My home office is a delight to me. When I walk through the door and sit down at my desk, I feel a sense of relief. I am doing work I love, in a place I love, with and for clients (and a team) I love.
As the leader of a virtual team, comprised of contractors as young as 19 adding their talents to the mix, the last 16 months have shown me that working at home with a flexible schedule is not the right situation for everyone.
This summer, I attempted to work with an intern, fresh from his first year at college, a marketing major who hadn’t yet taken a marketing course. He had a lot to learn! But our free-style way of working didn’t fit his needs and the summer slipped by (I fear) without him learning/contributing all that he could have. As a leader, I take responsibility for that, at least partially.
If you are working with me, it’s my job to help you be successful in your work with my company. If you can’t be successful with me, then I need to help you be successful elsewhere by letting you go to find opportunities that will make your heart sing!
Are you happy working at home? If not, here are a few ideas that may help you find a work at home situation that is perfect for you.
1 – First, ask yourself these questions. What do I need to say no to? What are my priorities? What is “just perfect” about this situation? What balance is missing? (Hat tip to Mary Jo Asmus, who asked me those questions early in my work at home life. I wrote them on a sticky note that I still refer to frequently.) To be successful working at home, you must say no to some things. Asking these questions will help you find insight into what you could change to make your work at home situation work for you.
What will you say no to? What you say no to is more important than what you say yes to. I say no to phone calls between 3-4 pm so I can give my daughters attention after school. I say no to most activities during the school day (lunches out, etc) since that is my prime work time.
2 – Find an office outside your home where you can work, like a coffee shop or co-working facility. I’m an extrovert, so last fall, I felt really sad and lonely when all of my girls were in school for the first time. For several weeks, I would drop them off, and go to Starbucks  to work for a few hours before coming home. I would spend some time socializing and most of the time working. I’m so busy now with calls and meetings that I get plenty of interaction, but if your work is more solitary, finding a place to work with others may help you.
3 – Set a schedule for yourself, and plan enjoyable activities to look forward to around your work schedule. i.e. – plan to wake up at the same time each day, exercise at the same time, start your work day at the same time — and put cool stuff on your calendar in between (lunch with a friend, a small group, special time with your spouse, etc.) If needed, find an accountability partner to help you stick to your schedule.
4 – Ask others what has worked for them. If you work on a virtual team, ask members of the team what has worked for them!
5 – Plug into online interaction. I use Twitter and Facebook as virtual water coolers, places to take a break and interact in between tasks and meetings. Connecting online (for me) meets some of my socialization needs. I am happier working at home because of my ability to connect with people around the world with a few keystrokes.
6 – Figure out it this is a fit. It might be that you need a job with more people interaction. Or perhaps you need a job where you are an employee with set hours. Flexibility is a beautiful gift AND working flexibly on your own may not be the best for you during this stage of your life. Even though working at home may be just perfect for someone else, if you are not happy, give yourself permission  to consider what’s best for you.
Tell me something! What tips to you have for how to be happy working at home? What has worked for you?
The photo is a corner in my home office. Isn’t it cozy?