Becoming a big fan of working from home

It's starting to freak me out a little bit. I used to be so adamant about needing the separation between "work" and "home" and using the drive home to try to purge my mind of all professional noise. This has totally changed recently. Now closing the computer armoire signals the end of the work day. What changed?

Back in January, we were moved over to report into SMSG (Sales, Marketing and Solutions Group); basically  staffing for sales, consulting and field marketing. There was a reason for this move, but it's not really interesting blog conversation. It has to do with being aligned with our pipe leader on the business side (see? Told ya). Anyway, the SMSG Staffing Team mostly sits in the field (I'm not sure how many of us there are...80-100 maybe). People work out of field offices and from home a lot too. Our Director is in North Carolina, our Senior Director is in Minnesota. Two new folks joining our team (one contractor, one full-time); neither of them are based here in Redmond. Basically, over the course of the last couple of months, our team went virtual (with the exception of our Staffing Associate contractor Sarah, who treks into the office daily).

So during this time, I decided to get my home office set up. Not "sitting-on-the-couch-with-the-laptop-on-my-legs" set up but really set up. So this weekend, I went out and bought one of those big mother surge protectors and spent part of an afternoon snaking all the wires from my various phones, computer, printer, cable model, etc., through the little holes on the back of my armoir. I even almost bought a "desk chair" but when the model I liked wasn't in stock, I took it as a sign that I shouldn't have anything that ugly in my cute little home office (hey, sorry, I care about that kind of house isn't exactly spacious).

Working from home like this is a big change for me. I've found that there are specific benefits that I enjoy:

-instead of getting ready for work while wondering what awaits me in my inbox, I can jump online right away and check it out and then pursue my morning routine later (shower? yes, make-up? no)

-I have time to make and enjoy a pot of coffee (Peet's Mocha java...mmmmm...I'm having it delivered to my house now) instead of grabbing some on my way to work (which is more expensive and not as good). I love it so much I should learn how to spell it (edited)

-Jonas likes it when mom's home (at least this is what I am telling myself)

-I get so focused on work without distractions that I get more done per hour at home than at work (for some reason, hallway conversations are really distracting for me). Time flies when I am working from home. I probably work later from home too, but at a certain point in the evening (about 7PM), I turn the TV on to find out what's going on in the world.

-I can make my own food. Probably not a big deal for most people but I try to eat healthy and that is easier done at home (packing lunch is just another time suck). I'm back on South Beach phase one as of today (for no reason other than finishing what I started before summer arrives) so it's almost time to whip up some scrambled eggs (yummy for now but ask me how I feel in a week). Punxatawney Phil says I have lots of time before summer but he thinks I should head to the Pro Club. I agree. Hey, that groundhog is a little task-master.

-Answering e-mail in sweats, no make-up, ponytail (please don't try to visualize, OK?).  It's a comfort thing. This won't last long today. My friends John and Bret are bringing their new baby girl into the office today so I need to head in eventually. Plus, I just generally need to see other people sometimes (but probably not as frequently as other people).

I think the fact that I have a separate room designated as "the office"really helps me and I moved my craft table into another bedroom so this room is all about work...yes, I have a craft table but before you start to imagine something crazy, I just make jewelry. There's no decoupage involved, no papier mache, no yarn or macaroni.  

I'm really starting to get into this working from  home thing. Though I suspect that my neighbors are wondering what is going on when they see me flip-flop out to the mailbox in the afternoon: "when does she work?"

In case anyone is going to ask, the work-from-home thing is pretty common at Microsoft and the ability to make it work for you depends on your job and your schedule. If you have a lot of meetings, it's tough to do (I go into the office on days with meetings). Or if you have a bunch of direct reports. Also, I think it depends on what kind of distractions you have at home. If I had kids, I'd have a hard time making this work (some people can though). Also, I resist the urge to log on over the weekends.

For now, I am pretty into it.

Comments (17)
  1. Andy says:

    Answering e-mail in sweats, no make-up, ponytail (please don’t try to visualize, OK?). – Heather

    Why not? Given what you look like that would be hot as h3ll! 😉

  2. stewart_whaley says:

    I’d agree. After a while one needs to periodically go into the ‘real’ office. I think you’ll enjoy life and work a lot more by working at home. My only advice after trying it for a while is at least get dressed. You don’t have to put on ‘office’ cloths but at least change out of your sleeping cloths.

  3. brad says:

    The trick to making this work long time is continue to have seperation between "home" and "office", but it’s time time and office time, not physical location.  Don’t put a TV or other distractions in the "office" and keep goint to work every once in a while (otherwise you start having conversations with your dog, which is ok, but they’ll start to answer, which is not).

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    Andy-you might be surprised! Nice of you to say though ; )

    Stewart-I agree. I hate to admit, but I have "good" sweats and sleeping sweats. Working at Microsoft means my work clothes most often include jeans so there’s not a HUGE difference in formality between work and home, but you are right in that there’s a mindset difference when you put on different clothes. I have to have the shower and getting dressed routine just to feel human ; )

  5. Jonathan says:

    Glad to see you’re enjoying the benefits of telecommuting.  I’ve spent the past seven years telecommuting for three different technology companies (full-time employee, not a contractor) and I love it!  It’s funny, but as you said, it depends on the company and the person doing the telecommuting.  There are those who say "it’s not fair for some to work from home and some can’t" or "how can I see if you’re actually working if I can’t see you?"

    The reality is that the companies that "get it" are the ones that are results oriented.  I have less distractions working from home and I have my kids 1/2 the week.  You can screen your calls AND you don’t have to worry about people "popping into your office for a chat".  Also, one of the biggest time wasters are many of the meetings, since people use them as "social hour or hours".  I’m all for crisp, clean meetings that get to the point and then let everyone get back to getting results, which is one of the only ways that workers should be judged, rather than "work attendance".

    * I found that starting at the same time each day has been beneficial, yet I have the flexibility to take breaks without concern about "what about the "clock watchers".

    * I use MSN Messenger to let co-workers get in touch with me if I’m in the middle of a project and am call screening.

    * I use the Task List and Journal, along with the Calendar function to track my projects, completion, notes, etc.  I refer to them during meetings and throughout the day.  This is also a huge benefit for performance reviews and "is telecommuting working justification"

    One of the impressive traits of Microsoft that I’ve always loved is that they aren’t "keep the office chair warm", rather they are "results oriented".  Many companies would do well to leverage telecommuting and in fact, it would be great if there were more consultants contacted about how to make telecommuting work, rather than pooh-pooh it.

    Enjoy riding the telecommuting train and we look forward to hearing about your experiences and thoughts about the same.

  6. Lucy says:

    I totally agree! I work from home full time in Chicago. My company is based in Austin, TX and I was fortunate enough to be able to set up remotely while my husband went back to b-school. Even just little things like being able to run an errand at lunch or take something out of the freezer to thaw are so much easier when working from home. IM is used a lot internally at my company, and so even when I sat in my cube we all IM’d even though we sat 10 feet from each other. So I really don’t feel out of the loop from co-workers. I used to hate my drive to and from work. It would seriously put me in a foul mood if traffic was bad, so overall I am just less stressed this way. Anyway, I think flexible work options are great! And so does my dog. 🙂

  7. Tim says:

    I don’t know, Heather. Whenever I try to work at home these two kids keep bugging me. You don’t hear/see those kids? The only way I can keep them quiet is by saying stuff like, "Hey, if I hear that anymore I’m coming in there!!"

    You may want to get your hearing checked.

  8. HeatherLeigh says:

    Lucy-I’m with you on that!

    Tim-perhaps if you hadn’t had your young son tattooed during the holidays, he’d be quieter. OK, I will admit that I did just yell at the little yappy dogs behind my house to shut up, but we both know that wasn’t necessarily for the dogs’ benefit (some neighbors have called the police, I can only muster a "shut up already!").

  9. HeatherLeigh says:

    Uh no. I’m a stickler for the whole work ethic thing.

  10. Jeff Hunter says:

    Nice. Although Peet’s Garuda is even better.

  11. Adam says:

    you touched on the fact that there is not that much diffrence between your work cloths, which includes jeans…is that pretty common practice for employess to dress casual?

  12. Philena Rush says:

    I thought it was a lit weird at first too.  But it does help to still have that morning shower, do your hair and stuff.  It really makes you feel like it’s a job.  Now when it comes to the kids making noise, I don’t have that problem.  If anything, it’s helped my business.  When I’m talking or training someone on the phone and they hear my son crying, it’s actually makes great conversation, and they feel more comfortable with me.  So, they are even more interested because now they don’t have to worry about that if they can hear my kids and I’m working at home.  But there is a difference between a work at home business and a job.  I know a job requires more strict rules for that.

  13. HeatherLeigh says:

    Adam, it’s the norm at Microsoft. Many people wear shorts in the summer. Jeans are pretty much what you see most. Many tech companies are like this. It’s a far cry from my first recruiting job where not only did we have to dress up, but it had to be a skirt suit (don’t even get me started on that) where both pieces came on the same hanger (no separates). Nylons in summer in Chicago…what fun!

    Philena, you are right. Most companies would want yuo to have at-home child-care if you were going to work from home regularly (since the intent of working from home is to focus on work still), but an at-home business, I’m sure, adds some extra flexibility.

  14. Thor M says:

    Interesting thread, and particularly relevant to my current situation. I live in Oklahoma, and received a tempting offer from MS. Although I haven’t had the conversation yet, I expect the position is expected to reside in Redmond.

    That said, my family is very interested in staying where we are. I wonder whether my manager would be amenable to a work-at-home arrangement.

    I do not consider this haphazardly. I have worked for a Fortune 100 company for many years as a telecommuter, as have many of my peers. I effectly executed tactics and built relationships with partners, customer, vendors and the like. I managed a team, most of who were remote reports. I say this for no reason other than to point out (to myself, anyway!) that I am well acquainted with what it takes to succeed. Plus, I am willing to travel as needed, even go to Redmond for a few weeks or more to get things going in the new role.

    Do those of you with MS experience think this will be acceptable? Is there precedent? It differs somewhat from Heather’s situation, in that most (all?) of the team at MS is based in Redmond. Love to hear others’ thinking on this.

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