Adventures in Teleworking

Tips for not eating everything in your kitchen

Posted on 1/12/2009 10:00:00 PM by TeleworkChick

In my days at the Office, I was able to lose over 80 lbs. One of the main reasons for that great a weight loss was the fact that I packed my lunch, and all my snack food, every day. I made sure I only ate what I brought. It was controlled. I lost weight. It was great.
Now that I work from home, I might as well work in a "everything's free" grocery store.
I've gained back at least 50 lbs of the 88 I worked so hard to lose. And mostly, this is because I work about 100 feet away from my own kitchen.
I'm also an emotional eater, so if I'm having a bad day, instead of spending money on a "just this one time" Office cafeteria trip, I'm standing at my refrigerator, grazing from the top shelf to the bottom.
I've made an effort to curb my eating habits at home in order to lose weight, so here are a few tips:

  • Pack a lunch/snacks. If it worked for the office, it can work at home too. Put your lunch in a special spot in the fridge, a cooler, or set it aside otherwise to separate it from your other fridge food. Eat only what you pack for yourself, even on a bad day.
  • Keep a food log. If you have to cross the doorway to your office with food, write it down. The art of writing it may shock you later when you see how much you eat all day.
  • Eat only at preset times. There are widgets and gadgets for the desktop of your choice that you can use as alarms to alert you when you have chosen to eat. They say "mini meals" are helpful to curb hunger, so set an alarm clock to ring for your next well deserved break and a munchie.
  • Lock up the bad stuff during the day. Even a simple ribbon reminder on the door handle of the cabinet or fridge will be a cue to you that you're trying to cut back.
  • Post-IT Note your way to wellness. Stick those sticky notes up on the monitor of your PC and fridge to warn you off of making a bad choice. Mine always said "What NEED are you trying to fill? Make a better choice!"
There's a weight loss plan for everyone, but staying out of your kitchen when you work at home is very hard. Having a few tricks up your sleeve may help increase productivity by keeping you focused on your job, and not on the fridge!


When you are invisible to the Office and vice versa

Posted on 12/01/2008 09:00:00 PM by TeleworkChick

At least once in a telecommuter's lifetime, there will be a period of Invisibility (and not the good “spy on someone without getting noticed” kind either). Whether it's because the Office doesn't acknowledge you or because you don't acknowledge them, invisibility can sometimes be a bad thing. Not having your boss breathe down your neck can be one of the truly enjoyable perks of working from home. When it goes to the extreme, however, it's another thing entirely - not having any communication with Headquarters at all is just plain bad.

Invisibility can stem from many things, but it's usually from lack of communication from one or both of the parties involved.

In my particular case, I once went 17 business days without any communication from my supervisor.
At all.
Even though I left voicemails, e-mails, and gave my standard reports, I heard not a single peep back. The Boss had become Invisible. By the 17th day, I was crazy with all kinds of doubt, anger, worry, and stress. Do they know I am working? Are they even aware I am out here? When I did hear back from him, it was a tense, angry call. It didn't help me or my situation at all. From that point forward, I made a point to keep in regular (several times per week at least) contact with the Boss. I had a discussion with both my Boss and my Boss's Boss about how keeping an employee in the dark is really not good for productivity or for the employee (me).

In another case, a new teleworker for the Company has completely dropped off the radar since he left the Office, because he has stopped communicating. The rumors and questions began to pop up almost immediately:
Is he really working?
Didn't he have a side job, that maybe he is now doing during his work day?
What is he doing all day?
Did you hear he took a sick day?

These kinds of rumors are hard to stop once you start working from home, but without communication, OWJ issues run rampant, and take a life of their own.
This employee was, in fact, working each day but had become Invisible to the Office, and that almost nullified the good things he was accomplishing.

Working from home can be isolating enough without Invisibility issues making them worse. Up-front discussion with your supervisor about the communication expectations you both have will help you feel less Invisible to them, and they to you. If your company is new to teleworking, suggest that they provide guidelines for you to follow to check in regularly so they can have a benchmark by which telecommuters are evaluated. Better yet, be proactive and offer them some guidelines of your own. You’ll show initiative and they will appreciate your dedication.

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Forgetting to go outside into the real world

Posted on 11/17/2008 09:00:00 PM by TeleworkChick

When I worked at the Office, the daily drive to and from work was enough "going out" for me to be more than happy to stay home once I returned. But now, trapped in the confines of my home all day, there are days when I cannot wait to get out. There have been times when I've even discovered I haven't left the house, other than to get the mail at the curb, all week long, and that gas prices have gone down since the last time I fueled my car.

It's pretty maddening sometimes. You can get sick of the inside of your house pretty darn fast. That's why it's important to get out every once in a while!! Here are a couple of tips you can use to stave off that twitchy, stir-crazy feeling:

  • Walk around the block on your "break". Easy, right? Well, if you are dressed for the day (back link), yes. If not, well, get dressed and get out there! The air, cold or warm, will do you good, and you can reset your mind and exercise your body.
  • Go out for lunch. Once a week at the Office, I would go out for lunch with a friend. Just because you work from home, it doesn’t mean you can't still go out. You will look forward to that Wednesday or Friday knowing you’ll have a chance to look at something other than the one bit of Ikea wall-art you stare at for hours on end each and every day. Think of it as a reward for all that you do during the week.
  • Run a 15 minute errand. Keep it to 15 minutes, too, or you may find that the odd minute or two you add here can snowball into a 45 minute uh-oh. If you get used to these long errands, you could form a nasty habit. (need a nasty habit name) Also, only do them once a week or so or you may find yourself more out than in.

Working from home sounds fantastic to most people at first, but those of us who do it realize that never leaving your home actually has aggravating side effects. Striking a balance between work and life/home is a major issue for all workers, but when work takes place in your home, those boundaries become a bit blurry. It’s up to you to keep that blur to a minimum.


Separation Anxiety

Posted on 11/10/2008 09:00:00 PM by TeleworkChick

My best Office friend recently told me that she didn't know how I could work at home all day, saying that she's way too social to be cut off from everyone.

There are a lot of people like my friend. It's true that the Home Office can be a lonely place. In the Office, you are barraged by background noise, you see people on your way to lunch or the restroom, and generally you interact face to face with folks on a regular basis. As nice as it is to have people around you, though, there are times when you wish it would all go away in some sort of Calgon moment. Those first few glorious months of working from home in a quiet, peaceful environment can be blissful. But what happens when the serenity loses its shine? It does get a bit quiet...sometimes too quiet.


Is anyone out there?

I have a few tips for keeping your Office Separation Anxiety (OSA*) at bay:

  • Skip an e-mail, pick up the phone. It's so easy to bang out an e-mail to someone, but pick up the phone and call that person instead. If you were in the Home Office, these would be the times you get up from your desk and go visit someone. You don’t have that anymore, so a phone call will have to work as a substitute. It makes you look accessible work-wise, and gets that much needed voice interaction going.
  • Have an Office friend to call. I arranged that I would call my Office friend on a semi-regular basis to chat about nothing in particular. Yes, during work hours. It's the equivalent of chatting over the cubicle wall (that oh-so-horrible crime against productivity that happens in every company, at every level, everyday) and is one of the things I missed the most.
  • Turn on some kind of background chatter. Some people just need to have some noise on, but try to stay away from daytime TV. No one wants to actually hear Oprah on in the background. It could easily create an OWJ (Office Worker Jealousy) issue. Talk or local news radio, NPR, or a cable news channel are all good alternatives (that won’t tempt you away from your work like daytime TV can either!). If you need the sounds of a real office, there are CDs available to make you feel more like you are at the Office. (Why didn't I think of that?)
  • Throw yourself into your work. Keep your eyes on the prize, and concentrate on getting your job done. It may seem obvious, but sometimes the best way to keep from getting bored at work is to work.
  • Talk to the dog/cat. They may actually look up at you from their napping when you do. They are your co-workers now! Greet them each morning with "How are you today, Fluffy?" or call out "Did you see the game last night? That score was amazing!" on your way to the bathroom. Sure, they aren't going to answer back (and if they do, think about getting some help), but sometimes it’s the sound of our own voice that does the trick.
  • There's also "co-working" which is another big trend right now. You basically share an office with someone else who is working from home. You can read about it here and here.

Face it - we're social creatures, we humans. We need some interaction.
It's ok to be lonely sometimes. It happens to everyone. If you are finding the separation from the Office is getting to be too much, try some of these tips or discuss it with your supervisor.

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Getting Dressed

Posted on 11/03/2008 09:00:00 PM by TeleworkChick

Each time I am on a conference call with the Office, I get asked "Are you wearing pants today?" Seriously... it's asked each time.

One of the biggest stereotypes in telecommuting is that the employee is lounging about, feet up, wearing pajamas and bunny slippers. I'm sure this is an Office Worker Jealousy, or OWJ, issue: They have to wear what the Office dress code is. I don't.

This isn't to say that many of us do not get dressed daily. I do have a casual day, just like a lot of traditional offices do, where I allow myself to wear whatever I want (yes, even the occasional bunny slipper) that day. But every other day of that work week I do get dressed. Getting dressed is probably a big part of what gets me in the right mind-set for working. The physical act of "getting ready for work" really helps to mentally prepare me for the day's work. Lots of other sites offer the advice of getting dressed for work for this reason. It's good advice for teleworkers who are just getting started. A new trend in teleworking is the use of webcams to allow employers to monitor employees. For slackers this could be a problem, but for those who are used to dressing for work, it's not an issue.

But I have found that there's another reason to get dressed that most sites don't tell you about -

Answering your door.

Most Office workers don't realize how many times a person at home all day might be at the door. UPS shows up about once a week for me to sign for a package. The neighbors stop by to drop off tomatoes from their garden. Kids selling stuff for school. Girl Scouts. No joke, I never knew the doorbell got such a workout. Heck, I was at the Office all day. How did I know the doorbell rang so much? It’s not just answering the door either. I have to go to the curb daily to get the mail. Add it all up and you get a lot of exposure to other people. Dressing normally makes this much easier to handle.

Being able to wear what you want in your Home Office is one of the great benefits of being a remote employee. It adds a great deal of job satisfaction and has the nice side benefit of making it easier to stay within the employee’s clothing budget.

That brings us to today’s Home-Office Life Lesson: No rubbing. Don’t rub it in the virtual faces of your Office co-workers, no matter what you may actually wear to your Home Office each day, or how much some of those folks back at headquarters deserve it.

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OWJ: Office Worker Jealousy

Posted on 11/01/2008 10:00:00 PM by TeleworkChick

OWJ: Office Worker Jealousy

Every telecommuter has come across this. Someone at the home office is green with envy that you get to work from home, in your pajamas and slippers, while they have to put on a suit and tie and trudge to the office each day. This Jealousy manifests in many ways, can break long time work relationships, friendships, and more.

Whatever the reason is for your having to work from home, there's someone at the office who is quite upset at the idea. There are signs of OWJ all over the place for a telecommuter, and it's in your best interest to have a defense for them when they arise. A few that I have come across are:

  • Calling you out in meetings or conference calls as to your home working attire ("Wearing your bunny slippers today?")
  • Asking you if you have caught up on all of the daily soap operas/daytime TV.
  • Wondering if you have put any miles on your car now that you don't have to drive anywhere.
  • Leaving a voicemail while you are in the bathroom that basically accuses you of not being at your desk or doing work when they called.
  • Always asking what your weather is like if you are in a different part of the country or have access to an outside window, versus their cubicle view.
All remote employees know that there are as many negatives to working from home as there are positives. Some OWJ is innocent, and some is quite harmful, creating a hostile work environment. That's no fun if your work environment is your own home!
I'll cover a bunch of the OWJ issues on this blog, and I hope you will write in with some OWJ issues of your own. We can open a dialogue on how to address OWJ and make a great work environment for everyone!

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Welcome to Adventures in Teleworking!

Posted on 10/28/2008 09:00:00 PM by TeleworkChick

Hi there, and welcome to "Adventures in Teleworking"!
I have been a webworker for over a year and a half, and when I started there were very few resources out there for people like me. Transitioning from the office to the home office was a bit confusing, scary, but fun! And while I'm no means an expert, I'm happy to share what I have learned along the way.
I hope you find these tips encouraging, and hopefully we teleworkers (or remote employees, or web workers, or digital bedouins, or telecommuters, or whatever you call us) can find a common ground and share ideas that will help us be as productive as we possibly can be.
There are many blogs focusing on technology tools you can use as a remote worker, so I'll leave that kind of direction to those blogs that do that well. My focus will be on the day to day things that may help us get up, get dressed, and focus on our work. After all, we have a job to do!
Right now, my plan is to post about once a week. Please feel free to comment, send me links to articles, blogs, or other tools we can all use.
Thanks for reading!

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