How to Escape Your Cubicle & Work From Home

I don’t blame you for not wanting to come to work. It’s a good job. But why do we have to get dressed and make that awful commute to this building every day? Surely there’s a better way.

It’s possible to do all this from home. Think about how much money you can save on gas and parking. You could avoid being exposed to H1N1. You can have all this—except for the engaging conversation with me—all from the comfort of home.

If you’re going to sell this to our boss, you’re going to need a good reason. And it’s not going to have anything to do with being able to work in your pajamas or avoid the commute to the office. This has to create benefits for the company, not just you.

You need to start with a cost. For example, Sam in accounting is responsible for compiling all the daily indicators from yesterday and reporting them to management by the time they make it into work. That required him to start work at 6 a.m. and leave at 2 p.m. But management needed someone to review reports that came in later in the day.

So Sam came up with a plan to work a split shift from home. He gets his children ready for school while working on the overnight reports. Then mid morning he takes a break to take care of household chores. When his wife gets home from her part-time job, he starts his afternoon tasks. He can lengthen his work day without working more hours.

There is a second way to create a need for you to work at home. Some people have personal issues that would require them to quit jobs or cut hours. If working from home is a way to keep you on the payroll, we may be willing to give you the opportunity.

Even if you demonstrate clear costs and benefits, we’re going to have some concerns. And you need to be ready to address them.

The first is productivity. We need to know we can trust you to get the job done no matter where you sit. There’s an assumption that there are too many distractions at home. Of course there are tons here too. The problem with working at big companies is that there are a lot of people who can distract you. The important thing is to prove your work ethic now while we’re watching you.

Here’s an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive. There are studies that find people working from home are more productive. This is true among workers who work mostly on projects.

If this is going to work, you need to have clear benchmarks and goals. There needs to be indicators that you are getting the work done. It must be easy for our bosses to know that you are working not watching The View.

The second is security. You’re going to be working with a lot of information that we want to keep in house. We’re taking a risk by letting you take it home. Secure your home computer. You can’t do our work on a computer that your kid uses too. We can’t trust that a teenager won’t download any malicious programs that can compromise our data.

  • Dedicate a computer to work that needs a password.
  • And lock up your firewall and wifi network.
  • Think twice about setting up office in a coffee shop. You don’t know how secure it is. Plus it increases the chances that your computer will be stolen or damaged.
  • Get a good surge protector that actually works.

The third is communication. You need to keep in touch. But that’s pretty easy to handle with a dedicated phone, e-mail and instant messaging. Asking you questions should be as easy as walking over to your cubicle and interrupting you.

The fourth is technology. Our IT guys are prepared to handle all our problems here. But when you set up shop at home, you’re creating a lot of potential problems for them. You may be using technology that they don’t support. So you’re going to have to demonstrate some technical talent and reassure everyone that you can take care of yourself.

If you can address all these concerns but management is skeptical, suggest a trial period. Or maybe you can work from home part-time. If they give you the chance to prove it can work, here are some tips to making it successful:

Convince the family: Getting management to agree to this may be the easy part. Getting your family to understand you have boundaries while working at home is more difficult. They need to understand that you are working and need quiet.

Get organized: Whenever you remove yourself from a center of operation, you create work flow problems. These problems can be overcome with organization and communication. It takes a little more effort from home than it does in the office. But it will make things run more smoothly.

Create a routine: You’re going to need a bit of routine to help get things done. It helps set boundaries in the house. That way family members know when it’s office time and family time. And we will know when we can talk to you about work.

Let’s talk: Schedule a few minutes to touch base each day. Even if you don’t have anything to report. This keeps the lines of communication open and will help reduce feelings of isolation. Trust me, you’re going to miss us.

Clean up: At least take a shower and put real clothes on. Some home workers dress like they’re going to work. It helps them feel professional and do professional work. I say one of the perks of working from home is being able to relax the dress code a bit. So get out of the PJs but be comfortable.

Make the office work: Give yourself a real office in a real room with a real desk. Create a workspace that allows you to get the job done. If you can recreate this workstation at home, it will improve your performance. You need a separate room to protect you from the distractions of life and your work materials from being mixed with your household stuff. You don’t want to explain to our boss that your son spilled orange juice on the quarterly sales reports.

Befriend IT: I know I said you need to be prepared to go lone wolf with the computer equipment. But you’re going to come across some problems. Make friends with those guys so you have some fall back support, and they won’t complain about it.

Know when to quit: The good news about the Internet and computer technology is that you can work from home at any time. The bad news is that you can work from home at any time. It’s really tempting to fill in your free time with some work. Or to keep working while everyone here is packing up to go home. Remember why you are doing this.

Good luck. This can be great for your life and work.

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Cubicle Curtis is the guy sitting at the next workstation. He's been in this office longer than anyone else, so he's a valuable resource of who does what and how to get things done. Before this job, he has worked just about every job between pizza delivery and accounting. Now, he's all about getting the job done and helping you figure out how to survive yours.


  1. Neil Dennis on the 18th November

    I find that walking round the block before starting each day helps me to feel that I have entered “the office” and also helps focus on the tasks for the day ahead.

  2. Rondal on the 18th November

    I worked from home for awhile, but found that I couldn’t concentrate half as much as when I was at the office. However, I did find that working remotely (at coffee shops, parks, etc) boosted not only my productivity, but the quality of my design work.

  3. Michael Struwig on the 18th November

    I’m got to agree with Rondal.

    While I’m at home, I don’t find I’m as productive – I constantly have distractions and all kinds of things I want to do.

    I also find that I don’t work in areas I normally use for relaxation (i.e. my room) and so it’s very difficult for me to switch my mood and work.

    I like keeping my life separate, and having to go somewhere keeps me in a routine. Although I can understand why it’ll work for some people.

  4. Juliet on the 19th November


    Convincing a company that working from home is in their best interests as well as yours is a bit like applying for a position.

    Besides putting together a professional proposal that shows you are prepared, an important point to highlight is that you are capable to succeed at it. It can be a big plus if you attach a resume-type document that shows what you have achieved for the company.


  5. Anton Ranestam on the 25th November

    I feel that working from home is the best choice for me. I work alot better, and I stay more focused. I’ve got a home office which really makes me feel like I’m in an office, when I’m really not in one.
    The only downside is that meet all of your clients and coffeshops or simular, and that you feel anti social sometimes.

  6. Chanelle Henry on the 27th November

    This post was encouraging. As a person that used to work from home but is now in the office, I am trying to “convince” the people there to allow me to work from home but finding it hard to “find the right words” especially since it’s only my 2nd or 3rd week. It’s also a contract job, but it’s hard when you realize that you can do most of the work from home as opposed to at the end of an end cap with tons of people walking past you…

    The journey of cubicle freedom… *sigh*

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