Walking the Line When You Work from Home

by Natalie Jost

47 Reader Comments

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  1. I’m actually in a parallel boat, as I am about to become a stay at home DAD.  At one point I had an amazing home office that I shared with my wife’s craft supplies (she works out of the house, so we sort of traded the room off from day to night).  However, as my desk got piled up with documents, color chips, and wiring, I moved out to the kitchen table (where I still have a complete office set up).  Needless to say, my productivity has suffered a bit.

    We’re moving in a month or so, and one of the prerequisites now (after seeing this article) is a room large enough for an office, a door with a lock, and the ability to pile up the kitchen table instead of my desk :)

    Thanks for the great advice/article!

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  2. Thank you for taking the time to write such a great article, in what must be, your spare time. I have been working from home for the past three years, and although my husband and I don’t have a family yet, I can relate to nearly everything you’ve mentioned.

    Because my husband works out of the house, it’s pretty quiet around here during the day. Now that I’m freelancing full-time, it’s best for me to keep regular “business” hours because I am most productive in the morning. I agree that it’s most important to have a separate office, and keep work hours separate from family/recreation. This is tough with distractions like Twitter, Facebook, etc. I have to force myself to turn off the chat!

    Thanks again for the article, I really enjoyed your perspective and advice.

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  3. Although I am now an empty nester with no small children at home, the advice is still wonderful. I have been working at home for the last 2 years, slowly building my web design and development business. I still struggle with keeping track of time, how much to charge and not getting distracted with household duties!

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  4. I’ve been fortunate enough to work from home for the past six months. And for a company that’s over 500 miles away!

    For me, what’s been the hardest is keeping a presence now that I’m basically in a different state. I’ll send out emails to colleagues who I haven’t talked to in a while just to catch up and let them know I’m still around. It helps them think of me when a project comes up and allows me to be more in the loop with company politics.

    I have my office set up with two desks on opposite sides of the room. One for my work machine and the other for my personal computer. If I want to spend more time than I should surfing gossip sites, it won’t show up on my work laptop.

    The only glitches so far have been the occasions when I’m teleconferencing and the mail carrier rings our doorbell causing my dogs to bark their heads off. Thankfully, my coworkers are all animal lovers and get a laugh out of it.

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  5. As a new father who is just starting out with my own business this was a helpful article.  I checked out GrandCentral right away and am still very sad that they are lost in the google black hole. I also used the Emergent Task Timer for a while and it was helpful as a start, but I got tired of all the paper printing.  I just found FreshBooks, which provides a time tracking widget and a lot more features. If someone is looking for a way to track time and invoice, its a pretty slick online software option.

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  6. Great articles and a much needed read and diversion for me today. I’ve been working from home since 2001 as a freelance web designer. I feel I’ve been “successful”? in my best personal opinion, though we all define success differently — something I’ve learned over time and apparently am still learning.

    Being that I am self-taught and all of a sudden found myself working from home, I started off early headstrong that I”˜d do whatever it took to maintain and persevere in the industry. Between jobs, I buried myself in books and tutorials learning new software or trying new tricks. I’d created a monster within myself and nearly eight years later am gratefully still burning the midnight oil and maintaining that steadfast ambition. Oh but yes, I falter from time to time.

    A day in the life of an extrovert gone introvert without ever even trying. I miss camaraderie. I miss learning by quietly and intently watching someone else. I miss sharing obstacles and triumphs. I once sent a prayer to Einstein at 3AM over an ActionScript code I couldn’t get past for 3 days. He answered and I wrote a perfectly perfect line of script my very next attempt. I thanked him. Have I gone completely mad?

    This morning I started my day off on the lanai with coffee. I’m in Florida about 5 miles from the Gulf. Crisp air, blue skies, birds singing, light breeze blowing, the pool is blue and the trees that line the estuary behind the house are still green from summer. I am truly blessed for more reasons than one. Foremost I am not fighting daily traffic with the rest of them heading my way to a cube with hospital-like lighting. I remember those dreadful days — and most times this is how I validate my success. Freedom. Not by a 6-figure salary or bragging rights to say I work at “Disney World”? or that my latest client is a hot new Hollywood star.

    Today was different. An arbitrary conversation with my husband spawned a gut-wrenching feeling of despair and I’m stuck in it and writing it out. He is one of the few that does understand and respect what I do for a living.

    I am reminded at times that “working from home” can often be perceived of as a “cushy” job. Oh contraire! Over the years I’ve come to learn that no matter how hard I work, how many hours I sit at this computer, how much sleep I didn’t get because I had no choice but to make a deadline, nobody ever perceives it as hard work. Even worse, I feel I have been misunderstood as being … dare I say “lazy”? Ouch – that one hurts.

    I saw this morning through cloudy tears that stained my cheeks far too early in a day, feeling incredibly misunderstood. I am usually not concerned with how others perceive me; I’ve been comfortable in my skin for some time now. But why should I have to justify how my time is spent in a day in the life of a web designer? Would anyone even comprehend the headaches behind the table to div transformation? I am mostly socially quiet about the details of my job. Therefore I must be lazy. Hmm. Maybe next time I’ll take a poll of browser and resolution usage and get some stats out of it.


    Perception:
    One time someone saw some drawings of mine. They were complementing and followed with an insistent passion that I should “do something with it.” I found myself taken back and not sure how to respond. I thought to myself “I thought I am doing something with it.” Sure I loved to draw but I am also a computer geek. I’d married the talents to design websites for a living. I’ve designed far too many and counting in my career span. I make more hourly working from home than I ever would under any corporate umbrella. I’ve earned the privilege of being paid well for my knowledge, skill set and talent. I thought I was doing something with it?

    I sleep 5-6 hours a night and spend 10-12 hours at the machine. Working, cleaning, educating/playing = 80/60/30/5. That’s about an accurate read of 175%. It’s my choice to do as much as I can at this time in my life because I’ve a busy mind and I choose to feed it. Also I am usually (and thankfully) booked with jobs. It just so happens I do the majority of my “living”? from home and I shift my percentages as needed to maintain balance. I’ve been doing it for 8 years and still going strong. But working from home is not for everyone. It’s a tough job where separation is vital.

    But I do wonder how many others have ever encountered this diminishing feeling of being misunderstood? It’s difficult to explain the depth and intricate details of my work that demand such toiling and quiet hours of ceaseless non-interruption. Weekends and nights are vital to my design time whilst clients are grilling in their back yard or watching Wheel of Fortune.

    Why is it so hard for some to understand that working from home does not mean we have all kinds of extra time on our hands? When in fact, it’s just the very opposite? Am I alone here?

    Frustrated, hurt and not going down without a fight. I’m off my soapbox and thanks for listening. Peace to all.

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  7. I too have learned that having a office away from the family is the best bet.  I am currently in the process of building a more professional and sound proof room in my basement.  Having kids in 6-9 range can be very noisy around the home.  In addition, I have found working the web development in the evening to morning hours (9pm-3am) gives me the most time in a completely quite home.  I then sleep late until around 8am.  I try to schedule all my meetings around 10am or 3pm.  This gives me time with my family, time with my clients and time to do my work.  It’s not ideal, I would prefer to have my office out of the home.  However, it these tough economic times, I have to juggle several jobs to make ends meet.

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