OFFICE POLITICS 101: Working at home: what should I know?

Q: Our company is encouraging some of us to work at home for about half the time. I was initially thrilled but now I’m worried about setting up a home office and potential conflicts with my wife and kids. Any suggestions for me?

Most office workers would be ecstatic if they were told they could work from home, even for part of the week: no commuting, a less structured environment, the comfort of a residence, a dress code of pyjamas.

However, as you are suspecting, the allure of working from home needs to be considered realistically because, after all, work assignments must be accomplished, whatever the setting.

You note that your employer is encouraging you to work from home: it’s not compulsory but I would recommend you go for it. You are obviously trusted and they believe you can succeed without extensive monitoring.

If you don’t currently have a home office you’ll need to get organized with a suitable physical setting. Working from the corner of the dining room table would be a poor choice. A separate room—with a door—is the best option, especially if you have young children at home.

Attempt to replicate your current office if at all possible. A computer is obviously essential—which your employer may pay for—and a good multi-line phone with call display, call waiting and voice mail is also mandatory.

Consider the layout and décor. Although you might think this is a relatively minor matter, you do need to be comfortable. Consider choosing a large desk, a good swiveling chair, even some artwork and a plant or two.

Organization will be critical: from your first day, you’ll need to be disciplined, even to the extreme; develop a routine and be guided by a written list of tasks and priorities (which can be checked off upon completion).

Balance, too, will be critical. If you know you have some of the characteristics of a “workaholic,” be aware these can sometimes be nurtured at home. Avoid working outside normal business hours if possible and take normal breaks and meals (lunch with your family will be a pleasant time).

Incidentally, if your family is the greatest obstacle to accomplishing your tasks, you may want to re-evaluate your decision to accept the opportunity to work from home.

Simon Gibson is an experienced university professor, marketing executive and corporate writer. He has a PhD in education from Simon Fraser University and a degree in journalism from Carleton University. Submit your confidential questions relating to work and office life to

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