So you want to work from home

Working from home sounds wonderful to many people since they envision bunny slippers, bons bons and Oprah reruns with a phone call or e-mail here and there. At least that is what I keep seeing when I peruse various message boards. That imagery is so…WRONG. I am in my 5th year of working from home and while it provides me with untold flexibility and the ability to work in jeans and a t-shirt when I am not running to a client meeting (then it’s all about the business suit) it’s not all sunshine and roses either.

Working from home is a fantastic benefit but what people tend to forget is that it’s a privilege not a right. If you’re a slacker in the officer you’ll most likely be a slacker at home. It’s also hard to turn off work when it’s at your fingertips 24/7. Many a morning as I am washing my hair (see #3 below) I have an “Oh Shit” moment where I suddenly think of a work issue. 99.9% of these can wait until my day officially begins, but because I can start my day downstairs I usually start earlier than needed. If I was only office based then the perceived catastrophe would have to wait.

Here are some other things to remember if you think working from home is the answer to your job woes:

1. I have childcare for the kids. Well, then why work from home you might say. Because it prevents me from having a commute and the kids can sleep a little later in the morning. My employer is not paying me to watch my own kids, though that would be a sweet deal. (Actually, after seeing my lame attempt at arts and crafts no one would pay me to watch children) Who wants to be in on a conference call and here a small voice calling his brother a poop head?

2. I have office hours. Since I have clients who need to reach me, I have set hours where I am available, so if I want to run off to Target or grab coffee that’s on my lunch break. I don’t get brownie points for sending an e-mail at midnight considering most of my clients leave their offices around 5pm.

3. I shower before working. Sitting around in PJs and bed head is just gross unless it’s Saturday morning and I am flipping through the Post. If I want to have professional dialogue I have to feel professional and that means a shower, clean clothes, hair done and yes even makeup. (though not whoreish)

4. I don’t spend my office hours cleaning my house. Again, I am not paid to clean my own house. I either do chores around my hours or it occurs when the cleaning crew comes every other week.

5. I am even more available than when I am in the office. For the first year I worked from home I was so paranoid that my employer would think I was doing #1-4 that I literally sat waiting for the phone to ring or e-mail to come. The Husband asked me if I ever took bathroom breaks when I used to work in the office and gently reminded me that I probably had bathroom privileges while working from home too. I have eased up on that considerably (a watched phone NEVER rings) but I am still 99% of the time immediately available to my clients, or I am calling them back within moments. Most of my regular clients know I work from home and I have heard not negative one peep from them, because my efficiency has never come into question. I did a lot of screwing around in the office (no, not that kind) talking about reality shows or running out to Starbucks. Those days are over and I get so much done.

6. My home office is hooked up. I have everything I need to conduct my job from home, no running off to FedEx to send a fax or printing papers at the library, everything is in my house.

7. I don’t have parties where I sell crap to friends in the evenings and on weekends. You know those companies and yes they may work for some, but they’re not my style. There are many work from home jobs that don’t require pandering to friends, relatives and other moms at daycare (my least favorite form). In that same vein:

8. I had a proven track record. Here’s a little secret, employers don’t knock on your front door and beg you to work from home when they don’t know you from Adam. Almost everyone I know who WAH got there by being an office employee for the same organization and doing a great job in the office.