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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: jeromedawg on December 02, 2015, 06:32:30 PM

Title: Telecommuters - what do your schedules and offices look like?
Post by: jeromedawg on December 02, 2015, 06:32:30 PM
Hey guys,

I'll be starting a full telecommute position end of this month and am somewhat anxious about it as I've never done anything like this before. I know it requires a certain level of discipline to stay in the office and commit to no distractions etc. But at a practical level, it would be great to hear what some of your experiences are and how those who telecommute do it.

What do your schedules typically look like? And what have you done as far as creating an office space for yourselves (especially in smaller homes/condos/apts/etc)? We're planning to have my wife go SAHM to watch our son (just over 3mos now) and we do have a 3rd bedroom which is more suited towards being a den/office. With one kid at home, I think it's manageable but if we have more kids it'll be a challenge I think. Especially with having short/long-term guests (my parents or my inlaws staying overnight to weeks at a time) who need a place to stay. Anyway, I digress somewhat as the living situation/space is a whole different topic...

Any tips, advice or pointers on how to manage a telecommute lifestyle?
Title: Re: Telecommuters - what do your schedules and offices look like?
Post by: NYCWife on December 02, 2015, 07:26:22 PM
There are definitely some pros and cons of working from home.

For me, I have found that I struggle more with pulling myself out of work and back into home life, rather than having issues of being distracted at home. I don't have children, so that would certainly cut down on the distractions!

Here are some of the things I do to make working at home "work" for me:

1. I get up and eat breakfast with my husband, to get me started on the mental path that it's time for work
2. I schedule my work tasks in Outlook (each project gets its own block of time and has its own reminder pop up)
3. I clearly communicate to my husband when I will need to work after dinner or when I will be available after dinner
4. In my previous job, I had a separate computer for work and for my own personal use. So when I was done with work, I just shut the lid of my work computer and "quit" email on my phone so that I wouldn't be distracted by the "dings" and could be focused on home life. In my new job, I only have my personal laptop, so I definitely bleed work into longer hours than I would like.

My job requires A LOT of hours, so my schedule is probably not helpful to you. Tonight is actually an early night (9:30) in terms of finishing work! :)

In terms of my apartment setup, I live in NYC, so we are pretty tight for space.  We don't have a room to use as an office. I prefer to work on the couch (it's more comfortable than a dining table or a bar stool), so I purchased a really great lap desk, and then I have my end table (with a couple of drawers) set up to house the "stuff" I need that I'm currently using. Then, in our dining area, I have my printer set up on a 2-drawer rolling file cabinet where I house printer paper, ink cartridges, and all of the other necessary office supplies.

One bonus is that you can deduct a portion of your bills on your taxes (if you itemize) when you use a home office.

Good luck!
Title: Re: Telecommuters - what do your schedules and offices look like?
Post by: bgp on December 02, 2015, 07:32:25 PM
You should have a dedicated space. I know people that set up a corner of the bedroom, spare bedroom, or have a formal office.

I've found a need to have the ability to shut a door and keep out the usual household noise. Many companies will pay you a bit for the utilities you use like internet access (~$75).

I'm assuming you are not being driven by work to maintain certain hours as you did ask about schedules. Figure out what works. If early work, run with it and wrap up early.

I do find you must work at staying connected with coworkers as you can become isolated. Reach out if there is nothing urgent happening. While the lack of 'water cooler talk' was said to be a good thing I found you can miss important and helpful conversations. Thus you may have to create these opportunities. Set up a team call if appropriate (even if you are not the guy in charge).

Home alone working can be tough. It may be worth going someplace to have pretend co-workers. There is a local coffee shop near me that has a small collection of entrepreneurs that meet to work once a week. Sometimes it is just to be near each other and sometime they bounce ideas.

With a SAHM you will have a different issue. The 'honey can you....' This can be tricky and you'll have to coach things with the wife. Our rule has been if the door is closed I'm busy. I open it when i don't mind a head popping in asking a question.

Good luck and congrats on the new gig. It's different and can be very rewarding!
Title: Re: Telecommuters - what do your schedules and offices look like?
Post by: hdatontodo on December 02, 2015, 07:32:57 PM
I start work at 9am after kiddo gets on his school bus. I have a 3x4' purple table of which my work laptop gets a corner. I use a mini width keyboard and large monitor for my home computer.

I used to work a lot of paid OT and get midnight calls, but things are temporarily slow.

At 4pm, I go out and wait for kid's bus, get him squared away and go back to work.
Title: Re: Telecommuters - what do your schedules and offices look like?
Post by: Playing with Fire UK on December 03, 2015, 03:46:02 AM
Re the OH and kid. My OH works shifts, so will sometimes be around when I need to work. When I can then I arrange my day so that I am off when he is off, but when I'm 'at work' I ask him to email me on my personal email if it can wait or my work email/phone if it is urgent. It is a bit contrived but works for us. Speak to the OH about what household chores you should/shouldn't be doing when WAH - I do the laundry (perfectly suits an hourly/90minutely break), wash up a few things while the kettle is boiling, and do things like turn on the slow cooker that only take a minute.

I absolutely need to have an office space where I can close the door. Maybe get some noise isolating headphones as well. In my old place I worked in the cupboard under the stairs rather than the living room so that I could close the door at the end of the day.

If I have houseguests I go and work from a coffee shop or arrange to work in the office, and leave them to it. No matter what I say, my family and friends find it difficult to see the difference between 'working at home' and being 'off work today'. While they're welcome to use the spare room, I'm no more available to entertain them than I would be if I was in a different building. This will probably be easier for you with a SAHP to buffer guests.

For setting up your office. I would say play around with what works for you, you'll have so much more freedom to get a personalised set up. I have massive whiteboard for planning, a desk that I can sit, kneel or stand and blue daylight bulbs that keep me alert. I also have a coffee station built into my shelving unit.

I don't know what type of work you do, but I break down my tasks by size and energy/focus needed. Big bulky focus-intensive tasks get done first thing, then little tasks I set up a timer (check out pomodoro), and then dull tasks (monthly reports, timesheets, emails) get done in the afternoon as my energy flags.
Title: Re: Telecommuters - what do your schedules and offices look like?
Post by: ShoulderThingThatGoesUp on December 03, 2015, 06:06:30 AM
I wake up at 6:30 before my SAHW and two-year-old, eat lunch with my family, and finish around 4 or 5. I work in a spare bedroom but as we look towards growing our family we're planning on finishing a porch to serve as my office. Being able to close the door and walk away is important to me. I'm required to have a landline by my employer, and my wife will intercom me on it sometimes when she wants a hand. My job involves a lot of small tasks and sometimes simply waiting for something to run to see if it worked, so that works for me. (Also, why I post so much here during work hours.)
Title: Re: Telecommuters - what do your schedules and offices look like?
Post by: StetsTerhune on December 03, 2015, 08:45:52 AM
Everyone works differently. And to me the best thing about telecommuting is that I've gotten to experiment with what works for me and now get to do it. Just to give you a sense of how different people can be:

I don't have a dedicated work space. I don't even have a "usual" work space. If I'm really busy it helps me to move every hour or so. I've actually found I vastly prefer couches and beds for intense work. Desks and tables are better for just messing around on the computer. Then again if I'm really engrossed in what I'm doing I could work on the deck of an aircraft carrier.

I work best in bursts.  I can work a full 8 hours occasionally when needed, but long term my productivity is best working ~3 hours or so a day. This is partly due to me and partly due to the nature of my job, which is very mentally demanding and also very detail-oriented. If I try to plod along when I'm not fresh I usually end up messing up too much for it to be worthwhile. I need to be "available" 7am to 4pm, but I usually do my work 7-9 and then 1030-1130. I'll respond to things or fulfill quick requests the rest of the day, but really do my best to not do any significant work after lunch.
Title: Re: Telecommuters - what do your schedules and offices look like?
Post by: bobertsen on December 03, 2015, 09:15:06 AM
I usually wake up and roll into my office at 8:30, then make a point to log off promptly at 5PM. The kids make this clean break a necessity.

The biggest issues I face are transition times for the kids (school bus, nap time, etc), which pull me away from my desk and break my flow, and the fact that my office is also the place where all the 'home' paperwork flows through (95% of this paper is kids' medical and insurance related... why can't that industry get with the modern times?), so it's sometimes difficult to sort the crap on my desk to make a usable workspace.