Monday, February 25, 2008

Don't Be Naive When Working From Home

If you work from your home, either full or part-time, you probably feel pretty lucky. You don’t have to fight the traffic, you get to wear your bathrobe if you want, and no co-worker is hitting you up to contribute money for another employee’s baby shower.

Everything is pretty cool. In fact, you’re so relaxed you haven’t bothered to lock the doors, you don’t hesitate to brag to everyone in the grocery store that you work from home and anyone can look in the window and see all your nice, expensive office equipment.

With that attitude, working from home could become your worst nightmare.

Just because you don’t go into an office does not mean you are not vulnerable to thieves and others who want to take advantage of your lax attitude. In fact, just as carjacking gained in frequency after annoying car alarms made it easier to just grab the car with the person in it, home invasions may become more likely because burglars have to become more aggressive when people are at home working.

Security experts say home invasions are extremely dangerous because once a criminal gets into your home or apartment, he is now out of sight for easy detection and now has free rein to do what he wants.

It's naive for people to believe rising violence in the workplace will not follow them home. This si especially true if your work involves contact with people who may have a reason to want to confront you personally -- and that could mean in your home office, with your family nearby.

For that reason, experts advise a number of steps be taken by those working from home, to protect themselves and their families. Among them:
1. Getting a dog. In a fenced yard, the dog can provide good company for your children, as well as signal trouble outside. When inside, the dog can alert you to anyone near the house when you are working.
If you must have clients in the house, have the dog trained to sit quietly in the same room.
2. Securing the doors and windows. In addition to keeping doors and windows locked at all times, get an intercom for the front or back doors. These inexpensive systems are easy to install and allow you to listen for outside activity as well as inquire who is at a door without opening it. Also, use covered peep holes for solid doors. Uncovered peep holes allow anyone on the outside to look in the peep hole and determine when you approach.
At the same time, use window blinds that lower from the top, so that you can still get light, but don’t display expensive equipment to outsiders.
If you can afford it, a video system is the best for screening visitors. If not, a good perimeter alarm system -- that is turned on while you are at home -- is a good idea.
3. Protecting your privacy.There’s no reason everyone has to know you work from home. In fact, the fewer people the better. Use a company name with a post office box, or some other delivery address other than your home. Use your company name in the phone book without the address listing, and answer the phone with your company name.
Forget just putting your first initial with your last name in the phone book. Everyone knows this is a trick mostly used by women -- a perfect tip-off to the bad guys. Have a male voice on your answering machine.
4. Being aware. You may be running around on company business, your mind on the work you have to do when you get home. That makes it easy for a criminal to follow you home, and drag you inside. Make sure you check your rear view mirror when driving. If you suspect someone is following you, drive around the block. If you are suspicious, use your cell phone to call police or drive to a well-lit place or police department.
5. Covering the bases. If you must have an associate or client come in your home on business, always have another appointment to keep -- lunch with a husband, another meeting, etc., so that they know someone will be checking up on you.
Always meet someone for the first time in a public place. If it is a sales person, then call the company to confirm the person’s identity, and try to get a physical description. Call your local Chamber of Commerce if you are not familiar with the business.
6. Delivering the goods. Overnight package deliveries and courier services probably will be a fact of life if you work from home, but anyone can put on a uniform and use a van to pose as a delivery person. If you are not familiar with the delivery service, do not open the door, but have the package placed on the step. Wait several hours before retrieving it -- bad guys can hide in the bushes and grab you when the door opens.
Only open the door to sign for a package if you are sure it is a legitimate service.


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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Extreme Commuting Gaining Popularity

It's time for Tibit Tuesday, and I've got a little bit of everything, sort of like a pre-Thanksgiving meal. But after this, you won't have to take a walk just to make room for pie.

It ought to be an Olympic sport: If you were offered a really great job, would you be willing to relocate? As someone who moved the family five times in 13 years because of job opportunities (and we're talking cross-country relocations), I know the decision can be tough. And it becomes much tougher if you've got children and they're old enough to want to stay put with established schools and friends.
That's why I found this study from Korn/Ferry International interesting: 70 percent of those surveyed would prefer “extreme commuting,” (commuting by airplane to work and back each week or by car for more than 90 minutes one way each day), rather than relocate. Some 55 percent of executive recruiters indicated that it was more difficult today than in the past to convince candidates to relocate for new job opportunities with family ties being the leading reason for resistance, while lifestyle factors (25 percent) and housing market costs (10 percent) also cited as contributing factors.

Analyzing diaper changes: Choosing to bring a child into the world is often a decision made with the heart, not the head. But the folks at Duke University say women may benefit from "applying formal decision-making science to this complex emotional choice."
Specifically,Professor Ralph Keeney and doctoral student Dinah Vernik of Duke’s Fuqua School of Business developed a sophisticated logical decision model to help women weigh their options. Variables are plugged into the model which then attempts to balance the benefits of motherhood against its effects on career and social interests and the age-related concerns of diminishing fertility or an increased likelihood of conceiving a child with a genetic abnormality.
The researchers, in a press release, "stress that their model should not be interpreted as prescribing solutions for women, but instead as a formalized way for helping them sort through conflicting pressures and considerations related to beginning a family."
"We use decision analysis all the time to guide complex business and policy questions and decisions, so why not use the structured approach to improve our understanding for making important personal decisions?" Keeney was quoted as saying.

What, no Elvis? If you want to know who the top 50 "business thinkers" are, check out this list, which puts C. K. Prahalad, an Indian management guru at No. 1, followed by:
2. Bill Gates, "Geek-turned-philanthropist"
3. Alan Greenspan ex-Federal Reserve chairman
4. Michael Porter, competitive strategy author
5. Gary Hamel, business strategist
One name that was personally familiar to me (I don't usually hang out with Gates or Greenspan) was Marshall Goldsmith at No. 34, the first time he's hit the list. I've known Marshall for many years, and interviewed him several times. He even gave me a blurb for my book.

Please shut up, darling: One of the trickiest things about working with your significant other is finding a way to do it without driving each other batty and winding up in divorce court. Forbes reports that "couples who do it successfully say they respect each other's roles, communicate, and every now and then, say to their partners, "for goodness' sake, stop talking about the office."


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Friday, October 26, 2007

Working From Home a Challenge

There are a lot of things I don’t know for sure in this life. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to grocery shop on the moon (my second grade teacher swore to my class that we would some day), I don’t know if I’ll ever figure out how to boogie board (I nearly drowned last time and made a lifeguard fall out of his chair he was laughing so hard), and I can’t say for sure if I’ll ever understand how Billy Mays got a job selling anything (why is he always yelling?)

But here is one thing I know for sure: As soon as my butt hits the chair in my home office, I will have visitors. And let me be clear on this: I can sneak to the office with all the stealth of a Navy SEAL on a top-secret mission, and somehow a red alert goes out: “Attention, attention: Anita Bruzzese is now in her office attempting to get something done. Stop her at all costs. Repeat: Stop her at all costs.”

So the dog and two cats appear, dumping over the trash, barfing up something they should not have eaten, and scrambling to lie on the computer keyboard, my lap or whatever papers I need, all the while drooling and shedding and panting and meowing.

But should I finally manage to contain the four-legged animals, the two-legged ones soon take up the challenge.

It begins with breathing.

They know I can hear them breathing. They don’t say anything, because I made it a rule a long time ago that unless someone was on fire or Publisher’s Clearinghouse was at the door, they are to leave me alone. So they breathe until I can’t stand it and I look up.

There stands one of the males in my family, who has lost a shoe, a school paper, a computer game, his appendix…something. Something that only a female (that would be me) can find. Like…right now.

Once I get that settled, then the technological interruptions begin. There is the e-mail from someone at a bank branch in Nigeria telling me that there is an identity theft and I need to contact them right away with all my vital information to make sure everything is secure (yeah, right). This is followed by the fundraising phone call from the Fraternal Order of Canadian Geese Police; the neighbor wanting to know if we’re having trouble with moles; and the movie rental store informing us we have five movies that are six weeks overdue (oh, crap).

The reason I’m sharing all this (other than to make you feel way better about your own situation), is that I understand how tough it is to work from home without interruptions . So far, most people I know who do it successfully work at 3 a.m. when everyone else is sleeping. Since I like to be one of those people sleeping at 3 a.m., I’ve put together a list of suggestions from experts and work-at-home warriors who swear these ideas can work. I’ll let you choose which ones might help you, and hope you’ll add some of your own to share with readers of this blog:

1. Run it up the flagpole. Turn on a certain lamp or use some other sign like a sock on the door handle (kind of different from the old college days, huh) to let others know that you’re working and you don’t want to be interrupted unless it’s that Publisher’s Clearinghouse thing, or something else really important.
2. Turn off the e-mail. Some people break out in hives if they can’t check e-mail fairly often, so tell yourself nothing earth-shattering can happen in 30 minutes, and only check it every half hour. Gradually wean yourself to checking it only once an hour. Promise yourself you will answer no personal e-mails while you’re working except after an hour’s worth of honest labor.
3. Organize your space. For some reason, home offices often are an afterthought. Instead, make it a priority. Put together an organized, dedicated space where you can work, out of the line of heavy traffic and noise. I know one man who found the solace he wanted in the basement workshop. His daughters hated the spiders that could be found down there, so they left him alone. The hum of the furnace provided some white-out noise to let him concentrate, and he was able to keep all his files in once place without fear they’d get lost in the hustle and bustle of a busy family.
4. Screen your calls. As much as you would like to chat with a friend or family member, don’t interrupt your work time. Schedule a break and use that time to return calls that are important and return the others when you have time after the work is done. If you’ve decided to work specific hours, let others know. It doesn’t always mean they’ll respect them, but it will make it easier for you to ignore the phone or the doorbell.
5. Put on blinders. This one is tough. You cannot look around too much when you’re working from home or you’ll notice the dishwasher that needs unloading or a new magazine you want to read. Many things will seem much more important than that pesky old report due for the boss tomorrow, so you’ve got to stay focused on what you need to get done.
6. Schedule breaks. I can’t stress enough that even though you’re working from home, it’s still home. That means you need to take breaks and toss the football with the kids, have coffee with your significant other or just put your feet up and read that favorite magazine for a while. It’s important that your home is a place to recharge your batteries and maintain a sense of balance.


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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Undermanagement an Epidemic?

Welcome again to this latest installment of Tidbit Tuesday, where I've rounded up the latest in career news and put it in one convenient corral for you to take a look at. As always, you little doggies should feel free to herd any good workplace tips my way. (Can you tell I watched "High Noon" last night?)

I'm so outta here: The Miami Herald reports: "Not long ago, workers considered midcareer sabbaticals perks for those who could afford time off to indulge in trips to Australia or backpacking through the Himalayas.

But now that success is measured by who can log the most hours, the sabbatical is making a comeback as a antidote for burnout. A growing number of workers want to disconnect from their jobs and recharge. And, for more of them, it's not just a pie-in-the sky dream.

Just as teachers get the summer off to regroup, more employers, big and small, are stepping in to help their employees slow down, unplug and unwind -- for from four weeks to a year.

'Companies find if they don't do something, their workers will burn out and leave, or worse, burn out and stay,' says workplace consultant/speaker Bill Blades.

Among the Fortune 100 Best Places to Work, 22 companies boast of offering fully paid sabbaticals. The Society of Human Resources says the percentage of large companies that offer sabbaticals has doubled in the past five years."

A muffin can work wonders: BNET breaks down the nitty gritty on what you need to win at office politics:
* Thirty bucks every few weeks for the occasional lunch with a colleague to build and maintain relationships.
* An hour a week, give or take, for coffee breaks, lunches, and impromptu chats in the hallway — time for you to offer help, ask for it, or socialize with people whose relationships you value.

Top campfires fill up fast: Nancy LaPook Diamond, founder and president of, said young people who would like to spend their summer working at a camp should begin making contacts now.

"It's not too early to look for a summer job for next year," Diamond said. "Camps are posting positions, and young people who want to get the most in-demand camp jobs should move now to get ahead of the game."

The American Camp Association reports that 1.2 million people found jobs at summer camps in 2007. These include not only young people, but also seasonal employees like teachers and school nurses, who obtain summer camp jobs as a way of supplementing their income.

Calling Martha Stewart: says that "Passive and disengaged bosses who chronically undermanage don’t get nearly as much public attention as bullying bosses who bulldoze their way through the office. But according to some business consultants and experts, they can be every bit as damaging to a company’s morale and productivity."

This "undermanagement" is being called "an epidemic,” with many managers intimidated by a culture of political correctness, red tape, and potential lawsuits. Laid back managers are seen as causing more problems than the tough boss who makes everyone toe the line.

Staying connected to the mother ship: Teleworkers who are proactive and get their accomplishments and their faces in front of their bosses as often as possible are actually thriving in the telework environment, says And they’re also taking advantage of all the technology out there making it easier for employees and managers to connect. Webcams, video and audio conferencing, instant messaging and, of course, e-mail, are all becoming telecommuter lifelines.

Some suggestions to make sure telecommuting doesn't hurt your career: attending key meetings in person; a willingness to reschedule telecommuting days; touching base with co-workers at least once a week; making sure goals are clearly communicated with the boss; and an "office buddy" who will make sure you receive office news via e-mail.


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