April 9, 2007 will

Top 5 tips for working from home

Last week I started a new job as a full time Python developer. Prior to that I worked for a computer games company called  Evolution Studios. Evos - as it is affectionately known by employees - achieved a great deal of success with its latest game, Motorstorm, and it looks like they are set to keep producing hit games. There are a lot of great things about working for a games company, and being a games programmer gets you a lot of respect amongst certain circles (i.e. game geeks). So why give it up? Well over the last few years I have fallen in love with Python and I use it at every opportunity. Consequently I have been idly keeping an eye on the Python job board for Python related work and came across a job that I was perfectly suited for. It listed requirements for skills that I thought were incidental, and the work I would be been doing is not dissimilar to the type of Python coding I do to amuse myself in my spare time. Not sure if I can tell you about it yet, I would have to clear that with the boss. Did I say 'boss'? I meant client, because now I am now self-employed!

It was still a difficult decision though, but working from home swayed me. I can avoid a perilous drive up the M56 murderway and look after myself a little better (crunch time is not good for the waist-line)!

Working form home is not without it's challenges, but I have done it before so I think I know what I have in store for me. Here are my top tips for ditching the rat race and making a living developing software at home. I'll leave out obvious ones, these are tips that were hard lessons to learn.

  1. Get some sun. It's difficult to shake that groggy feeling and start work in the morning. I found that my brain just didn't kick in till after I had gone out for lunch, so I self medicated with ever increasing quantities of caffeine. This was folly. Caffeine is poison. Rich aromatic poison that goes down easy. But poison none the less.  Far better is sunlight. All I had to do was open the damn curtains to trigger some kind of brain chemistry change that made me far more alert. Even in Scotland on a cloudy day there enough UV light to trigger wakefulness.
  2. Stick to a routine. Start work at the same time every day, but more importantly finish work at the same time. If you are working from home you will have more spare time. Use that time to look after yourself. Eat well, get some exercise and have fun. Otherwise you may as well go back to the 9-5.
  3. Tidy the frick up. Working from home is less fun when you are working in a pit of indescribable filth. Dishes should be cleaned within 24 hours (48 at the most) to avoid a health hazard. Rubbish (trash if you are American) must be taken out as soon as a bag is filled. Do not stock pile them until you can't get in to the kitchen. If you are a natural slob like me, you must train yourself to be tidy and hygienic. If you have a tidy friend go to his / her house and mimic what they do.
  4. Take long lunch breaks.Take at least an hour for lunch, 2 hours is even better. It makes the work feel like less of a stretch. It also lets you avoid working during that period after you eat where the body deprives your brain of oxygen because it has moved it to the gut. And if you can walk for a good part of your lunch break you wont get fat. Ever seen a fat postman?
  5. Blog. A new one on me, but I intend to do it more. You can delude yourself that people are remotely interested in what you are working on. It's also a good way to practice writing - an important life skill! And may help you make professional connections for future contracts.
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Thanks for this. Nice to see you're limiting yourself to five (most important?) lessons. I'm still coping with the routine thing and my messy desk... Bookmarked :)

Paul Boddie

"Ever seen a fat postman?"



Unrelated to this post, the comment you left on another page: "The chances of the average American being eaten by a lion is probably infinitesimally small, so I suggest to you that you go to the zoo, jump in the lion enclosure and do your best wildebeest impression" made me laugh out loud. Good for you for putting that imbecile in his place.


Since I am employed by an employer and has to deal with about 18 people regularly and the culture of talking over phone is not really there yet in India, I found it difficult initially when I started working from home. Few more tips I can share:
1) Never start a work session with personal stuff (email, browsing, blogging etc...). If I start like that, I finish it and make it a point to take a 5 minutes break before coming back to work.
2) Keep the kid away (very hard!), but spend the break time with him/her.
3) Publish your routine to your colleagues. Most of them will figure out not to disturb during off time when there is no emergency.
4) Get the ergonomics of your workstation right. Very hard to do, since "stuff" keeps coming back to my computer table :-)

It has worked out reasonably well. Though I still go to office at regular times to have face-to-face time with my colleagues.


Hurricane. Thanks, although he did have enough class to approve the comment!

Babu. Thanks for the tips. No kid yet so 2 wont be a problem for me!


another tip from another homeworker: use instant messanger most of the time to contact your "boss". so he cant here you watching tv, babble with the postgirl. phone is, in my case, for emergencies and friends :)