Adventures in Teleworking

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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