Elance Blog

Working From Home - The Physical, Virtual and Psychological Aspects

Monita Mohan, an Elance provider in the Admin Support and Web & Programming categories, has maintained a home office in her Bay Area home for more than 15 years. Recently, I sat down with Monita to learn her work-at-home secrets.

From the physical workspace to the psychological and family aspects of working from home, Monita shares how she’s become a work-at-home pro:

R: How is your home office set up?

M: I have my own office area located in an add-on to our home. My office has very large windows which overlook our garden – so I get a lot of natural light and I get to be near nature.

R: How do you stay organized and connected while working from home?

M: I use a big desk with filing drawers, a laptop, and an all-in-one printer, copier and fax machine (although I use efax for faxing). I have one broadband connection and one wireless connection as backup – because as we all know – things happen! I have a phone of course, a large calculator, and plenty of pens, paper clips, and other office supplies.

R: What do you do in the evenings, when the kids get home?

M: I had recessed lights placed above my desk so that there is good light when I am working late. The room also has a gas fire place and a couple of sofas so that my children can do their homework there after school – because they never sit at the desks in their rooms.

R: How do you keep your children busy while you work?

M: I keep them focused on their homework. I bought a three drawer rubber maid cabinet where I placed all my children's supplies so they don’t have to come to my desk looking for scissors, calculators, etc. Once they’re done with their homework, they can go out and play or watch television in another room. The one thing I have not allowed is any television in this room. It is an office area, not a recreation area – and they know that.

R: What type of virtual set up do you have at home?

M: I have the usual Microsoft 2007 suite of software with Adobe, Photoshop, etc. I also use Skype, and MSN Messenger. Since I use Skype VOIP pretty frequently, I have a microphone – it’s great for talking to clients from around the world.

R: How do you mentally prepare yourself to begin your work day?

M: I make sure I am dressed for the occasion, everyone has their own opinions and thoughts on this, but I have tried it both ways – being casual and comfortable in my pajamas, and being more careful about how I look.

R: So, you choose to dress professionally despite the fact that you’re working from home. How does that help you prepare mentally for work?

M. What I wear, and how I look directly impacts how I feel and therefore how I work. If I look presentable, I feel presentable and in control, and if I am in control then my work product is professional.

R: Do you ever feel like you miss out on the perquisites of working in an office?

M: Mostly, no. But to avoid the feeling of being alone, I make it a point to visit the Elance Water Cooler. I feel like it’s really as good as being in an office place. You get to interact with other people and share in their points of view.

R: How have you managed to keep yourself from getting distracted while working from home?

M: I work an eight hour day – sometimes more. I also make sure to take an hour off for lunch and 10-15 minute breaks after every 2-3 hours of work. I don’t keep a television in my office area and I stay off the Internet unless I’m working on something related to a project.

Another thing I do is avoid clutter in my office. Clutter can be very distracting for me. I don’t want to spend time searching for my paper work or a pen. I like to keep things neat and organized.

R: What about human distractions; do you ever get any drop in visitors or unexpected personal calls?

M: I take a conscious step to tell people I am at work. I make my friends and family aware of my schedule and let them know when I’m free and when I’m not. If they call and I can’t talk – I let them know I’ll call them back. After fifteen years of being open and honest about my schedule – the number of personal calls I receive during my office hours has dropped.

R: How have you prepared your family to allow you to work?

M: When my children were younger, it really was a juggling act for me. I spent a lot of late nights working to make up for time lost during the day. Now that they are older and understand the boundaries better, I’m able to work normal hours without disruption.

R: Does working from home allow you to spend more time with your children?


M: My children and I have set aside some time every day during which I am exclusively at their disposal. Of course they have issues that they want to discuss with me and it’s important for them to know that they have that set aside time to do that. Like any family, we have some very good days and then there are always those meltdown days we have to face.

R: What tips would you share with other work-at-home moms that are trying to thrive in a home office?

M:
1.  Devote a separate space to call your work area.
Even if it is just a corner in your bedroom, which is what I had before we remodeled, it’s important to have a place to “go to work” to.

2.  Make your work space inviting.
You need a place where you can sit, think and concentrate on your projects. This is different for everyone. For me it means a cozy separate room with a great view.

For you, it may mean having lots of plants around and big bright windows that open, while for another, it may mean bright, bold colored walls with paintings hung all around. Remember, this doesn’t mean it has to be Martha Stewart style perfect – it’s just needs to be a place where you genuinely feel comfortable.

3.  Use the latest and greatest software.
Having the software that you need at your finger tips makes working at home much easier than not. It can increase your productivity tremendously.

4.  Replace faulty equipment.
If you’ve made a career from working at home – then you want to make sure that your equipment works – and that you can count on it. And, it always helps to have a back up of all your files – just in case.

5.  Take yourself and the work you do seriously.
And make sure your family and friends take it seriously too. If working at home is your full-time job – or even if it’s your part-time job – if you take the time to express its importance to your family and friends, you’ll have a better chance at success.

6.  Don’t forget, you are a professional.

Make no mistake, you are working hard, getting rated for your work, and earning hard cash - that makes you a professional. Always keep that in mind when working with clients.

Comments

Very Nice interview i'm sure it will help a lot of people working from their houses.

Wonderful advice - both for me and my kids! First thing I'm going to do, is put the phone on 'silent' mode - it will only be my mom or ex calling in any case (I have a mobile for office hours, and the kids know this) Second is clear out the spare room and turn it into my office space. At present I'm working from the lounge, which has a 50" plasma screen TV and Sky installed!

Great advice!!! I've worked from home for about a decade myself and I still can't get people to realize that I'm working, calling me wanting me to get their kids from the bus if they don't make it home in time. That is so not my problem. Or calling wanting to chit-chat. I think the only person who really respects my working from home is my mother. She waits until after work to call, unless it just can't wait and then she says, "I know you are working but....." LOL. Gotta love mom!!

Good for you, Monita! This was a very well written article and I particularly liked your last comment, we are all professionals, with a capital 'P'! We need to be even more disciplined than your normal 'out to work' office worker, since we are working from home and the boundaries sometimes get blurred. Well said!

Really good interview with some great insight into the work place envorionment : )

this is a very nice interview. Thank you for this. It lets me know that working from home is definately an option, a real possibility and not an unattainable dream. As a mother of three, It would be the best thing that could happen to me!

Hi Monita, I enjoyed reading your article, I have two girls 12&15 and do the same thing regarding there homework. 

My question to you is this.. I was laid off early this year, with many others, and since I'm used to working from home and have a virtual office already setup I am considering pursuing freelance projects rather than pursuing traditional employment Seems that freelancing is almost a safer bet although no steady income till clients build up. 

Can you tell me how long it took you to bring in a decent income from freelancing? I live here in the bay area also and my background revolves mostly around sales and marketing using web 2.0 techniques i.e. Video, Blogs, Email campaigns etc.. to drive sales for small to medium sized businesses. I'm doing this now on my own and looking to supplement my income via Projects found on Elance till my other venture takes off. 

Any thoughts/advice would be appreciated. I'm always interested in hearing from someone who has made the switch to freelancing successully from home. Sincerely, Tim

This is an excellent article. It covers many of the suggestions I've read about before, with one exception - her family. Monita goes into much more detail about how she works with and for her children both during and after work hours. The home office doesn't work for everyone; however, Monita seems to have her niche.

Thanks. Very motivational.

jona

Hello, Monita !
Thank you VERY much !!!
great and helpfull

i am work at home too (on Elance) and i like it.

good luck,
Olga

Barnaul, Siberia,
Russian Federation

Monita,

Congratulations on your continued success! Thanks for the practical advice that you have shared with many readers. I agree with you 100% on having an environment that is clutter free where you can be close to nature. As a writer, I am much more inspired and creative under those conditions.

Sincerely,

The Midnight Angel

What great encouragement! A wonderful article especially for the 'newbie'

Enjoyed your article and am in agreement with all of your suggestions, except, I am guilty of wearing pajamas and slippers at times. Thanks!

Very informative and motivating for professionals working from home.......Many would get help as to how to take those initial first steps....

Very good interview, thank you for sharing.

I've worked at home more often than I've worked in a traditional setting and the motivation was a flexible schedule when my own kids were young. This year, my youngest is graduating high school and I've noticed that one thing that I've passed on to my kids is the realization that it IS possible to build a living and have a life...a great gift. I don't think that in this changing economy they will ever feel despair if they can't get a traditional job. They know that there are options.

My hat is off to all home-workers and especially stay at home working moms!

I've worked from home on and off for more than 6 years right now, and my family doesn't really see this a work. Unfortunately my business has been hit hard, so I'm shifting gears. But they keep saying when I get a real job. Which is very upsetting. I do a lot of networking, am active in several organizations, which are beneficial to building my company, its frustrating. I know I'm not always cut out for the corporate/political world. And have been looking for a job for about 6 months, but the market has been very tough and we so many people get the pink slip... help. I have been trying to cut back on some networking and doing some other projects to bring in more work so I have a more stable income. Thank goodness my husband makes good money, but I still need to pay some bills.

Hello Monita,
I've read your interview and I've recognized myself in your daily job description. I've been working at home for nearly 3 years, I have two children (12&9). In the beginning it was not so easy. My children used to come in my "office" only to discuss or draw or to do their schoolwork on my desk! So I've decided some rules: 1/ respect my job and my office : they were able to come if I was not on the phone, without crying (!), without picking up pens or anything else on my desk, without playing on internet, etc... 2/ Arrangment : a large desk and confortable chair, several laptops, flowers and so on to have a very beautifull and usefull environment & workplace 3/ With my friends there was a non-understanding. In France people are not used with homework. So they were used to say : cool, great, you don't have boss, you can do what you want and when you want, you don't have to wear professionnal clothing, make up your face... So you're not working! ...without thinking about the others points, may be the drawbacks : finding work, sheduling, accounting, invoicing, recovering the money etc...It was (in their point of view) nearly a good game so they were used to disturb me during the day only to take a coffee or to talk about fashion, pets, children.It was too much disturbing for me..STOP : I had to explain them (a thousand of time) that in my office (a room of 20m² dedicated only for my job with a beautifull view on my garden too) I was working and I won't be available during 8 to 10 hours a day like before when I was an employee.
That takes time but now everything is getting better. Everybody respect my job and my office too. I have time for my children, my hunsband, my friends and my pets too. I have a good network, kind customers that pay on time...
When I need to talk to people (face to face, not virtually) I'm doing sports, shopping, going to the restaurant, benefice my situation (I live near SAINT TROPEZ), skiing etc....
Now I only see the advantages of working at home.
So I was really pleased to read your interview.
Congratulations from the South of France
Nathalie