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I have worked at home many times since the last time I received a W-2 which was back in 1990. I have worked at home because I couldn’t afford the rent for an office and I have worked at home because it made more sense. In other words, I have been a captive and I have been commander of my home office.

When I first moved my office home I always seemed to get pity from friends, family and customers. Everyone had this perception that I must have fallen on hard times to have to work at home. Now if you tell someone your office is at home there is a genuine sense of jealousy from those still commuting.

Technology has made this change possible. 20 years ago you still needed two or three phone lines to cover your home phone, office phone, fax machine and dial-up internet. When you met someone you had to get in the car and meet somewhere else and any kind of teleconferencing would be done at a Kinko’s that rented out video conference rooms. Today you can have staff and customers all across the world connected by the internet using Skype, GoToMeeting and any number of other bits of technology.

Technically speaking, having an office at home is an no-brainer. The problem is all mental. Based on my experiences here is my manifesto for the at-home worker.

1. Work Starts at 8 am.
Your customers and suppliers are rolling into work and want to speak. You should have finished breakfast and be ready to go at 8, not 8:30. You don’t have a commute.

2. Shower and Shave
If you truly want to feel like a human being then shower, shave and brush your teeth, Whatever you would do before going into to the office. Do it now, before your work starts. If you don’t want to shave, grow a beard. You never know when you will have to leave for a meeting or video chat.

3. Dress in Comfortable Clothes
Lucky you, you don’t need to wear a suit or live up to some dress code. Dress in what you are comfortable in. Keep in mind that with video conferencing you still need to look professional at least from the waist up. I tend to look like an Eddie Bauer model most days. An old Eddie Bauer model.

4. Wear Shoes
I have found that I seem to focus better when I am wearing shoes and for the life of me I can’t figure out why. It just seems that I am taking things much more seriously in shoes. Granted my shoes are slip-on Sanuk’s that look good with khakis if I need to meet with someone.

5. Have a Dedicated Workspace
There is nothing worse than spending the day in the same room as where you spend the night. If you have your desk in the bedroom then two-thirds of your day could be spent there and that is no way to live. Besides, having the bed that close is not good when you start getting tired. Find another place in the house you can setup a desk and can keep your papers. Someplace you don’t have to tear down when it’s time for dinner.

6. No TV
You are working for your clients during the day, why even bring the temptation of a tv into your workspace. If there is something on that is important get a Tivo and record it.

7. No Laundry or Dishes before 5 pm
When you walk through your house you are going to notice all those things that need to be done. The same things you wouldn’t think about if you are at an office. I have a rule that the laundry can’t be running during office hours because it is close enough that I would have trouble hearing my clients on the phone. Same thing goes for the dishes, yard work, etc.

8. Lunch Away From Your Workspace
Take 30 minutes to get away from your work and go to the kitchen or the patio and have lunch. It’s been proven that workers need breaks. This is a perfect time to get away. Load the dishwasher when your finished so you won’t think about it that afternoon.

9. Get Out of the House
How about lunch away from the house? Your saving a good bit of money by eating at home, not to mention rent savings, but why not meet a client or prospect for lunch? If not lunch how about meeting them for coffee?

I hope these tips help you as you struggle to work at home. As I mentioned the stigma of working at home is gone and is now an acceptable way to work. All it takes is to do the mental work and make it work for you.

Shawn Wright

Shawn Wright

Principal and Owner at Shawn Wright Designs
Shawn Wright is a graphic designer and podcaster living in Birmingham, Alabama. You can find his design work at shawnwright.net. He is also the producer and host of the Shades Cahaba Oral History Project podcast (shadescahabahistory.com) and has a few other shows currently in production.
Shawn Wright
Shawn Wright

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