Working at Home: Making It Work
by Barbara Quick
The late American writer John Cheever used to get dressed in a suit, tie and hat every morning, kiss his wife and daughter goodbye then walk downstairs to the boiler room of their apartment building. There he'd strip down to his boxer shorts and get to work. When 5 p.m. rolled around, he'd lay down his pen, put on his clothes and walk back upstairs.
Between dot-com layoffs and corporate downsizing, a lot of former road warriors are now commuting from their bed to their home computer every morning instead of getting in their cars or onto public transportation.
Like Cheever and everyone else who has ever worked from home, they're faced with finding ways to stay on track, disciplined and sane without the tempering influences of co-workers and bosses around them.
During her seven years of working from home, Mieke H. Bomann, a Seattle-based writer and journalist developed tricks for staving off isolation and staying focused.
"A friend of mine gave me the idea of keeping the radio on in the next room to simulate the white noise you get working in an office with other people," she says. "It also helps to have a window looking out on the street so at least you can see other humans."
Bomann stresses that without a home office she wouldn't have lasted as long as she did. "I needed to have the door and a room that approached looking and feeling like a professional workplace. I tried to remain in there for at least three hours at a time before I treated myself to a break." Bomann scheduled lunch out with friends as often as possible. She used mid-morning breaks to tend to her garden and mid-afternoon breaks to walk her dog.
While some telecommuters exult in being able to conduct business in their bathrobe, others find it necessary for their professional morale to keep up appearances, even if no one else is looking.
With her home company and a lot of her sources based on the other side of the country, Bomann said it just felt too odd interviewing people in her pajamas. "While I didn't get up and dress for success every morning, I would get out of my nightclothes and put on a pair of jeans."
Do the rules change when you're not home alone?