Like you, I have been seeing a lot of articles about working from home, given the current state of events. I myself have been lucky enough to be able to work from home for 11 years now. While I could probably write a book on this topic, including advice, stories, recommendations on how working from home can fit into your enterprise, I'm not. This is not meant to be a work from home guide, but some lighthearted ramblings. Proceed at your own risk…
Would you go back?
I want to start off right away by saying that I don't think I could turn back. As I said, I have been working from home for over a decade. The flexibility it has provided and the time with my family has been invaluable. The idea of getting in my car at 7 or 8am every day and not getting home until 6pm does not appeal to me. Since absence makes the heart grow fonder, I enjoy the time I do spend at the office probably more than most people. I have spurts of client travel that help me keep my sanity. These allow me to experience parts of the country or the world that I usually would not be able to. With that flexibility comes the need for diligence to, you know, get actual work done. Joking aside, getting work done is usually not the issue, not working 24×7 is. Work/life balance is something that took a few years for me to get right, though I'm honestly still working out the finer details.
The Work from Home Experience
I am an extrovert. I very much enjoy human interaction. Despite countless phone conferences a day (work from homers are always on the phone), the lack of casual conversation with coworkers can take its toll. It may be more challenging for my wife, who is also at home. She is an introvert and could happily go a day (or five) without me venturing out of my office 10+ times a day to (1) have a casual chat or (2) make coffee with my loud espresso maker.1Sorry Kristine. An always-live chat window with my Wittij colleagues takes the edge off for me (and her).
Your home office is going to be messy. You'll have to come to terms with this one. I try extremely hard to keep the clean office. In spite of that, the mail, packages, dirty dishes, kid's shoes, water bottles, coffee cups, and various headphones purchases eventually pile up. It's possible I am just a slob, but maybe I'm just a creative genius. #ProTip: Push all items outside the purview of your video camera.
Video meetings, the future is now!
Growing up in the '80s and '90s, the promise of a video phone future was always exciting. Now not only do we have this capability, it's also widely available. As a grown, working adult, it's not nearly as impressive as promised. While I enjoy conference calls and video calls, not all people are, um, proficient at using them. Crummy cameras, camera angles, poor audio, struggling to get the conference working are still problems on the other end. It's a constant struggle.
When the stars align, video calls are great for face-to-face interaction. I could go on for days about conference calls but there are a million other blogs on that topic you can find that accurately describe the perils associated with them. And while I can push items out of the purview of my video camera, my kids are a different story. My favorite example of this challenge is Professor Robert Kelly. I don't know if I have ever felt someone's pain as much. #ProTip: Don't assume your camera is off or your phone is muted. Ever.
Can you hear me now?
Gadgets are the backbone of any respectable work from home office. Most important, though, is a good headset. My colleagues and I have purchased and trialed a volume of headsets and headphones that could only be viewed as comical. As I sit and write this, I am looking at four pairs of headphones that I own, each for a specific purpose: one with noise-canceling for airplanes, one with noise-canceling for background voices, one very portable, and one wired backup set (for when all other options fail). That plus a graveyard of failed experiments in a box under my futon. I have yet to find a single pair that fits all my needs.
Work from “Home”
Occasionally I go slightly insane and HAVE to get out of the house. Typically this happens in the summer when my three kids are home and have their friends over and asking me if they can eat all the popsicles every 5 minutes and coming in and out of the house, slamming the door and the AC is on, but it's just hotter and PLEASE GET ME OUT!
Modern, mobile data and remote access to systems are a godsend. I always keep my iPad and phone charged along with a bag with other doodads I require to make a quick getaway. Working from home doesn't always mean working from home! A getaway to a café, a favorite lunch spot, or even a random parking lot in my car can be a lifesaver, which leads me to my final thought.
Be prepared to “work from home” in odd places
I wish I could pick an “oddest place I have ever taken a call,” but there are just too many. Here are a few in-the-wild work from home locations in no particular order and, again, I'm going to apologize to my wife for some of these:
- In the hospital room after my second (and maybe third) daughter was born. Did I say, “Sorry Kristine”?2Sorry Kristine.
- Many, many parking lots, in my car, sometimes wearing an obnoxiously large, noise-canceling headsets, where passersby give very concerned looks in my direction.
- Outside of my kids' elementary school on a beautiful day, where the custodian came out to check on the “suspicious man with the bag and the headset walking in circles.”3Sorry, Kristine.
- Grocery shopping with my wife. Did I mention that I am a loud talker? Same stares, and again apologies to my wife.
- Doctor appointments where kids are getting checkups or shots. 4Sorry, Kristine.
- The Vet, while I trying to also wrangle my 140 pound South African Boerboel. 5Sorry, Barrett.
- Kids' sporting events. Sorry to my whole family.
- While painting rooms in my house. When you work from home, you tend to work A LOT and need to squeeze in that task list somehow.
- Mowing the lawn. I have a special headset for this.
- While I was writing this blog. Some calls are just for listening.
All right. Time to get some work from home done. Let us know if you'd like Barrett or I to hop on a few calls and bang out some solutions or want to learn more about how our expertise can enable your visions.
That's it. I have some calls and client work to get to!