Left to my own devices, I am very good at being organised, hitting my billable hours target (that’s a whole other blog) and generally being the efficient and calm human I can be. But what can throw a spanner in these works is other people. And more specifically, what other people think working at home means.
People think that because you are at home you are available, probably watching This Morning and drinking pots of tea.
I’m not really talking about clients although goodness knows some of them do seem to think I sit by the phone twiddling my thumbs waiting for the phone to ring so I can work on their stuff. This is friends, family and others. As the homeworker in your family you pretty soon become the one who “does stuff”. I know that when you are in an office it can be difficult to be the one who gets on the concert ticket website when it opens and constantly refreshes until getting through, so it seems like sense to delegate to the person sitting at home in private. Ditto booking restaurants, events and so on by phone. But we have to work! If you are an office worker and you pop to Costa to pick up a latte you are still paid for that. Me, not so much. So your 12 minutes let’s call it to nip out, are actually free, mine cost me.
If you are thinking of becoming a VA I suggest you make a large sign and stick it to the fridge: NO WORKY, NO MONEY. Because every time someone in the house says “can you just…” precious minutes leach out of your working life.
Can you just get my dry cleaning? Can you just pop to the post office for that special delivery letter? Can you just, can you just. No I bloody can’t, I am trying to earn a living here!
And in the same way, the house doesn’t miraculously get itself clean now that I am home. I know I thought it would. But it just hasn’t happened like that. I used to work at home as an employed person, and I now work at home as a self-employed person. There is a vast difference and the house is definitely worse for the self employment.
Washing has seen an improvement since I worked at home. I can fit in loads in and out at the same time as a wee and cup of tea, that works for me. Although, on at least 3 occasions I have put a load of washing in at 7AM and completely forgotten about it until I knock off at 6.30.
Nothing throws a spanner in a perfectly planned day like another person (and BT. BT can put a spanner in any day). Even a person being nice. The old, “oh, are you in, I’ll pop round with that thing you lent me, Tupperware dish, random shit”. Because at the least you have to answer the door and if they look set to stay you have to make them a coffee and talk to them. Would you pop into your mates place of work if you happen to drive past the industrial estate? No, probably not. Maybe if they owned the company and had a really good coffee machine, but you wouldn’t know if they had meetings or a deadline or whatever. When you work at home some people don’t think these things are as important. You are at home and therefore you are available for doing stuff. Even if you actually aren’t.
How do you manage this? Well, it depends on who you are dealing with really. I discourage people from coming to the house – if I want a social, I’ll meet them elsewhere and give a time when I need to be back for a call. If people tell me they are going to drop off something then I will either tell them I can’t stop work, have a skype call booked or that if they could make it at X time I could stop for a coffee and plan it in. In a dire emergency, I might tell them to leave it outside. Because I have a dog who does a superb job of protecting me from well-meaning folk delivering things, anyone coming to the door for any reason is a nightmare if I am on the phone or whatever. I can get properly irate at these people who are usually only being nice but who don’t realise I am actually on page 56 of a 60 page webinar recording which I will now have to start again because they have interrupted me. Interrupted me and started the domestic dog equivalent of a call to arms. All to ask if they can have their Betterware catalogue back. Yes, bloody take it. It’s 3 inches to your left on top of the recycle bin, SO YOU COULD TAKE IT WITHOUT RINGING THE DAMN BELL. Thank you for utterly cocking up my morning you dickwad. I know, it is unreasonable to expect people to know that I am doing these things and would be much better if I could train the damn dog not to howl the place down when the chance of a microwave egg poacher is imminent, but I can’t. I could drug her guess. I have been known to lock myself in the car or her in the garden at what is normal postman time but then you just get yipping to come in and I have yet to work out which is the most offensive noise. Or I could build myself a log cabin at the end of the garden and hide in there. That way I would really never remember to put the washing out and I wouldn’t see the mess in the rest of the house, it’s a plan!
But really, it is difficult when people have no idea that you are trying to work and run a business from home. I’d love to be more flexible and just drop everything and go to the coffee shop. I pretty much thought that’s what I was buying into. But I just don’t seem to be able to fit that in somehow!
*Perhaps a google form client questionnaire in due course?
“Which would you say is most annoying
c) yipping or
d) scratching noises that sound like a zombie trying to dig itself out of a grave”