Monthly Archives: December 2013

Both Negative and Unlucky

It’s getting up and looking at the thermometer (actually the iPhone app that ostensibly identifies the outside temperature) on days like this that make one glad to work from home…unless one has a doctor’s appointment at 8:30 a.m….

Brrrr

Today’s Home Office Links

What others are saying about working from home:

Some good ideas for the kinds of jobs one can do from a home office. We have worked with a “virtual personal assistant” for years and she is invaluable…probably more so than we are! (Bankrate)

A working-at-home tax guide. Hint: Dec. 30th is fast approaching! (Kiplinger)

How to convince your boss to let you work from…well, anywhere. (Forbes)

Working at home with small children. (Parent Dish)

The home office that flees the country! (Newser) Snowden used “a hood that covered the computer screen and covered his head and shoulders, so that he could work and his girlfriend couldn’t see what he was doing.” See, and we thought that a door was the most important tool to get work done!

Let It Snow!

Richard here. We just got a few feet of snow here in upstate New York, which brought back memories…

My very first experience with working in a home office on an extended basis started in January 1996. I lived in New York City at the time, and I had just quit my full-time job after getting a contract to research and write a major graphic arts encyclopedia. Literally my first day in the home office, I woke up to find that 30 inches of snow had blanketed the city overnight. Hooray! I exulted. I don’t have to burrow the three blocks to the subway and deal with train delays, crowds, etc. etc. etc. It was then that I knew that there was something to this working-from-home thing.

This is not to say that working from home or teleworking/telecommuting is always a paradise when there is inclement weather, like a blizzard. For one thing, you have no real excuse to take a snow day. On the other hand, the kids may have gotten a snow day, which means you have to contend with unexpected distractions during your work day. You may also have to deal with the snow and take periodic breaks to shovel/snowblow/plow. (For years I steadfastly refused to get a snowblower.) Then there is also the ever-present threat of the power going out, especially if there is an ice storm.

For the home-bound worker, these perils can be avoided with a little advance planning—and a little change in attitude.

First of all, the kids. Manage the distractions of having the wee ones underfoot the same way you do during school vacations and the summer. Identify the boundaries of your office and be strict about prohibiting interruptions.

Then there’s the snow. I always liked taking a little break to go out and shovel (well, in December I did. By the end of January…not so much). When you sit at a computer all day, it is always a good idea to get up and exercise in some fashion, since when it’s blizzardy it’s not likely you’ll be able to make it to the gym. And while you may have no urgent need to get out of your driveway if you work at home, it’s best not not let it accumulate, which only makes it that much more of an ordeal when you finally do get around to it. And if your mailbox isn’t accessible, the mail carrier won’t deliver. Alternately, you can hire a plow to automatically come if, say, a half inch of snow accumulates. Even better: make the kids shovel the driveway.

The biggest bad weather issue for the homeworker, though, is a power outage, especially one that lasts for more than a few hours. (In 2007, in upstate New York, we had a massive windstorm that took out the power for three days.) If you rely solely on a cellphone to communicate with the outside world, you panic as you watch the charge start to go down, and you start rationing calls and text messages. Likewise with other devices, like laptop computers, tablets, etc. (You may also lose heat; even if you have gas or oil, the fan that pumps it to the rest of the house is likely electric.)

Here, though, are some precautions you can take to keep yourself productive even if you lose power for an extended period of time.

  • Keep an eye on The Weather Channel or your local news. If bad weather is on the way (assuming the meteorologists are correct), make sure you keep all your devices—laptop computer(s), mobile phone, tablet, etc.—fully charged. Sometimes we don’t pay close attention, or think “Oh, I have 65% of the battery left on my iPhone; that should be fine.” Nuh uh. Keep it fully charged.
  • Get what used to be called a cigarette lighter adapter for the car. Cars today don’t have ashtrays and cigarette lighters anymore, but they do usually have some kind of auxiliary power outlet. You can buy chargers for mobile devices that will fit into these auxiliary outlets, so if the power in your home does go out for an extended period, you can charge your phone, et al., in your car. Just make sure your gas gauge is not on “E”! (And make sure your car is  not in a closed garage…)
  • If you really cannot afford any downtime, consider investing in a backup generator. They are not the cheapest items in the world—they start around $500 or so at Lowe’s, or Home Depot—but if you live in an area that is prone to a lot of power-outing storms, it may be a worthwhile investment.

Then again, depending upon your workload and whatever deadlines you have—or if your colleagues, clients, or employers are unable to get into their offices—maybe you can take a snow day!

Save Money on Office Software

There are a few free office suites available, but if you’re a PC or Linux user, it’s worth looking at SoftMaker’s FreeOffice. The website is at http://freeoffice.com/

There’s no gimmicks to this. Softmaker hopes that you like the software so much that you buy their full version. That sells for $80 for US customers, and comes with three licenses.

One of the reasons it’s worth owning is that home offices generally have more than one computer. One computer is often used for the bulk of the heavy work, and it was usually purchased with a license for Microsoft Office365 for just that computer. But those other computers are often used for quick tasks, such as creating some text, a small spreadsheet, or a few slides of a presentation that will be merged into a larger document. Or while you’re out of the office, you may need to view a document sent to you. Paying for a full version of Office365 may not be worth it.

Aside from the money savings, FreeOffice is good on its own. It’s a highly polished product, and is fast, so it probably will run well on older computers. If you have older computers that find their ways to children, seniors, and others who might not need full powered office suites, this is an excellent option.

For Mac users, take a look at LibreOffice, which is also available for PC and Linux.

Friday Humor

From the Onion:

Encouraging Economic Report Reveals More Americans Delusional Enough To Start Their Own Business

The report, which described its findings as “highly encouraging for near-term economic growth,” confirmed that over 200,000 small businesses were founded in 2013 by entrepreneurial Americans who have completely and utterly lost their grip on reality, and noted that the number of bold and frankly insane Americans applying for new business permits had risen markedly over the past year.

Some times it can seem like we’re completely delusional!

Home Office Holiday Blues

The holidays are all about spending time with family, but when you work at home, keeping to your regular schedule can be a challenge when the kids are off from school, spouses, significant others, or roommates are off from work, and/or friends/relatives are visiting from out of town—and, worse, if they bring their pets! (Visitors are especially an issue if your guest room is where you keep your home office.)

One of the advantages of having a home office is that you may be able to set your own hours and take some extra time off around the holidays, even if that “time off” is limited to a few hours a day. On the other hand, you may have some end-of-year deadlines—or you may be a teleworker who needs to remain “on the clock.” Sort of like a 21st-century Bob Cratchit.

In the book, The Home Office That Works!, we talk about managing distractions—like other members of the household—and one of the important elements of that distraction management is identifying and communicating boundaries, like an office door. Regular household members are likely accustomed to your schedule and your boundaries, but visitors may not be. Don’t by shy about drawing the same boundaries with guests as you do with “regulars.”

Another alternative is to get out of the crowded house and avail yourself of the local library, coffee shop, or bookstore. Many of these locations have WiFi if you need to stay connected.

The holidays can be stressful, but balancing the joys of the season with a productive home office doesn’t have to contribute to that stress!

New Book Offers Practical Advice for Setting Up and Productively Working from a Home Office

The Home Office That Works! provides step-by-step guidance for home office-based entrepreneurs or telecommuters

December 12, 2013 – Wake Forest, N.C., and Saratoga Springs, N.Y. – According to the Census Bureau, more than 13 million people work at home. Every person who does so has to manage family, friends, and neighbors as well as adopt a schedule and create a workspace that makes sense for them. How do they do it? How do they develop the discipline required to make working at home… actually work? A new book, The Home Office that Works! Make Working at Home a Success—A Guide for Entrepreneurs and Telecommuters, discusses the many decisions that can make or break a successful home office.

Working at home can offer significant benefits in flexibility, time spent with family, and even income. Tablets, laptops, smartphones, and fast, reliable Internet connections have made working from home easier than ever. But being productive at home demands diligence, attention to detail, and an ability to manage all the distractions of a household—significant others, children, pets, and countless other challenges, both major and minor.

The Home Office That Works! Make Working at Home a Success—A Guide for Entrepreneurs and Telecommuters, explains, step by step, how to outfit and run a successful home office, no matter what business it is. The authors, Dr. Joseph Webb and Richard Romano, draw on their combined 35+ years of experience effectively working in their own home offices and offer tips and strategies for maximizing at-home productivity. Some of the topics include:

  • Can you legally run your business from your home?
  • What’s the ideal location within your home, condo, or apartment for your home office?
  • What technologies can improve your productivity? What are the best ways to keep your costs low?
  • How do you manage time and deal with distractions? Find out why the most important amenity in your home office may actually be an office door!
  • How do you maintain a professional appearance to colleagues and clients?
  • What’s the best way to handle client meetings and conference calls?
  • What are the marketing and networking opportunities for home-based entrepreneurs?
  • How do you manage finances and billing? Tax planning? Health and other insurance?
  • What happens if you need to hire staff? Where should they work?
  • How do you work from home and still stay connected to the outside world?

The Home Office That Works! includes dozens of personal examples of some of the unexpected real-life challenges that have cropped up in the authors’ own home-working lives. Readers can benefit from the self-evaluation questions, to-do lists, and an extensive checklist that makes the office-to-home transition easier. If you want to avoid that I-wish-I-had known-that-when-I-started feeling, you can benefit from the experiences of the authors and the other home office professionals they write about.

The Home Office That Works! is informative, entertaining, and an indispensable guide to work-at-home life for novices and home office veterans alike.

The book is available at amazon.com and also through the Web site, homeofficethatworks.com.

About Dr. Joe Webb

A home office worker since 1987, Dr. Webb is a consultant, entrepreneur, and economics commentator who started his career in the industrial imaging industry more than thirty-five years ago. He has consulted for firms ranging from large multinationals to small businesses. Dr. Webb started an Internet-based research business in 1995, selling it to a multinational publisher in 2000. Since then, his consulting, speaking, and research projects have focused on the interaction of business-to-business economics and technology trends. He is a doctoral graduate in industrial and corporate education from New York University, holds an MBA in Management Information Systems from Iona College, with baccalaureate work in managerial sciences and marketing at Manhattan College. He has taught in graduate and undergraduate business programs and resides in North Carolina.

About Richard Romano

Richard Romano has been a professional writer and editor since 1990. He began collaborating with Dr. Webb in 2000, writing market research reports and officially launching his home office. The collaboration led to two recent books—“Does a Plumber Need a Web Site?” (2012) and Disrupting the Future: Uncommon Wisdom for Navigating Print’s Challenging Marketplace (2010), the latter of which has since been translated into Japanese and Portuguese. Richard has also authored or co-authored a many books about graphics hardware and software, and is a freelance writer of ads, e-newsletters, magazine features, and multi-volume research reports, with clients ranging from large corporations to local non-profits.. He is a frequent speaker about media, communication, and technology trends. A graduate of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications, he lives in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Availability…

The Home Office That Works! Make Working at Home a Success—A Guide for Entrepreneurs and Telecommuters is available in paperback at http://tinyurl.com/mnvdj3l, or an Amazon Kindle e-book available at http://tinyurl.com/ka4dqfc.

Editor’s Note…

Additional information pertaining to the book is available for editorial purposes. Please make inquiries directly to Vincent Naselli of Naselli and Associates at (732) 568-0316 or vince@naselliandassociates.com. A full presskit, containing author photos, sample chapters, and more, can be downloaded at http://homeofficethatworks.com/Press-Media%20Resources.html.

Speaking Events and Business Contact:

The authors are available for speaking at events, Webinars, and business meetings. The book is an excellent promotional vehicle for retailers and service providers who target the needs of small and home businesses. The authors can also create custom versions of the book for these purposes.

Vincent Naselli

Naselli & Associates

T: (732) 568-0316

E: vince@naselliandassociates.com