The home-based worker is an entirely different animal than the typical employee -- if you're a creature whose office is at home, you know how hard it is to keep your private life from intruding on your work, and your business from taking over your personal time! Let's examine the species "work-at-homer" in its natural habitat and watch the life and death struggle for balance.
Tracking The Work-At-Homer
It's easy to track the work-at-homer by simply looking at her environment. You can tell where she has been by the trail of papers and office supplies she leaves behind as she moves from room to room. (I call it "office slime.") And you may even find several different "nests" in odd places around the home (bedroom, living room, even in the kitchen or bath) where she has holed up to tackle a project. However, these tell-tale signs also make her vulnerable to attack by predators, who want to use these spaces for themselves. The work-at-homer can protect herself by gathering loose work paraphernalia, returning it to her office and making sure every pen and folder has a permanent place in which to live.
Another telltale sign of the work-at-homer is the constant cry, "Where is my…?" This indicates a search for misplaced office supplies, which tends to occur when a mate or cub borrows the tape dispenser or a Sharpie or a calculator. At such times, the worker needs to mark her turf by making it clear that if something is in the office, it's off-limits. An easy solution is to keep two sets of supplies: one for the office (labeled with her name) and another for household use.
The work-at-homer is known to move freely over a vast terrain. She isn't restricted to one desk in one office, and seasonal migrations are common. While it's great that a home-based worker can toil on the backyard deck in nice weather, family life can suffer when those sharing the den can't eat at the dining room table because it's covered by spreadsheets. The best roaming policy:? A work-at-homer can park it wherever she wants, but she must put everything back where it belongs when she is done for the day.
Survival Of The Fittest
Some work-at-homers are early risers, others are nocturnal. Those without structure often find the entire day passes with nothing accomplished. The ability to keep non-traditional hours is a perk of staying home, so it's fine for such a worker to start her day at 5 a.m. or end it at midnight. Being able to bop back and forth between writing that proposal and doing the laundry is another benefit. But when the day can be divided into distinct blocks of time (either for working or for personal activities), the work-at-homer will get more done with less distraction.
Social interactions are often a challenge for the work-at-homer. Phone calls from friends, a neighbor dropping in, a child or spouse wanting attention can throw a day's plan off-track. To keep focused, a home-based worker has to be firm by setting and sticking to regular "office hours." Interlopers need to know that the worker is unavailable during the business day, and must be driven back to their own territory. Interruptions can be avoided by keeping the office door shut and letting calls go to voicemail. When an interruption does strike, it's best for the work-at-homer to explain that she's in the middle of a big project, but will make time to get back in touch. When home-based workers respect their working hours, others do too.
Work-at-homers face an odd contradiction: Their working environment is conducive to having more free time than most employees do, but they can't seem to pull themselves away from their desks at the end of the day. The temptation to "get just a few more things done before bed" or "finish up those e-mails over the weekend" is tremendous. The problem is, there's always more work to do than time. For the work-at-homer to survive in the wild, she has to turn off the light and lock the office door at an agreed-upon time, in order to return to her pack. One survival tactic? Choosing the three most important tasks to accomplish in the day, and stopping work when those jobs are done. With a watchful eye and a little diligence, the border between the home office and home need never be breached!
posted on: 5/6/2010 11:30:00 AM by Ramona Creel
category: General Organizing Tips
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