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The Telecommuting Tightrope
For many of us, telecommuting seems like the ideal situation. You wake up, shuffle over to your home office, work at your own pace. You take a break when it suits you, you end your day when you're ready to. You can rearrange your work schedule to fit around your personal life.
Or can you?
What motivates most people to seek telecommuting is the need for a balance between work and play. Ironically, it's often this desire for balance that leads people to the realization that telecommuting is not for them.
Take Meg Rottman. Now the President of her own Public Relations company, StylePR, Meg once thought that telecommuting was the perfect solution.
At the time, she was working as a Fashion Editor for a company located in New York. Since she was on the West Coast, and her job didn't require her presence in an office, she felt it was a natural fit to work from home.
"At first, it seemed like a great opportunity," says Meg. "Ultimately, I found that I didn't have 'work time' and 'play time'. It morphed into just 'time'".
"I found that there was no beginning or ending to my day. And there was no time off. I would jump out of bed in the morning with an idea and go directly to the computer. And then, often I would still be typing at 11:00 at night. It was almost like being on call. I wanted my time to be more compartmentalized".
This is a common side effect of working from home. It takes no small amount of discipline to structure your day- and stick to it. The funny thing is, having the ability to take a break and do other things in the middle of the workday is the reason many people want to telecommute in the first place.
Meg realized this. "If you really schedule your day, then how can you justify taking a walk, or putting a roast in? You can't," she says. "Maybe you're giving up what made working at home so great to begin with."
It wasn't all bad though. Meg did discover some things about herself. "I really did not need supervision, I was completely self-motivated. The surprising thing was that I worked more".
Not surprising is the fact that Meg now owns her own company. "[Telecommuting] definitely gave me the feeling that I was already working for myself, so why not do that?" she says. "Yes I have to drive to my office now, but it is easier for me to separate work and home and create a more balanced life."
Sometimes, things just aren't what you thought they'd be- and sometimes that's a good thing.
Sharon Davis is the Mom to two girls, the owner of 2Work-At-Home.Com, Work At Home Articles.net and the Editor of the site's monthly ezine, America's Home. In her spare time she reminisces about what it was like to have spare time.
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Booster & Drainers
Like huge anchors on cruise ships, other people can hold you down. Not intentionally, but their negativity impacts you. It's hard to be winning at working when you're anchored in place. It's hard to see the next great idea and enthusiastically embrace it, when you're feeling a sticky heaviness. And it's hard to think creativity when you're feeling empty. Like a balloon with air pouring out, deflated and flat at the end, I hung up the phone, drained. For the most part I'd offered a supportive ear with occasional contributions of asked for advice. Several days in a row, he called or stopped by my office, with a second, and a third, and a fourth verse of the same song. After each encounter, my energy felt zapped. It got to the point where Jay's presence alone started my energy leaving, replaced with an empty heaviness as if his negative energy was seeping into me. It took me awhile to figure it out, but Jay was an energy drainer. I've learned over the years, if I spend too much time around people with negative energy to share, my optimism, and enthusiasm for work (or life) are adversely affected. You may know people in your own work life who hold you down, zap your enthusiasm, cheer you into self-destruction, and occupy so much of your time and energy that you can't offer the best you to anyone, including yourself. And you know people who do the opposite. My solution? Use that feedback. Spend less work time with the drainers, and more time with people who offer you an energy boost. Once you've identified how it feels to be around energy boosters, look to fill gaps, especially on work teams, with people who bring positive energy to a meeting, who are fun to be around, whose enthusiasm and positive approach lifts your spirits, enhances your creativity, and adds to your work life. Find and stay close to these energy boosters. I use a simple measurement to identify energy drainers and energy boosters: the laugh factor. The more laughter I find in the process of doing business, the more energy I know is in the room. The more energy in the room, the more gets done. I look for people I can laugh with, have fun with and share ideas with. My work results are better when I'm around people who make me feel energized when I leave them. Yours can be, too. (c) 2004 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.
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Stories of intrigue, treachery, politics, lies, double crosses, and power struggles fill the history books, much like they fill today's headlines. In the world of the 17th century musketeer, life depended on who you could trust. In the world of the 21st century employee, one's livelihood may. I'm not naïve to corporate politics, competition, or sabotage in the workplace. I've held my own in corporations where silos, turf wars and power brokers delivered indigestion, sleepless nights, and distrusting cultures. But I still don't get it. When people are more focused on what's happening in the cube next to them than on achieving corporate goals, everyone loses. When corporate politics fill emails with mixed direction stalling productivity, everyone loses. And when discretionary effort and new ideas are swallowed in pits of bureaucracy, guess what? Everyone loses. The way I see it, if the company fails, we all fail. So, I believe the Three Musketeers got it right: "All for one and one for all!" Each understood his fate as an individual was tied to their fate as a group. Trusting each other was unambiguous. One was in trouble, they all were in trouble. One needed help, they all provided help. One succeeded, they all succeeded. The fiction of Alexandre Dumas, set in the 17th century, seems a good prescription for the 21st century workplace. I know it's worked for me. Arriving at a new job, I discovered the boss who hired me was away, and no one expecting me. I found no office, no desk, and no information. The person I was hired to replace was in my job, and had no idea I was replacing her. Each week got worse. Information and requests flowed like water through a clogged pipe. I was out of the loop on important issues and viewed like the enemy. Turning to my boss for guidance was like stepping into a sink hole, as I discovered his credibility and the department's lacking. I realized if I was to survive, I had to find, win over, and/or develop a handful of people I could trust. It took a difficult year, but the payoff lasted an entire career. Gradually the group of trusted colleagues grew. We never thought of ourselves as musketeers, but by our actions, we became them. Unspoken rules of ethics and integrity prevailed. We looked beyond individual interests. We shared ideas, collaborated on projects, borrowed resources, and worked together easily and enthusiastically. We wanted the best for each other and the best for the company, each of us worrying about more than our own five acres. Unspoken commitments prevailed. If I was in trouble or asked for help, help was given. I was called upon to step up and provide help too. We all knew our musketeer roles required reciprocity. The bottom line was that helping each other succeed, helped each of us succeed. I don't know where I'd be today without the musketeer approach. My advice? Become a musketeer! (c) 2004 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.
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