I had my last job in corporate America in 2007. What that means is that for the last 11+ years I’ve been working on my own out of a home office. I suspect, given the way the business world has changed over the last decade, that many of you are in the same situation. Maybe you elected to spend a few bucks on a desk at some co-working space and while that’s fine, this post isn’t really for you. It’s for those of us who absolutely could stay in our PJ’s propped up in bed with a laptop all day and no one would be any the wiser.
I will admit that I’ve done exactly that. I’ll also tell you that it really isn’t the optimal thing to do if you want to be productive. I have a few other thoughts about getting it done while working at home and I thought I’d share them with you today. What brought this on is that I’ve had many candidates looking at home-based businesses and I usually try at some point to tell them how different it is to work from home.
First, the one thing you MUST do is to pick up the telephone. While email is a great way to communicate about some things, you miss the nuance that human interaction brings. Moreover, it’s fun! Human interaction is great! When I started doing franchise consulting and found myself on the phone almost constantly, I realized how much I missed that. Very early in my career (long before email) I spent hours cold calling and setting up meetings. Phone time decreased over the years until when I was working at home it was barely part of what I did. Don’t be a monk: use the phone.
Take breaks. I believe in the 20-20-20 rule for your eyes (look away from the screen at something 20 feet away every 20 minutes) but it’s also important that you mirror the brief interruptions you usually get working in a corporate office. Be sure you eat (not over your keyboard!). Take a walk. Spend an hour hitting golf balls. Do something not work-related so you don’t drive yourself crazy, which it’s easy to do when there isn’t anyone else around to distract you.
Don’t feel guilty when you run errands or do other things that you couldn’t do if you were still in the corporate world. There are many downsides to working on your own and at home. The freedom to use your time as you see fit is one of them.
Finally, if you have space, really set up a dedicated room as an office. Besides providing a tax deduction, it’s always made me feel like the professional that I am. I’m writing this in my home office which has the same sort of stuff on the wall as I had in my corporate offices. It feels like I’m at work. Having the dedicated space also reminds me that I’m off work when I walk into the rest of the house and I should behave that way.
How do you get it done at home? Any tips of your own that you’d like to share?
It’s TunesDay and time to pause from our work day to celebrate a bit of music. Since it’s a business blog, work will be our subject today and the Rolling Stones will be our instructors. There was a lovely moment during the concert following the 9/11 disaster during which Mick and Keith came out to play a song from Beggar’s Banquet. It spoke loudly to the audience of police and firefighters as well as to any of us who have ever gone to work:
The “salt of the earth” line comes from the Bible, of course, but it’s the “salt” imagery which prompted the thought today. Salt has always been incredibly valuable throughout human history. Once people could begin to preserve food, they could begin to explore and travel long distances without worrying about having enough to eat or to go hunting or foraging. Certain cultures used it as currency and although Roman soldiers were not paid in salt (they were given money with which to buy salt), it’s the genesis of the expression “worth his salt.” People fought wars over it and many cities were built on mining, producing, and trading salt. Impressive for something so common and inexpensive now. Which leads to my thought.
In a time when technology has made productivity incredibly high, I think many of us tend to devalue work and workers. Specifically, some managers believe that the people who provide that hard work are interchangeable pieces, common and inexpensive like salt. However, it’s those hard-working people that keep businesses going. To carry the salt analogy a bit further, when a dish lacks salt, the flavor isn’t fully developed and the dish lacks brightness. When we devalue the labor force, our businesses turn out the same way.
Mick and Keith put it very well:
Raise your glass to the hard-working people
Let’s drink to the uncounted heads
Let’s think of the wavering millions
Who need leading but get gamblers instead
Given the economic crisis and part of the reason it happened, that’s quite well put, especially 40 years before the crisis occurred! Regardless if you’re the chef or the cook, the boss or the intern, I’m raising a glass to the hard work you do today. Who’s with me?
What would you do if you didn’t have to work? Maybe that’s the wrong way to phrase that. How would you occupy your time if you didn’t have to worry about the bills being paid and could live pretty much as you’re living now? Would you hold down a job? Would you travel? Would you live where you’re living?
(Photo credit: IMLS DCC)
I have a friend who is a little older than I am and I happen to know has plenty of money in the bank. Not enough to have a jet and a string of mansions, but more than most people will ever have. He can live any way he chooses and work or not work as he sees fit. He just started another job a couple of weeks ago. I asked him why he was working and he said because he likes it. He enjoys the challenges and has been a senior executive at a number of companies during his career. He is engaged. Most of us are not. Time reported on a Gallup study:
According to Gallup, 30% of U.S. employees are “engaged” at work, which the polling organization defines as those “who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and contribute to their organization in a positive manner.” The rest of us are “emotionally disconnected” from our workplaces, making us much less likely to be productive. Fifty-two percent of employees says they are basically “checked out” at work, and 18% say they’re so unhappy they’re actually acting out their unhappiness in the workplace. “Every day, these workers undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish,” Gallup’s report says.
So to start the work week, let’s all take a step back as figure out if we’re ready to do the work. Maybe if we’re even wanting to do it at all. Do we want a promotion because it means more money or do we want it because it reflects the effort we’ve put in at a task we enjoy? Are we interested in developing our minds or our wallets? Can we combine our avocations and our vocation? After all, while it’s not called “work” because it’s meant to be fun, I know it can be. It can also suck. The choice is yours.