Tech Work from Home: A Survival Guide

Doing IT work from a home office has its perks – and major pitfalls. Here’s a guide to staying productive.
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Bang, bang, bang! I was in the middle of a crucial demonstration with a large potential customer. The loud banging stopped me mid-sentence. I quickly turned my head to look through the glass panes of my office doors and was immediately disarmed by a very cute smile – of my 14-month-old daughter. She was banging on the glass with one of her big sister’s Barbie dolls, desperately trying to get her daddy’s attention.

When I tell someone I work from home, I mostly hear about what a wonderful life I must have with no commute and more family time. I’m here to present those folks with a taste of reality. Although I love not commuting (I live near Washington, DC and commuting is no picnic) and I love being around my family, when you need to focus on your job, both of these loves can have reverse effects.

After a long hard day, just getting off a call with an irate customer, I get to walk a few feet to the kitchen and have dinner with my family. Sounds great, right? Well, it is, but I truly miss the commute home because during this time I could decompress and remove the stress accumulated during the work day.

As for being around my family throughout the day, this is a blessing and a challenge. I get to see moments like my youngest daughters’ first steps and hear my older daughter belting out Disney tunes while banging on the piano. Sounds great right? Well it is.

Yes, here comes the “but” again.

But…the piano happens to be in my office. And although I have a rule that the kids stay out during the work day, I’m not very good at saying no when I hear “Pleeeeease Daddy can I play piano.” So as I try to write a customer project proposal, I have to work extra hard to tune out the background noise.

I can hear you commuters who just spent an hour stuck in traffic saying “Cry me a river!”

I get it. I’m lucky. But what I’m trying to point out is that working from home requires compromises and discipline.

There are many considerations that are more work specific, like having the correct equipment, furniture, telecommunications, security and processes that should be implemented as a standard company-wide telecommuting policy. But rarely do people understand the little things that can complicate working from a home office.

Here are eight guidelines that may help you navigate these “little things” to become more productive, while also keeping the peace in the house – which happens to be your office as well.

1. Stick to a schedule. The challenge here is that when working from home it is difficult to separate where work and family time begin and end. I may have dinner with the family at 5:30 pm, but I’m usually back at work that evening. And once you start family time, try to stick to it and don’t take a call in the middle of dinner.

2. Get dressed. You don’t have to go to the extreme of dressing to the nines, but I found putting on my business casual clothes made a difference in my attitude and helped remind me (and everyone else in the house) that I’m at work..

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