It has been almost two years since I wrote myself 10 commandments for working from home; I think it’s time for a retrospective.
#1: Google Voice Number
A dedicated work line is something I’m still a very firm believer in. But because the development team I’m a part of is “hyper-communicative” (we’re in a chat all day and frequently working collaboratively on GoTo Meeting or via Google Hangouts) I don’t use the actual “phone” very much. It would seem that my experience is the exception, as most of my friends who work from home still use their phone quite a bit.
For this reason I still think a google voice number, or otherwise dedicated work line deserves to be #1.
##2: Standing Desk (workspace of your choice)
I still spend most of the day at the standing desk, but depending on my schedule enjoy spending some time on the couch or sitting in the kitchen as well.
I’d still rank a proper workspace #2 on this list, as having a distraction free, organized space just for work is critical for a proper work/personal life balance.
#3: Get An Air Purifier
I don’t think this should be #3. This was very specific to the dust prone office at our old house and less of an issue in our new place. As someone with indoor allergies and a bit of the assmar the air purifier does come in handy, but keeping this at number 3…. meh.
##3: Get an awesome headset The new #3 is obviously a headset! Let’s talk about meetings and communication: If you’re not working on a team maybe this isn’t a big deal, but if you do frequent voice/video conferencing and you don’t have a headset it’s going to be a problem.
Because I’m on calls and one-on-one video conferences so often I got a big comfy gamer’s headset that is meant to be worn for several hours at a time. I like them because they’re ridiculously large and make me look like a bit like I’m piloting a helicopter. You should get whatever form factor works for you, but after working from home for almost 2 years I can say a good headset is something I’ll never be without again, I’m not some ridiculous teleconferencing echo monster.
##4: Gym Schedule Oh boy, this worked out great. I lost almost 50lbs eating better and being slightly more physically active. No foolin’.
##5: Going out to lunch
I don’t get to go out for lunch quite as much as I used to because of the proximity of my other telecommuting friends’ houses, but the overall point here is still pretty important.
Taking some time away from my desk in the middle of the day is still a great way to stay focused and productive throughout the rest of it.
##6: Identify Vice
Given the amount of work I have this hasn’t been an issue at all. Sometimes when talking to others about working from home, I wonder if this shouldn’t be higher on the list. It seems some people view telecommuting as a kind of constant vacation where it’s easy to be distracted. I suppose that might be the case for some, but if your workload is anything like mine there just won’t be time for rum drinks in the hammock.
##7: Breakfast – It’s the new lunch
I’m not going to sit here and say that I start every single day with a full breakfast bright and early. Generally I make breakfast mid morning while catching up with a colleague, waiting for a server to relaunch, or making my plan for the day.
But I’m still very much motivated by food and do feel more productive after breakfast. When I was commuting I felt like I never had time for a real breakfast, so I definitely stand by its place in the top 10.
This is one of those things that I wish didn’t have to be on this list. As part of living in 2013 I view paying for a proper backup service like getting the oil changed in my car. It is a necessary expense that mitigates against very common, real threats.
##9: Communication – What?
As I mentioned in number 1, the team I’m on is always in communication with each other. Communication skills are so essential, especially when working from home. And that’s more than just the single skill of telling others what you’re up to! Listening, and knowing how and what questions to ask are absolutely critical to being successful when working from home. As are documentation and information organization skills.
Over the summer I had a few opportunities to spend hot days working from my boat drifting around the local lake. I brought some pieces of my off grid power system to power all my electronics and phone to tether wifi. I was able to go out early in the morning, do some trout fishing, and work all day anchored in a peaceful cove.
Especially when things get really busy and staying up late working becomes the norm, or a project is particularly complex or frustrating, I remember that not everyone has the opportunity to be productive in any environment they chose.
I’m not saying, “I’d never work in an office again”, because that’s certainly a leap too far; but telecommuting has been a very positive experience for me and I appreciate it everyday.