Maintaining a Work-life Balance When Working from a Home Office
When I told my husband what I was writing this blog post about, he laughed and said, “Well, that’ll be quick…there isn’t one!” I guess everyone’s entitled to their own opinion.
In my 18 years in this crazy marketing, advertising and media world, I’ve been fortunate to work out of my home office for eight of those years. In the early years, I made the hour to hour-and-a-half commute each way to St. Louis, and I am happy to say I do not miss the long daily commutes or fighting traffic on a daily basis.
When people ask me where I work, and I tell them I work for an advertising agency and am based out of my home office, the response I always hear is, “Wow…must be nice!” To most people, working from home sounds like “paradise” such as: sleeping in, working in your PJ’s, leisurely activities, etc. Well, it’s great, but it’s not like that at all – except for the ball cap I usually have on my head. It takes a lot of discipline to be able to work from home. A recent CareerBuilder.com survey indicated that 27 percent of employees telecommute at some point throughout the year. There are many things I consider as a benefit to being based out of a home office:
- With gas prices at a record high, not having a long commute is a big plus, in addition to reduced wear and tear on my vehicle. Plus, I’m able to get more work done when I’m not sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. #wasteoftime
- I’m at my office daily within two minutes, with the luxury of being casually dressed.
- My clients are all out-of-state, so I get to travel to meet with them about twice a year, still allowing me face-to-face contact with them.
- With three children, I’m close to home in the event I’m needed in an emergency.
- Boost in productivity: My productivity is high due to little interruption aside from my office phone ringing throughout the day from various clients, reps and colleagues regarding the 18 hospitals I currently manage. I’m able to bypass interruptions some have working in an office setting. David Wegner, Director of Communications, Marketing and Public Affairs for McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, agrees: “I realized how much time is used up in the office by conversations about what a co-worker did the night before, a retelling of a TV episode or whatever; 20 or 30 minutes could go by with idle chatter.” #notimeforthat
- Flexibility: My oldest son is in sports, and I’ve been fortunate to be able to attend most of his games (grade school games begin at 4 P.M.). If in the office, I wouldn’t have made a single game.
On the other hand, there are a few downsides working from home, but before I mention any of them, I will have you know the benefits far outweigh the pitfalls! Some of the trade-offs I make by working from my home office are:
- Less interaction with colleagues: Not having a daily presence in the office makes me feel anonymous on occasion. Sometimes, I miss the dialogue, camaraderie and friendships that are part of working in an office environment. I’m always happy to get a call on a weekly basis from a colleague checking in on me.
- Work is always there! Working from home can make it harder to separate your personal from professional. There are many days when I end up working beyond normal hours because I have no commute. I’ll think of something I may have forgotten to do and go back into my office to get it done. When spending long stretches at home without business trips, in addition to the workload, it’s my first inclination to spend every waking hour working. It can be hard to take a break and impose structured hours on myself – sometimes the only way to relieve stress is to leave my home. According to Janet Scarborough Citivelli, a career development expert with Bridgeway Career Development, “Most professionals find themselves working more when they work from home if they don’t take charge of their schedules.” Working at home may not be an ideal scenario for everyone; however, I have managed to acquire greater time-management skills and am getting better at setting boundaries between work and family.
- Office line rings after hours and I answer it. I believe this is still part of providing great customer service to our clients and the majority of the time; it’s a simple question resulting in a short call.
- Career Advancement: A recent Workplace Index Survey, commissioned by office furniture manufacturer Steelcase, indicates that 64 percent of workers believe their lack of daily contact with their employers hinders their chances for a promotion. I cannot say that this thought hasn’t crossed my mind.
Here are a few steps I have in place to avoid drawbacks and capitalize on my ability to work productively from home:
- Motivation: I’m always keeping myself motivated and maintaining a positive attitude. Let’s face it – not every day is going to be a good day. It comes with the territory! #suckitupbuttercup
- Prioritization and organization: Work still needs to get done! I’m extremely disciplined. I don’t wander off, run errands (unless done during a lunch hour), or simply not be productive. The expectations from True Media working from either a home office or office environment are the same. Therefore, staying focused and meeting deadlines are my priorities and my key to making it work.
- Communication: I keep everyone on my team in the loop, including my manager, while speaking on a daily basis to those I work closely with. If I will be away for a time other than the standard lunch hour, I let them know.
- Accessibility: My colleagues know I’m always reachable via phone, email or AIM instant messaging. Gotta love technology!
- Visibility: Working from home is not always easy to keep yourself as visible as those working in the office. I make it a point to make sure my visibility is there daily via constant communication. I’m not a fan of the “out of sight, out of mind” perception.
- I’m always willing to travel into our offices in Columbia, MO or Chesterfield, MO offices when needed. Being able to adjust in a demanding fast-paced industry is a key element to success!
My clients know I’m accessible at all times. All in all, I am fortunate to be here at True Media. True Media provides all of us with the flexibility we need as each individuals situation is different and truly, there aren’t a lot of companies out there that put their employees first. We work hard and play hard, and in the end, it all works out!