your chunks.

    Every time you get up, something has been completed -- even if it's just that you defined new chunks. And every time you sit down to work, you know where you'll be starting.

    After that, it doesn't matter when you do the chunks. I love that one hour chunk saturday afternoon when I'm ready to go out on a date, but am still an hour early. Or that Tuesday midnight 3-hour chunk that seems to be free time out of no where.

    Break often.

  • by JimMcc ( 31079 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @08:37PM (#39409071) Homepage

    Everybody is different, and all family situations are different. In my case I have a wife who works full time, no kids, and no dogs. So these were the rules that worked for me. They might not work for you.

    1) Have an office. A room set aside from the rest of the house that other family members don't need to access.
    2) Treat your home office like a work office. You have times that you start and times that you end... more or less.
    3) Get dressed for work. I don't mean tie and jacket, unless that's what floats your boat. I would wear jeans, t-shirt, and sneakers. The idea being that you want to mentally differentiate "lounging" from "working". This also helps protect your lounging times.
    4) When your are at work, you are at work. We quickly settled on the rule that my wife would come into the office to let me know she was home, then head off. When I was done at work I would leave the office and walk into what ever room she was in announcing "Honey, I'm home."
    5) I took breaks. For the first time in years I actually ate lunch someplace other than working at my desk. I'd go downstairs and make coffee when I wanted it. When you're hitting your head against a brick wall (I did software development) take a walk around the neighborhood. You don't need to explain yourself to anybody but yourself.
    6) And this is important; when you are not at work, don't work. My office was also my household office so it was where I did bills, email, etc. But I was always careful to not just take a quick peak at whatever I'd been working on earlier. In my case, this was the hardest part. I'd get an idea on something to try that might solve a problem. The temptation is to sneak away for a just a few minutes... next thing you know it's 11:00pm and your wife is asking if you're ever coming to bed.

    Good luck. I enjoyed working from my home office. But it all came to an end when I hired my first employee and my wife said "No employees working in the house." So then I was back to a downtown office again.

  • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @08:56PM (#39409167) Journal

    Beware of distractions. If you have family, they have to understand that being home doesn't mean you are always available.

    I established hours when I was working, and the family was not to disturb me during that time unless it's an emergency.

    The family has to realize that you're not the "stay at home spouse". You're not free to run every random errand or do every household chore during your working hours, any more than you did so when you were in the office. You may have better flex time and more freedom to take care of non-work issues, but don't fall into the trap of handling every little thing just because you're available. You're not available, you're working. (My wife and I fought over this -- things like dropping the kid off at daycare. When I worked at the office, we each did one half -- one of us dropped off, one of us picked up. When I started working from home, she naturally assumed I'd do both. And all the grocery shopping. And the vacuuming. And dishes, yardwork, dentist appointments. Sorry, no.)

    Establish a territory and call it your office, then work from there. I found that it was too easy to nod off or reach for the TV remote when I was trying to work from the couch. Also, I don't know why, but I'm told I sounded more professional when I was sitting at my desk than when I was lounging on the couch.

    I had a heck of a time keeping office supplies on my desk. The problem with always having a good supply of pens, paper clips, yellow stickies and printer paper is that everyone knows where to go if they need one of these items. I tried tying a string from the cap of my ballpoint to my desk, but after too many times seeing a forlorn empty cap sitting on my desk with a string tied to it, I finally bought a cheap lockable filing cabinet and put my office supplies in there. It's important for tax purposes too (see below).

    If you lack appropriate furniture, check your area for an office liquidator. I found that working from the kitchen table was fine for an hour or so, but not ergonomic over the long haul.

    Don't get too comfortable. I got up with the alarm, showered, shaved, dressed, then went to my designated office in a spare room and put in a day's work. At first I just worked in my bathrobe, because I could, but like a Dilbert cartoon, the family started to complain that I smelled like a dead animal and I had to change my ways. I found that when I followed a routine, it was easier to stay focused.

    Know when to quit. It's too easy to decide to take care of that next issue, and the one after that, and the one after that, because you're right there. Just as it's important to establish a work ethic, it's also important to establish a quality of life. After you've put in your time, knock off work and do something else. Like, you know, interacting with your family. Or going out with friends.

    Have a contingency plan if you suffer hardware or resource failure. In the early days, I had two desktops, two modems and two different dial-up accounts. (One of which, sadly, was AOL, but let's not go there.) I then progressed to one desktop and one laptop, DSL backed up by a dial-up account. Then cable modem backed up by dial-up. Now I have fiber optic backed up by cellular modem. Similarly, I had two phone lines when I used dial-up, and later had home and cell phones on my business card so there was a way to reach me if one or the other failed.

    Prepare to be amazed at how much money you save just by not having to buy and maintain business clothes, eat out for lunch, and drive to and from work. These days I alternate between working at home and working from the office, and I see a bump in discretionary income proportional to the number of days I worked at home. Especially with the price of gas.

    THIS IS IMPORTANT: Talk to your tax preparer ahead of time to figure out what kind of documentation you're going to need, because working at home you can likely take a lot of stuff off your taxes as a business expense. The square footage of yo

  • by transcender ( 888893 ) * on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @10:57AM (#39413415)
    Once upon a time I WFH'd for ~ 5 years with occasional travel and trips into the office. I was home alone all day with no one to distract me but myself. I increased my satisfaction and productivity by identifying and correcting some bad habits I developed early on. I suggest you keep a routine you are comfortable with and try to stick to it. Try to do the things you would do if you were going to head into the office and be face to face with people. Simple things like waking up to an alarm, brushing your teeth, shaving, showering, getting out of the pajamas all before starting work at a set time. Instituting that type of structure allowed me stop taking conference calls in my underwear with a 3 day beard, stinking to high hell with a bowl of Cap'n Crunch. By getting ready for work, I felt like I was respecting the job and my responsibilities by not anonymously being a slob. (Not that I don't long for those days in my current role.... M-F 9-6 Shirt and tie) -Gregg

One good suit is worth a thousand resumes.