Thursday, 9 July 2009

Make working from home work - Part II

I'm going to address a couple of the issues which I came across when I started working from home: controlling interruptions from friends and family, and what equipment and gadgets you need in order to appear as professional as someone who has access to the facilities of a huge corporate office.

1. Controlling interruptions from friends and family.

Having a dedicated work space where you can tuck yourself away is of course the starting point here (as I mentioned in the last post). But one additional problem I found in getting down to work is the tendency for friends and family to think that, because you are there at home, you are available for them to drop in for coffee, for runnning errands, taking deliveries and generally getting things done around the house.

The only answer to this is for YOU to set your boundaries. When friends say that they are passing and will drop in, you have to say "Sorry, but I am working". If they persist then you may have to invent something like an important conference call taking place at that time, which means that you will be tied up. You can, of course, say "But why don't we meet after work when I finish at 6pm?".

The same applies to family (i.e. the family living in your home). They may assume that you will have time to run their errands or pick up stuff from the shops. Just a few times saying "no, I'm sorry, I was working all day and didn't have time to do it" will soon train them!

Remember, you need to train the others around you that your working time at home is as sacrosanct as it would be if you were working in an external office.

2. What equipment and gadgets do I need for home working?

Most people these days have a desktop or laptop computer, so I will take it for granted that you do. I think that, beyond this, the next essential item is a multi-function laser printer. This can be black and white or colour, but only laser printing gives a professional finish. Inkjet printers are very cheap to buy but the print quality is not great, theink runs out very quickly, and you will find over time that, though the upfront investment in a laser printer is more, it will pay for itself.

Make sure that your printer can scan, copy and, ideally, fax too. There is nothing more amateur than saying that you don't have the facility to copy something or to scan a document.

Apart from the printer, I would say that the other essential for office based home working professionals is a land line. So many people have mobile phones these days and think that they can get away with just giving out their mobile number. But for professional calling, land line quality is best. What about using Skype and other Internet based phone systems, I hear you say?

Well, I leave it to you to decide whether the quality of service is of professional standard. My own experience is that there is nothing more frustrating, unprofessional and time wasting on a conference call (or indeed any call) of participants dropping in and out, with background noise, because their mobile or Skype line is losing strength. If you have ANY doubts - don't be a cheapskate - get a land line!

Post your comments on what you think are the necessities for home working!

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