Five Working from Home Myths
Owning a work from home business may seem like the ideal situation. The commute to your office is measured in footsteps not miles and the length of your workday is yours to define. But before you trade in your business suits for sweatpants, here’s some truths to consider:
Myth: Working from home is a good alternative to childcare.
Truth: If your kids take consistent naps and you can fit your work into that time period–great! Otherwise, make plans for child care. Trying to take a phone call or work on a client’s project with a screaming child in the background is just plain miserable. Believe me, I’ve tried. It’s frustrating to have to place a client on hold to calm a crying baby or wipe burp-up off your computer keyboard. If you have a neighbor or relative that is willing and able to pop over when you need quiet time to work, call them. If you can schedule your phone calls ahead of time, work around your babysitter’s schedule. If you can’t schedule calls, give your babysitter a heads up about the time period you will be working and ask him or her to be available during that time. Having a list of daycare centers or providers who provide back-up care is also valuable in case you need to run to a meeting and your babysitter is not available. Your children will likely enjoy the break from the usual routine, you’ll get quality work time and your customers will get the professional service they deserve.
Myth: Working at home is easier than going to an office everyday.
Truth: Breathing exhaust fumes while you crawl along in rush hour traffic is no fun. Neither is worrying about whether your boss noticed you were fifteen minutes late for work because you were stuck in traffic. Working from home has definite advantages over working in an office, but it also poses unique challenges. At home, you are your only boss and co-worker. You have to rely on yourself to find solutions to day-to-day work issues and to complete your work on time. With no supervisor to provide feedback about your projects, it’s up to you to make sure you are producing quality work. You are the direct line to your customers so all problems start and end with you. Having a network of experts to help you out is a must. These may be friends, consultants, professional organizations, past co-workers, even family. Use them when needed, but remember, when you own the business you also own the responsibilities that come with it.
Myth: I am my own boss so anything goes.
Truth: You are never truly your own boss–whether working at an office or when working from home. Your customers and clients are your boss. In an office environment the layers of personnel make it easy to forgot who you really work for. Yes, you report to a supervisor, manager or board, but you serve your customers and clients. This fact becomes more apparent when you are your customers only point of contact. Golf on a Monday afternoon may sound good to you, but guess what? Your client needs his or her project finished ASAP. Better reschedule the golf game. Take note: Your customers may be your boss, but they shouldn’t own all your time. To avoid working night and day, set aside work time and leisure time. Businesses provide vacation time to their employees. You can do the same for yourself. After all, you are the boss.
Myth: I can go to work in my pajamas.
Truth: Yes, you can. But do you really want to? When the last time you went to a meeting with someone wearing slippers and a stinky robe. Whether you work in an office or work at home, you are a professional. Establishing a “dress code” will help you maintain your sense of professionalism. While three-piece suits might be overkill when typing away in your home office, a nice pair of jeans and a sweater would be appropriate. If clients are visiting consider khakis and a dress shirt. Your style of dress is ultimately driven by the type of business you are performing. But what you wear should be a conscious decision, not an afterthought. You don’t want a client who happens to be in your neighborhood catching you in your polka dot jammies.
Myth:There will be less distractions at a home office.
Truth: We already covered whining kids, but what about dishes, laundry, dust bunnies and the Internet. If you are a neat freak like me chances are you’ll have a difficult time putting down the broom to pick up a client’s telephone call. And it’s really easy to get caught up in the daily happenings on the Internet. Working at home requires a good deal of self-control and motivation to be successful. To avoid distractions schedule time for work when you are most productive. If you are awake and focused you are less likely to stray from your work. Creating an office space away from the hub of your house also helps. And make sure to shut the door. A closed door will encourage you to stay at your desk. Also, keep a calendar with project deadlines in plain site so you always know where to focus your energy. Consider using a PDA or software that can warn you of impending deadlines. An annoying beep or pop-up is a great way to stay on task. Finally, leave yourself some slack time. Everyone needs a little break.