Next week I will celebrate my 5 year anniversary of working from home full-time. Here are some tips I’ve picked up.
- A good chair makes all the difference. A good desk doesn’t make any difference.
- Good headphones are handy when you need to block noise. I use over-the ear Sony noise canceling headphones I’ve had for a decade, but if I had to do it over again I’d go cheaper and keep the comfort.
- For my working telephone I use a battery-powered phone with a speaker option on my home line for work. It’s Ok, but it ties up the home line. Recently I splurged on a $20 set of earbuds and started using my cell phone instead. The calls are clear, and I filter out external noise.
- I have a great big laptop. It’s criminally overpowered for what I use it for. But, if I want to do something ELSE while I’m working, I have power to spare.
- Walking desks are terrible for typing. They are worse for detailed mouse-ing.
- Some people have a problem stopping work. They feel compelled to check email and see what’s going on on the evenings and week ends. I avoid that by setting up my work space out of sight. If I saw it all evening I’d be tempted to log in, but since I don’t think about it, I can go all weekend without thinking about work.
- I keep track of tasks with my own system. Starting with the Pomodoro technique, I simplified it to a spiral bound notebook for tasks. Instead of a pomodoro timer, I use Shoutcast.com to remind me not to get distracted. There are fewer commercials and more choice than regular radio. Using all other task-keeping systems (TidlyWiki, Rally, Getting Things Done) takes too much effort.
- Communication is key. You can get about 3 days worth of work done in a day if you have everything you need. You can waste days and weeks waiting for information. I do a short daily meeting and I check in with my co-workers at least once or twice a day.
- It can get lonely. I get antsy and have to run errands once or twice a week. Shopping, lunch with others, and driving in the country all help. Working on housework and working on my own computer-based projects does not. I don’t go out to coffee shops as much as I thought I would. Part of that is the comfy chair, part of it is the 10 pound laptop with 90 minutes of battery life.
- You never, ever, get good gossip. I’ve been through two layoffs, and I didn’t know about either of them until the day of.
These work for me. Your mileage may vary.