Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Beginners guide to working from home

I just switched jobs a month ago. Along with other things, my new employer is a huge supporter of working from home. While my previous employer wanted me to be in office for 9 hours 15 minutes (I know, it's a weird number!), now I am pretty much by myself. This is a drastic change in work environment, schedule and methodology. Not just for me, but for my family as well. It has it's merits and demerits though. On the positive side, I save time and money on commute, get freshly cooked lunch, can help my wife with chores and plan my evenings better since I know when I will be home from work(!). On the flip side, there are challenges like being taken for granted, assuming your availability all the time, domestic distractions (kids, food, sleep, guests, salesman, TV etc.), infrastructure issues (electricity, Internet and telephone) and personal lethargy.
I badly wanted to overcome the challenges because I began to feel that my productivity while working from home was worse than what it was from office with my previous employer. So I did what any 21st century adult does when faced with a problem. I Googled! There are a host of ideas available on the Internet -on websites, blog and in forums. I collated them together and with my wife's help, I have started to work around these challenges. This post is not a collation of all that in on the Internet. This is a gist of what worked for me - a 32 year old, father of a 2 year old toddler, living in Hyderabad and whose wife is a home-maker. So, what follows is just a guide, you may have to tweak this a bit.
  1. Working hours: Stick to normal office hours. Largely 9 AM to 5 PM works for everyone. Also stick to a lunch schedule. Avoid lunch invitation from neighbours or friends because it disrupts your schedule. 
  2. Work clothes: Avoid working in your pyjamas. It leads to a lackadaisical attitude towards work. You don't need to be all decked up. But wearing trousers/ jeans and a collard shirt/tee will help. 
  3. Work location: This is the most important thing. I moved from bed to a couch to a bean bag and now I have settled on a more desk like location. It is a computer table with a plastic chair. Though it does not give a perfect posture, but it's good to start with.
  4. Kids: My daughter thought I would be available all the time. But we had to discipline her by saying 'this is Baba's office; You are not supposed to go in there'. In a month's time, she has learnt to deal with it.
  5. Infrastructure: If you are in India, this is one of the most challenging aspects of working from home. You would need the following to work from home effectively & efficiently -
    1. Good light - either natural or artificial. With building very close by, you have to ensure that the work place is well lit. Make sure the light source is in front of you so that it doesn't cause glare on your computer screen and also let's you take video calls (if needed)
    2. Telecommunication - to attend some calls, you may need a land line phone. Make sure you get one. Companies like BSNL or TATA give WLL phones that work just like land lines but in CDMA technology (wireless). You may opt for those as well. Make sure the workplace you have chosen has adequate and uninterrupted mobile network. Else, switch network or log a complain with your existing service provider. 
    3. Internet: Make sure your ISP understands that you are completely relying on him for your work. Moreover, either locate your desk close to where the network cable can be easily provisioned or if you are using a WiFi network, ensure that your wireless router gets uninterrupted power supply. Additionally, keep a wireless Internet dongle handy as a backup. This also helps if you have to carry your work when you are visiting, say your parents.
    4. Power: Planned load shedding, unplanned outages and voltage fluctuations are pretty common in most parts of India. Make sure you use proper equipment to overcome this aspect.
  6. Health: Make sure you stretch every hour, don't eat excessively and consume enough water. When you are in office, all these things are part of a routine. If not out of habit, you tend to do them when you see someone else do them. But at home, you need to inculcate the habit.
I won't say that the six points above are your Bible to working from home. There will probably be more tips you may have or I may come across.  I will keep enriching the post as I go along. Happy working!

18.10.2013 - Having said and practiced all of the above, it has not been very easy. I have had my bad days where I felt I am better off working from office. The main reason for this being my 2 year old. She just refuses to accept that her father can be home AND working. And in case you don't know, it is extremely difficult for a parent to sit & concentrate on work while the apple of their eye is wailing in the next room crying out your name and asking you to hold her. I hope either of us gets over this ASAP.
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