Working from Home: Employee Edition
By Julia Friesen, Senior Program Manager
While employers must weigh the pros and cons of allowing employees to work from home, remote employees can often struggle with the less-than-rosy realities of such an arrangement, such as maintaining a healthy work/life balance, societal misconceptions and loneliness. The success of this set-up is dependent on both the employer and the employee’s commitment to finding out what works best for both parties. At Stewart Transportation Solutions, we currently have a few employees who work from home. We’ll introduce you to one of them and share her perspective and insight on how to be successful when working from home.
Title: Senior Program Manager
Home Office Location: Toronto, Canada
Remote Employee Since: October 2008 – April 2009, April 2010 – October 2010, October 2011 – Present
In 2007, I started working for STS in Nashville but as the company continued to grow, so did the opportunities in the Toronto area. STS saw the value in having a representative in the city who could begin building strong business relationships and manage programs.
I really enjoy having control of my surroundings. It may sound cheesy, but I like to light candles and listen to spa music. If you haven’t tried it, you should! It really does help you relax and stay focused, especially when things start to get stressful.
I also find that I don’t have to worry about the traditional office distractions. I don’t hear coworker conversations and I don’t have to answer phones, deal with visitors or the Fed Ex man.
I definitely save a lot of money on commuting. I noticed this benefit pretty quickly and I have to say, it’s great! Plus, I do feel like I’m doing a little bit more to protect the environment.
My dogs and cat LOVE that I work from home…well, I think they love it.
Working remotely can definitely get lonely sometimes. I do miss the human interaction that working in an office brings. I think that when you work in an office, your coworkers have a better sense of what you’re working on at any given time, and vice versa. As a result, they tend to be more supportive. When you don’t see each other, even in passing, you miss those little conversations that can provide really valuable insight about what he or she is doing. Human beings are naturally social so there is something very natural about working in an office setting.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I found it difficult to separate my professional and personal life. My office is literally a part of my home so technically speaking, I can’t separate the two. I try to remain within my “work” hours so that I can better focus on my personal life and put work aside. It’s challenging but it’s also been very rewarding.
I rely heavily on Instant Messaging and phone calls, which can be frustrating sometimes, but overall, I’d say I’m very lucky. Our office leadership and my coworkers work very hard at making me feel included.
I definitely feel like there are people out there who think working from home means I’m watching TV on the couch in my sweatpants. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I DO wear sweatpants and I appreciate that perk, but I actually think I work more from home than I would in an office. I tend to put in more hours than what’s expected since I’m not watching the clock as much. If I wake up early and want to get on the computer or if I have some time in the evening then I’m typically working.
Define Your Environment: One of the perks of working from home is that you can set up your office to suit your preferences. Take advantage of that and create an environment that encourages productivity and relaxation. I’ve set up a spare room as my office and filled it with things that make me happy. Pictures, flowers, candles and of course a big couch for the dogs to sleep on while I work. The office is also equipped with all of the traditional office components – printer, filing cabinets, etc.
Have a Routine: I have also found a lot of value in an established routine. It would be really easy for me, or anyone working from home, to get distracted with laundry, dishes, TV, etc., but by establishing a work routine, I find that it’s easy to avoid those things. My routine is pretty simple. I wake up between 7-7:30am, make coffee, get dressed and while I’m walking the dog, I try to think about what I need to accomplish for the day and prioritize those things. Then I’ll eat breakfast and get started.
Get Out: I find it helpful to go to a coffee shop and work once or twice a week. The change of scenery is refreshing and the social interaction is important.
Set Boundaries: No matter who you are, if you are working from home, you will struggle with maintaining a healthy work-life balance. If you live with someone else, be mindful of his or her schedule and do your best to compromise. Make an effort to shut down your office at a certain time. You will save yourself a lot of unnecessary stress.
Overall, I love working from home. It suits me and I feel very lucky to work for a company that allows me to do this.