Your editor just asked you to change your great article into a lousy one. A tiny error in a bank transfer is delaying your order for at least a week. Your promising freelance client inexplicably went belly up.
Whatever the speed bump, your day just went bump. What do you do?
You lose it. You break a pen in half. You throw a magazine against the wall. You invent synonyms for George Carlin’s Seven Dirty Words as loud as you can. You stomp away from your desk and crack a beer at eleven in the morning.
Why? Because you’re working from home and you can do that crap.
Image via Flickr by the UMF
Perhaps those examples sound extreme or maybe they hit home. Whether you run your business from home or work for someone else remotely, you might not be the perfect professional when no one is looking.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of people doing some or all of their work from home grew from 19 percent in 2003 to 24 percent in 2015. The way we work is changing. Communications technology is making it easier to stay home and still get things done. Employers are finding it cheaper to let you use your office space and not theirs.
The benefits are obvious. Your commute is only a few steps and parking is free. You can fit work tasks around the other events in your life. You can respond flexibly to the needs of your family. You shave less.
But working from home isn’t always abundant productivity in bunny slippers. Legion are the ways to get less done with lower quality. Why? This is no ordinary workplace.
Your New Normal
Image via Flickr by jameelwinter
You used to go to an office space at a scheduled time to work with colleagues and be overseen by your boss. You were paid for your time at the job.
You start work when you’re ready. You used to change the diapers of your new “colleagues” and they’ve seen you step out of the shower. Things have changed.
What were you like when you went to work? As a professional, you held yourself to certain standards. You showed up on time or early. You were always well dressed and groomed. You never let personal business interfere with your job. You handled stress and setbacks with a calm demeanor. To your coworkers, you broadcasted a confident aura. You’d never do your job any other way.
Are you holding yourself to the same standards now that no one is looking? “Of course,” you might say, but look closer.
Work from Home Dangers
Why do many private schools require a dress code? Why do high-end professionals go to work in suits rather than t-shirts and sweat-pants? Because looking sharp is the first step in being sharp.
Knotting a tie, putting on make-up, and polishing your appearance are the beginning of a great day. You dress for the job you want. Do you want to be un-showered in pajamas in your basement cruising Instagram? That sounds like unemployment, not a dream job.
When the caller ID says a buddy is calling you at work, you stay on task and find a time later to call him. Do you still do that while working from home?
Even while writing this, I stopped mid-sentence to respond to a “What’s up, bro?” message on Facebook.
Being one person at work and another in your free time is natural and healthy, but when the line between workplace and home starts to blur, your work ethic can slip.
Stopping the Slide
How can you prevent yourself from becoming a sloppy puddle of your former self?
- Professional Space – Establish an office or even a corner of your home as a professional space. Even if you work at your kitchen table, for the time you are working that square footage is a cathedral of professionalism. Keep your workspace as tidy as you would if surrounded by peers. Imagine at any time your boss or a potential employer could show up to evaluate you.
- On The Clock – Set a time to start work. Perhaps it’s the same every day or maybe it adapts to your life, but for today work starts then and not a minute late. During that time, you are a professional and you’ll act that way. All of the high standards you have as an at-work star will apply, even if no one is looking.
- Aura Of Awesome – You will not be flustered. You will dominate. You will overcome. You are an unstoppable force of business. You are not distracted by your neighbor mowing the lawn.
- White-Collar Slippers – You can dress down, but consider a new uniform. Arranging your appearance is an important preparation ritual even if you don’t have a video chat on your schedule. Buy some new threads, even if they’re yoga pants, and have a standard way you dress to work from home.
- Employ The Kids – Your children need to understand that you aren’t going to work but you are still at work. Make them treat you like an executive and treat them like part of the office. Give them titles and jobs. Keep your “Research Assistant” or “Vice President of Pencil Sharpening” busy. If they need you for a non-emergency, schedule it into your day. Yes you can take a Lego break, just not for three hours.
Amazing at Home
You have accomplished a dream: working on your time in your place. Your commute is gone. You can dress comfortably. You can adapt to the needs of your family. You don’t have to miss that recital.
Beware of the pitfalls, though. You may not always be the rock-solid worker you were when you dressed up to drive to work. When all the other people in your new office are under ten and watching cartoons, you might not exhibit the work ethic you used to.
Set some boundaries, steady your attitude, and ask yourself: “What slippers would Warren Buffett wear to the office?” Be aware of the challenges working from home presents and you’ll find yourself happier and more productive.